From the classic socially conscious rhymes of Tupac to the tunes of modern lyrical legends Kendrick Lamar and Common, music has long been used to bring attention to societal issues and share unique and controversial viewpoints (For better or worse *cough* Kanye *cough*). At the 2018 Virginia Avenue Music Fest, attendees will have an opportunity to explore how artists can use music to inspire positive social change.
The Music and Social Justice Panel, hosted by Indy10 Black Lives Matter, Don’t Sleep and MelaNation Indy, aims to shed light on issues affecting women, minorities and LGBTQ+ individuals in a laid back, entertaining environment. Leah DeRae, with Indy10, hopes the panel gives attendees an opportunity to ask hard questions about the roles and responsibilities of artists.
“As hip-hop is becoming popular in culture, what role do non-Blacks play in the hip-hop movement, and how they can appreciate that music without overstepping,” DeRae said. “I hope if they are non-Black, they come out seeing that, for example, when it comes to rap, they can’t say the N-word. We are not picking on them.”
According to DeRae, some artists make music with a message targeted to a specific demographic. For example, Black women embraced Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” because the experiences she explored were relatable to them.
“You can support Beyonce, but know that some things are for us and truly dedicated to Black women,” DeRae said. “You can enjoy our art without making it about you.”
Artists often disagree on the best way to show homage to a culture or community that they are not a part of without being disrespectful. While there are many think pieces and social media posts online, DeRae feels sensitive information is best conveyed in person.
“People can read things online and not get a full understanding, but we can give them a better understanding,” DeRae said. “Hopefully, they can come out with a better understanding of how this generation of Black people feel, who are hip-hop fans or fans of music in general.”
DeRae says the panel will be laid back and fun. She hopes the audience will see a lighter side of social justice workers that the media doesn’t often portray.
“I hope they come out with a better understanding that social justice is not all protests and anger,” DeRae said. “We enjoy ourselves, we love music, we have joy. We would like to educate but have a good time at the same time … It will be a good time. You will be both educated and entertained.”
To learn more about the music and social justice panel and other Virginia Ave Music Fest events, visit facebook.com/virginiaavenuemusicfest or virginiaavenuemusicfest.com.