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New York, NY (Top40 Charts) The Tennessean / USA Today recently shared a list of “12 Black Artists Shaping Country Music’s Future,” and Shore Fire’s Brittney Spencer, Amythyst Kiah, and Willie Jones are all included alongside Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen and others.
On live television last November, country star Maren Morris dedicated her CMA Award for Female Vocalist of the Year to a handful of Black women in country music.
One of the names shouted out? Brittney Spencer. “I was sitting on my couch in my pajamas. It sounds hilarious, but that’s actually what I was doing,” Spencer told Apple Music Country earlier this summer, adding: “Honestly it happened months ago, and I’m still not ready for it.”
A Baltimore native who moved to Nashville in 2013, Spencer’s ascent extends far behind a one-time recognition. Earlier this summer, she released a new single, “Sober & Skinny” – a showcase of tender-hearted storytelling that’s sharp-penned and relatable.
She sings, “But in a perfect world/ You get sober, I get skinny/ We live all for more than pennies/ Write the checks that we can cash.”
She’s now logged writing room hours with Amanda Shires and Morris and spent time on the road with Jason Isbell. Spencer tours with Brett Eldredge later this year.
Last month, Spencer made her Ryman Auditorium debut at the ACM Honors. She performed the Martina McBride classic “Independence Day” for songwriter Gretchen Peters, one of the night’s honorees.
In a show filled with established stars, it was one of the most buzz-worthy moments.
“I’m just excited,” she told reporters backstage. “Being able to embrace this new chapter in my life, it’s scary. But I’m gonna do it, anyway. Why not?”
“I pick the banjo up and they sneer at me, ’cause I’m black myself,” Amythyst Kiah sings on her staggering blues-rocker, “Black Myself.”
Before recording it for her 2021 album, “Wary + Strange,” the East Tennessee singer-songwriter would sing “Black Myself” with her bandmates in Our Native Daughters. A roots music supergroup, OND is comprised of four Black women — all of whom play banjo, among many other instruments – offering a powerful reminder of the instrument’s African roots.
“Between the four of us, Black women in particular have messaged us saying, ‘I started to learn the banjo because of Our Native Daughters,'” she said.
“(We’ve heard from) people of color that didn’t realize that they can listen to country music or folk music, because of how segregation informed the recording industry and separated people by race. Just to see the difference that all this is making is above and beyond my wildest dreams.”
2021 has been a breakout year for Kiah as a solo artist. “Wary + Strange” arrived in June to rave reviews, and Kiah became one of the top nominees at the Americana Music Honors & Awards show, tying mainstay Jason Isbell. She also made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry.
“I’m starting to really understand (that) I’m the person that I needed to see when I was younger,” Kiah said. “And I’m that person now for other people. It’s a big responsibility that I’m happy to take on.”
In one of the year’s most powerful country songs, singer Willie Jones delivered an “American Dream” through his eyes.
The Louisiana-raised artist belted lines about Colin Kaepernick, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., singing that he’s “proud to be a Black man/ Livin’ in the land of the brave and the free/ Yeah I’m all-American/ And that American dream ain’t cheap.”
He began writing the song last year, days after George Floyd’s killing and protesters marching against racial injustice. He said the song derived in-part from a moment in 2020 when he balked at wearing red, white and blue on Independence Day.
On the song, he’s “still reppin’ the country, but through my eyes the time that I wrote it,” Jones said.
“We all in America and we hope for better,” he told The USA TODAY Network. “This is where it came from.”
And his growing catalog of country-hip-hop doesn’t stop with a civil rights anthem. Jones released his debut album, “Right Now,” earlier this year. It’s a musical blender of polished pop-ready production with country imagery and rap influence. The album finds Jones bringing the party – especially for nights in downtown Nashville with “Bachelorettes on Broadway” — and toasting to low-key moments at home, on the timely “Back Porch.”
No song may introduce Jones’ line-blurring delivery better than “Country Soul,” an album opener that name checks Tim McGraw, T.I., Marvin Gaye and Aerosmith.
“A lot of times people try to box me in as far as my sound, but I’m bigger than what people think of me,” Jones said. “This is one of them statement ones. … This is my love for music.”
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
North Carolina Freedom Park – the first park being created in the state to specifically honor the Black experience- has been awarded a $1.9 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant was awarded to specifically support the construction of the park and the Beacon of Freedom – a pivotal piece of the park’s design created by renowned, late architect Phil Freelon.
“We are elated to receive the $1.9 million grant to support our ongoing efforts to fund the construction of North Carolina Freedom Park and the Beacon of Freedom,” said Senator Natalie Murdock, North Carolina Freedom Park Campaign Coordinator. “We are particularly happy to celebrate this important contribution as we move forward into the construction phase of the park.”
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the largest supporter of the arts and humanities in the country, with its core programs supporting exemplary and inspiring institutions of higher education and culture. The Foundation makes grants in four core program areas including higher learning, arts and culture, public knowledge, and humanities in place.
“The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity,” said Elizabeth Alexander, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation President. “Through our grants, we seek to build just communities. By choosing to award North Carolina Freedom Park, we are not only carrying out our mission of supporting humanity but also focusing on the profound, historic contributions made by the Black community.”
Freelon completed the design for the park as one of his last projects before passing away in 2019. He notably served as chief architect of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture in Charlotte. Freelon insisted that the park design reflect the deep roots of African American engagement in the long history of the state and reveal their words about freedom being expressed all along the way.
“Freedom Park has come a long way, and we are honored to receive this grant from the Mellon Foundation,” adds Dr. Goldie Wells, North Carolina Freedom Park Co-Chairperson. “Through this contribution, we can work to create the monument on the grounds that will honor the past and celebrate African-American heritage by building positive reminders of freedom in public spaces.”
With last October’s groundbreaking at the corner of Lane and Wilmington streets in the state’s capital, the project is still expected to be completed by 2022. The park will be situated between the North Carolina General Assembly and the Executive Mansion.
To date, the organization has received a number of community donations in addition to contributions and funding from the Raleigh City Council, North Carolina General Assembly, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Duke Energy Foundation and the State Employees Credit Union Foundation.
Donations can be made at https://ncfmp.nationbuilder.com/donate.
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
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The Oakland Unified School District passed a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for students 12 and older Wednesday, despite a lack of full approval from the FDA that it is safe for children.
The measure makes it one of the first districts, with its student population of nearly 50,000, in Northern California to pass such a vaccine requirement and follows a similar decision made by the Los Angeles school district – the second largest in the US – earlier this month.
The Piedmont and Hayward districts also passed similar measures Wednesday.
The resolution, which passed 5-1 with one abstention, did not include enforcement details or indicate a date for the mandate to take effect.
It was met with concern and some outrage, among parents, students and the school board members themselves.
A teenager received a Covid-19 vaccine in Los Angeles over the summer. Its school district became the first in the state earlier this month to mandate students 12 and older get vaccinated. On Wednesday, the Oakland School District followed suit, making it one of the first in Northern California to do so
‘Why do you want to force the vaccine that is still undergoing vaccine trials,’ one speaker asked during the public comment section of the meeting, the East Bay Times reported. ‘Not you, the CDC or the FDA can make guarantees as to outcomes.’
‘I’m opposed to the vaccine mandate. Parents and students must have the choice whether or not to take a vaccine,’ said another, according to ABC7.
Samantha Pal, the student director sitting on the Oakland board said that while many students supported the mandate, several, ‘expressed concern about alienating students and families with such a strict policy,’ the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Pal said a number of parents did not want their children getting shots out of fear, and that many suggested the district should, ‘provide more education on the vaccine to both parents and students, so as to help get families to a place where they feel comfortable getting the vaccine.’
There were 31 new coronavirus cases recorded in the Oakland School District over the past week, according to school figures
Currently, there are around 255 new cases per 100,000 kids aged 12 – 17, in the surrounding Alameda County
Board President Shanthi Gonzales – who abstained in the vote – said that, in particular, she was concerned it might alienate students of color, who have far lower vaccination rates than others.
‘My concern is … sending those families a message that they’re not welcome and not allowed to come to school anymore,’ she said, according to the East Bay Times, adding that a number of students have limited health care access.
Mike Hutchinson, the only member of the board to oppose the resolution, voiced similar concerns, citing internal figures from the district superintendent that only 34 percent of African American and 55 percent of Latino students have been vaccinated.
‘I’m concerned about passing a mandate that (says) half of black and brown students can’t come to school,’ Hutchinson said, adding that the district’s remote option for students was already full.
Currently, around 80.8 percent of the students aged 12 to 15 in the surrounding Alameda County have received at least one vaccine dose
Children under 18 make up the age group with the second smallest number of confirmed infections next to the 71 -80, according to the county Health Department
Over the past week the Oakland School District recorded 31 new cases among its student body, and while there is no available data on the percentage of vaccinated students in the district, around 54 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds are fully vaccinated in the City of Oakland, according to public data.
In Alameda County, where Oakland is located, more than 60,000 or 80.8 percent of the children 12 – 15 have received at least one dose.
Currently, there are around 255 new cases per 100,000 kids ages 12-17, and overall around 4,532 children per 100,000 under 18 have had confirmed cases throughout the pandemic. It is the age group with the second smallest number of confirmed infections next to the 71 -80 category, according to the county Health Department.
Overall, children under 17 make up 14.5 percent of confirmed cases in California.
Despite concerns, most of the Oakland school community supported the measure, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, and it also had the backing of the district teacher’s union, although with a push for expanded exemptions.
‘Vaccination is a must,’ said one teacher during an online rally in support of the vote Wednesday evening, ABC7 reported.
In the overall state of California children under 17 make up around 14.5 percent of the total cases
‘Please vaccinate and make it a mandate, it’s a simple mandate to preserve our community,’ another teacher said.
Hutchinson, however, said it should be the responsibility of the state, not individual school districts, to impose vaccine mandates.
‘The idea of local school boards across California deciding what’s required for vaccination to enter into school scares me,’ he said, according to the Chronicle.
‘The failure of action is actually from the state representatives that sent this letter,” Hutchinson said. ‘It’s their failure of action why we’re in this situation. … Why haven’t they introduced legislation in Sacramento, which would provide the real solution to the problem we’re facing.’
While Gov. Gavin Newsom has held off on pushing any such mandate, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said it is considering such a requirement for students older than 12 to attend school.
‘That conversation is part of what we’re considering as a state, but no definitive action is being made at the moment,’ he told reporters Thursday, according to the Chronicle.
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Raleigh, N.C. — The majority of child injury deaths in North Carolina last year were due to gunfire, officials said on Monday. Child deaths associated with firearms nearly doubled in 2020, officials said.
Nearly 100 children lost their lives to guns, either by accidental gunfire or intentional suicides. Sixty-four child deaths were caused by someone else firing at the child and more than 30 deaths were self-inflicted, new state data shows. Most of the deaths were among teenage boys.
Firearms are used in half of all teenage suicides in North Carolina. The number of children who fell victim to suicide also increased by more than 50% in 2020.
Activists say the way to prevent these deaths is to remove access to firearms from people who are depressed or in a suicidal crisis.
“Removing access to firearms and other lethal means allows time for both the moment of intense suicidal crisis to pass, and for someone to intervene with potentially lifesaving mental health support and resources,” the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says.
The majority of children in North Carolina who died by suicide used a gun and were teenage boys. Suicides among white children in 2020 nearly double compared 2019, state data shows.
Across the country, more children are being accidentally killed in shootings as gun ownership has soared. Experts say social isolation, economic struggles and school closures during the coronavirus pandemic has put many more teenagers at an increased risk of gun violence. Hundreds of children witnessed, suffered or died in shootings last year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Gun sales surged in America last year and the firearms industry says there was a 60% increase in gun sales from 2019 to 2020. Most of those sales in 2020 took place from March to May. In the first six months of 2021, gun sales increased by 15% from the year before that.
State officials are concerned that new gun owners are unclear on how to safety store their guns. The Child Fatality Task Force, a legislative study commission, is pushing lawmakers to pass a safe storage initiative to help educate gun owners. The North Carolina House of Representatives approved House Bill 42, the Firearm Safe Storage Awareness Initiative, but the Senate has yet to take it up.
Statewide there was a nearly 90% increase in children visiting emergency rooms with firearm injuries. The majority of those children were shot unintentionally, state data shows.
Black Americans are nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as white Americans, and are more than 10 times as likely as white people to die in a shooting. Black children made up the majority of North Carolina’s firearm deaths, despite making up around 20% of the child population.
“Generations of systemic racial discrimination and inequities in health care, housing, education, and other factors have exacerbated the risks of gun violence. These inequities have also made Black and Latino communities more vulnerable to the devastating effects of COVID-19,” according to a report from Everytown Research & Policy.