The White Room

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Indy's new Music Council hosted its first-ever event last month called the Green Room. It was held at the Murphy in the Joyful Noise performing space. It was great. People showed up; people asked questions. There was a panel of big-time local singers and songwriters and an audience full of people who cared. When I walked in, the first thing I thought was wow, there isn't a single black person here (in the audience) and wow, not a Hispanic person either. I sat, I listened and enjoyed, but I couldn't help but wonder why there were no people of color at this event.

I am - along with my colleagues on the council - working to make sure that isn't the case next time, or ever. But to fix it we have to know why, right? It got me thinking about how even though there is crossover with everything, some things appeal to mostly white people and some things appeal to mostly black people.

The three panelists were musicians Caroline Shaw, Ryan Lott and Kristin Newborn. I had never heard of these artists. I call myself 'in the know' and if I didn't know, there's a high chance that people like me didn't either. And if you don't know, it makes it harder to care. It's the same reason that you don't find a ton of white people at a Notorious BIG party. The music just identifies with and caters to one specific group. Indy has to be more conscious of who we're appealing to in everything we do. This isn't an easy feat. Someone who is huge, important and respected in your world can be totally irrelevant in another's.

So why weren't there any black people there? African Americans are almost 30% of the population here which is larger than a lot of other U.S. cities. They are around. But as much as we think our favorite artist is everyone's favorite, we can make the mistake of assuming everyone knows and loves the venue we choose and that our marketing is reaching people different than ourselves. Thinking more about context, I realize now why five to seven years ago it was so easy for people to say "there's nothing to do in Indy." This always blew my mind, because there is a lot to do here. But if you don't identify with the product provided, you almost feel left out. You feel uninvited and not in the know.  

The Music Council's Green Room is a great example of something fantastic happening for Indy and great minds offering what we feel is important to the city.  Being inclusive goes so much further than that and takes a concerted effort. When we plan, we have to think beyond ourselves, beyond the hot artist that "everyone" seems to know and beyond what seems easiest. Otherwise, we continue the cycle of leaving demographics out and separating people even more--one harmless event at a time.

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