Kwame Safo on Black History Month 2022
As Black History Month 2022 draws to a close, Kwame Safo (PRS Foundation Grants and Programmes Manager) aka Funk Butcher (DJ/Producer, #BlackoutMixmag Editor, #TheHouseThatBlackBuilt Curator) reflects on what’s next?
As Black History Month draws to a close for 2022, much of the conversation between Black music creators and industry professionals revolves around the question of what’s next?!
What is the next stage in the evolution of the Black Lives Matter movement? The main genesis for much of the anti-black racist response in much of the entertainment sector, not just music.
Music is a space which bears a considerable burden in articulating the pain and frustration of its patrons. Frequently you find tracks painting all manner of images of pain and angst, which almost always resonates and connects with some community. The freedom of expression found in music has allowed many political moments in history to gather steam. Especially in the 20th Century, every moment had a soundtrack to apply a rhythm to the protest.
How does this rhythm of change maintain within the corporate space, or even the music industry as a whole?!
Black History Month has turned into an opportune moment for the United Kingdom to reflect, but in my opinion it is more about the future which can be created as a result of that reflection that many of us are more concerned with. How can those reflections impact positively the future of Black musicians and professionals working in the sector?
My own tenure at PRS Foundation has been enlightening for all parties involved and working alongside a predominantly white workforce there has been an internal EXCHANGE which facilitates my very freedom of expression, which until now I had only found in the creation of music. The freedom to express created a deeper understanding of who I was and also mitigates against any limiting and reductive lens Black people are viewed through in the industry. PRS Foundation has been excellent in providing me that space to grow, and on their part, learn in areas which simply put, articles and features can’t afford you. You need the real range of experience of Blackness within your workforce to feel these nuances, which cannot be satisfied with a marquee Black hire.
Pigeonholing and stereotyping is destroyed simply by having faith and taking (perceived) risks with Black staff members to build trust on a reciprocal nature and to enable new and unlocked potentials to be reached. It’s bigger than money, it’s the attitudes that money is “gifted” in. Does it come with preconceived notions as to how you as a Black person will operate with these grants/financial incentives etc or will it come with unbridled trust that Black professionals will still operate in good faith but in a new and untested modus operandi.
Black History Month is to look back on many of the mistakes made, so that future generations of Black people, not just in the music sector, won’t have to pay such a heavy price.
Kwame Safo @funkbutcher