Community Spotlight: Color of Music Collective
By Ollie Wells, Staff Contributor
A New and Amazing Group Tackling Discrimination in the Music Industry
Over the weekend I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview two inspirational individuals from the group the Color of Music Collective: Mia Van Allen who is the founder of this brilliant organisation, and Emily Yankana, a contributor. The group’s primary mission is to empower people of colour and LGBTQ individuals in the music industry, which is extremely difficult to navigate at present, especially for people from minority groups. The co-founder Carla Hendershot also kindly sent in a statement.
When I asked what had inspired Mia to start the Collective, the adversity she described facing concerning the lack of representation of people of colour whilst working in music was alarming. She related back to experiences during internships where she recounted:
“I was always the only black person in every internship that I had in college, and I thought enough is enough. and that’s why Carla and I decided to found this organisation - because we felt like when we were growing up in the music industry, it would have been nice to see people who look like you and who identified with you. That’s why we thought having a networking element to these events would be best for both sides of the LGBT and POC people”
Since leaving college in DC, where she studied both public relations and business and entertainment, Mia has been attending many music-related panels which were vastly dominated by white, feminist individuals. The lack of representation of people of colour on these panels was another motivator for starting the Collective.
“Not that it was necessarily a bad thing, but they weren’t using their privilege or platform to talk about the lack of diversity in the music industry. I was just getting so irritated because they didn’t even realise their privilege; like they were saying ‘oh just go on LinkedIn and network with people’ but if I were to reach out to someone on LinkedIn, probably white, what’s the chance that they’re going to respond to me over a white person?”
Carla, the co-founder of the organisation who is currently working as an Account Assistant in Nashville, TN, stressed how important it is for people in such a tough industry to pull together and support each other. She described in her statement how her and Mia have supported each other through their careers in the music industry so far, and how she wanted a platform to share the importance of underrepresented people having each other's backs in the music world.
“Both of us believe that building up others can only make us stronger. We wanted to share this perspective on a larger scale and unite our communities. Mia being a person of color and me being a member of the LGBTQ+ community.”
The co-founder went on to say that a major aim of the panels the Color of Music Collective hosts every Monday is to give the audience the opportunity to see someone from a minority
group like them being a successful leader in the industry. Giving a platform on a panel to these underrepresented leads inspires those who can relate to them, and gives them hope that they too will be able to be successful!
I then asked Mia to talk about the interesting projects and events the Collective had coming up, and she was especially excited about the panel coming up on the 15th of June at 7pm EST titled ‘The Rise of Latin Music and Culture in the United States.’ She described how important it is to document the changes in the music scene towards a more diverse industry.
“Latin artists are now topping the top 40 charts and 5 years ago no one would even think that in the US. Things are really changing in the music scene and I thought it would be so important to cover that.”
Mia also mentioned how the Color of Music Collective is appearing on the Pride-themed episode of the Homogenous Podcast at the end of June. So many exciting things to come!
The wonderful individuals from the group were also keen to give advice to those young LGBT musicians or musicians of colour reading this journal. Mia highlighted the importance of feeling comfortable in the workplace, for example, by checking LinkedIn to see if there are any people like you already employed, or arranging an interview to assess how they treat you and how you feel in that company’s environment.
“No matter how good the job or the internship is, go on LinkedIn and see the faces who work there and look to see if there’s any LGBTQ individuals or people of colour, because you may think it’s not going to make a huge difference in how comfortable you are there, but it really will. If they don’t, maybe go for an interview in person and see how they treat you. Do they treat you differently than the other coworkers? Do they treat you the same? What is it that will make you feel comfortable?”
Mia also said that it is necessary as an individual from a minority group in the music industry to network and put yourself out there more than a straight, white person would have to, and to find those who are allies for the community you belong to who are willing to speak up for you. Emily, a contributor to the organisation, added how important it is to build a confident sense of self in your work in the music industry and to stay true to who you are.
“I think there is a huge push, even for me and Mia growing up, you had to work twice as hard to get to where you needed to be. But, I would just say, whether you’re facing adversity or you’re overcoming it, keep your head up. It's a really hard industry to break into and there are a lot of people who are jaded and trying to get ahead regardless of where they think they are in their careers. I feel like whether you’re in the music industry or in a similar industry you’ll always find people who may be more inclined to prioritize their own interests rather than genuinely wanting to help you succeed. In interactions, they may be thinking 'what can I get out of you to get where I need to get’. So ultimately I would also suggest just staying true to who you are and what you believe in because at the end of the day that is really what is going to get you through.”
Finally, in Bitter Fruit Journal tradition, I asked both Mia and Emily what their favourite fruits are.
Emily: “Right now probably mangoes, I’ve gotten like five mangoes a week. I’ve recently taken a liking to blueberries”
Mia: “Persimmons are so good, I used to eat them all the time as a child because my grandmother has a persimmon tree. She recently just shipped us all some from her garden and it just brought me back to my childhood.”
I wish the best of luck to Mia, Carla, and Emily and everyone involved in this amazing Collective, and I would definitely urge you all to listen in to their panel on Tuesday! It’s important in this chaotic time of police brutality and coronavirus to support each other more than ever, and that is certainly what this group is doing.
Color of Music Collective website: https://www.colorofmusiccollective.com/
Color of Music Collective instagram: @colorofmusiccollective