3 Grammy Contenders Share Outrage At All-White Category, Decline Nominations
January 4, 20215:04 AM ET
MANDALIT DEL BARCO
Three of the five acts nominated for the 2021 best children’s album Grammy Award are saying “no thanks.” They’re upset that the contenders in their category are all white.
One of them is Alastair Moock, whose nominated album, Be a Pain, is about American heroes who stood up for their principles: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Milk, Rosa Parks, the Parkland, Fla., shooting student protesters and others.
Upon hearing the news he was nominated along with three other white male acts and one white woman, Moock smacked his head. “After this year, to have an all-white slate of nominees seemed really tone-deaf,” he says. …
Moock is protesting by turning down his nomination. So are fellow acts Dog on Fleas and the Okee Dokee Brothers.
“We thought that it was the strongest thing we could do, to stand with people of color whose albums are too often left out of the Grammy nominations,” says Joe Mailander, one of the Okee Dokee Brothers.
Did you know that Stevie Wonder has never even been nominated for a Grammy?
What? He won all the time when I was a kid?
Why was I not informed?
He hopes to expand notions of what children’s music is. “This is not just white guys with guitars playing for kids. We want to welcome all different types of music to this community.”
The Okee Dokee Brothers, Moock and Dog on Fleas — all “white guys with guitars” — sent a letter to the Recording Academy asking that their names be removed from the final Grammy ballots. They wrote they “couldn’t in good conscience benefit from a process that has historically overlooked women and artists of color.”
The other Okee Dokee Brother, Justin Lansing, said they felt a special responsibility to ask for change in a genre “tasked with modeling fairness and kindness to kids and families.”
Last month, the nominees met with the Recording Academy’s new interim president and CEO, Harvey Mason Jr., and its first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, Valeisha Butterfield Jones.
“We’re an organization that’s ready for change, but you know, we’re not unique to the challenges of the world and to the challenges of our industry,” Butterfield Jones says of the 63-year-old organization being revamped. “I think it’s time. You know, we saw in 2020 a racial reckoning. So now, you know, it’s, you know, up to us what we’re going to do to take real and meaningful action.”
Butterfield Jones says since she started her job in May, she’s been looking for ways to increase diversity among the academy’s membership and in the Grammy’s secret nominating committees. The academy recently partnered with the racial justice group Color of Change to begin holding itself and record labels more accountable. They’re pushing for more transparency at the academy and support for artists, especially those who are Black.
If they succeed, someday we might even hear music by Black artists on the radio.
One of the two Grammy nominees who decided to remain on the ballot is Joanie Leeds. Her ninth children’s folk music album is titled All the Ladies.
“I didn’t decline because my album is really about empowering young women. I mean, I have 20 women on my album. So for us, it was like it was kind of counter to our empowering women message to step down,” Leeds says. “I know that this is really about the guys that dropped out, but I feel like a lot of times women are kind of left on the side. It’s a shame. I wish there was more equality with women.”
Someday, we might even hear women singers on the radio.