Inspired by #BlackLivesMatter and LGBTQ Marches, Autumn Nicholas Premieres Video for “Side by Side”

When soul-pop singer-songwriter Autumn Nicholas witnessed #BlackLivesMatter protests out on the street near her home in Raleigh, NC, she didn’t feel comfortable jumping into the fray. “I had fear because of what the TV and news blasted – they lacked the good, it was all focused on the bad,” Nicholas says. “But I wanted to make a difference and raise my voice.” She asked herself what she could do to further the movement and how she might inspire others who are hesitant to protest. The answer to that question was her latest single, “Side by Side.”

“I chose to write about it and learn more about the injustices and the facts behind the news,” Nicholas says. “I took away my own fear by connecting with the community and the artwork posted to display everyone’s voices through images.”

The song spotlights her powerful, rich vocals with minimal instrumentation, primarily acoustic guitar and piano. You can hear the passion in her voice, not just for social justice but also for her music, as she sings, “I can’t understand why we all just keep taking sides/Why can’t we sympathize?/If we really care about each other’s lives/Then let’s go and make it right/Standing side by side for equal rights.”

On September 14, Nicholas released “Version A” of the song, which is intentionally minimalistic; she wanted to release it as soon as possible just to get the message out. But she also plans to record a “Version B” featuring more production and other artists of all different races from different parts of the world, representing the unity she sings about.

When the queer, biracial artist plays the song live, she introduces it by talking about #BlackLivesMatter. “It grabs the attention and captures the importance of those words,” she explains. However, she adds, “it is deeper than that — it’s about equal rights and LGBT, but it ties in as a whole to unity, something during these times we do not have a lot of, especially since we are feeling like we’re trapped in our homes, like we are divided, whether it’s by sickness or by color. I hope this song can bring some unity to our time period.”

In the video, she performs the song in Raleigh in front of different pieces of street art related to #BlackLivesMatter and other social justice movements, her way of giving her community a platform and a voice. For “Version B,” she plans to make another video that spotlights even more street art. “I want it to focus less on me and more on the words and the art and the community,” she says. “It was a little bit rushed because we were getting it out before any of the artwork was actually taken down.”

“Side by Side” will appear on Nicholas’s second EP Shades of Beige, a followup to 2016’s Chapter 1. The other songs on the EP are consistent with the message of “Side by Side” – unity and equality – and Nicholas cites Pink as an influence on it. “She has very strong beliefs, and she also is more of an anthem singer; she sings about things that are really passionate to her,” she explains. One of the songs she’s working on, for instance, “On Sunday,” is about the internal conflict of belonging to a religion and being LGBT and “trying not to be placed in a box just because you are gay,” she says.

She’s still hard at work on the EP, as the process of recording music during COVID-19 has been a challenge. “It’s been hard because of the times we’re going through, the lack of spaces to go and produce it,” she explains. “That’s been a struggle, but we are working tirelessly, hand in hand with where we are and where the world is and whatever phase we’re in, trying to adjust and make this EP work and release singles as fast as we can with the times.”

In the meantime, Nicholas has also been developing a clothing line called Unbrand.d, which features items designed to be worn by anyone of any gender. “Ever since I was younger, I have had issues with finding clothes I liked to wear that weren’t super girly but weren’t boy-y either,” she explains. “Some people call it tomboy, but I’d rather not call it a gender, and my goal as I gain success is to create a brand where people can feel comfortable in the middle.” She’s currently working on rolling out the first item from the brand, a t-shirt whose proceeds will go to a food bank.

Growing up with a father who played drums and a brother who played guitar, Nicholas took up the guitar herself at age 13. “I just wanted to show off — that was my main goal. I didn’t think I would actually make a career of it,” she laughs. When she’s not creating music or clothing, she spends time with her family, her partner, and her “25 pound child” — that is, her dog. “Making sure I stay balanced in being a human and an artist at the same time has been a journey,” she says.

Follow Autumn Nicholas on Facebook for ongoing updates.

GRAMN. Snaps Performative Allies Out of Complacency on “Mini Milk” and Delivers Potent Debut EP

Listening to MEDIUMN, the debut EP by UK trio GRAMN., it’s hard to imagine a time when 27 year-old vocalist Evan Williams, who goes by Aux, didn’t think of herself as a singer. After auditioning for the British Academy of New Music on a whim, she began working with soul duo Equals as an “honorary member” – but that, too, proved serendipitous, as Equals producer James Low tapped her to provide vocals for the grimy, heavy beats he’d been making on the side. He also brought multi-instrumentalist Johnny Tomlinson into the project, and the trio began creating an experimental, electro-infused alternative R&B tracks, quickly realising that the music was simply too good to leave in the studio. Dubbing their project GRAMN (pronounced like “damn”), they released their first singles, “Write it Down” and “Freak Out,” in 2019.

While the foot-tapping “Write it Down” was a fitting introduction to showcase Aux’s vocal range, the running thread in “Freak Out” is a funk-inspired guitar riff that ties the whole track together as more elements weave in and out of the chords. But the release of “Mini Milk” in July, at a time when the world was seeing protests against police brutality and conversations around white fragility had been renewed, proved to be the band’s biggest statement to date. Named for the mini milk ice cream lolly, a popular summer treat in the UK, the song takes to task so-called white allies whose performative wokeness felt tiring to Aux – through the vector of an alt-R&B bop.

“A mini milk is someone who is frozen by guilt,” Aux explains. “My issue is with the dismissiveness of it all – when people say ‘Well you know, I didn’t shoot you’ or ‘It wasn’t me.’ ‘Mini Milk’ is basically like ‘stop chatting shit’ unless you want to have an educated and intelligent conversation about how we’re going to solve this problem. Stop being guilty… no one is accusing you of anything… if you feel that way then that’s a you problem.” Noting the scenario of people posting a black square on Instagram for #BlackOutTuesday being an example of limited, meaningless “support,” Aux uses “Mini Milk” to highlight similar contradictions she’s seen within the Black Lives Matter movement, repeating the phrase “ain’t enough” throughout the track. “It’s crazy that we have to split hairs between non-racist and anti-racist at this point because otherwise people just don’t get it,” she says.

Like Reni Eddo-Lodge’s landmark text Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, “Mini Milk” captures a particular frustration that exists on top of more overt forms of racism that still persist in the UK, like other nations with colonial roots. There’s a growing perception that the racism in the British Isles is to a lesser degree than what people see in the United States; other than being false, this creates a dangerous precedent in which those in power allow systematic racism to fester rather than working to eradicate it. “We’re 4% of the population but we still have the highest incarceration rate. Black women are five times more likely to die during childbirth. You are 40 times more likely to be stopped by the police as a black man,” Aux points out. She urges would-be allies to educate themselves on the real issues before making empty gestures; a song like “Mini Milk” is a perfect catalyst to snap people out of complacency.

Though “Mini Milk” feels especially relevant in this moment, all of the songs on MEDIUMN accomplish this to some degree, bursting with infectious production that makes heavier subject matter more palatable. The EP compiles the group’s previous singles alongside relaxed and atmospheric album opener “Howl,” the dreamlike “Coaster Boy,” and EP closer “Better Places,” a dark, soulful track that communicates the pain of domestic violence against the backdrop of an ethereal soundscape. The collection of work serves as confirmation of the trio’s undeniable talent, one that will only continue to evolve. It’s also a sonic exploration of Aux’s quarter-life experience; the EP’s namesake describes the balancing act she’s had to do as a biracial woman with a history of trauma. “I’ve had a strange existence; some of it’s been great and some of it has not. I think the only way I function is either really really happy or really really sad, so I have to find this semi-apathetic medium,” she explains. “I think maybe it started as a survival instinct – I just became medium.”

Though it began as Low’s side project, GRAMN. is now entirely collaborative – and they have more music on the way later this year. “Sometimes things happen so organically and a song forms like a baby. But then sometimes you’re mining for the rarest stone!” Aux says of the trio’s songwriting process. “It’s like Jenga trying to pull songs out of your brain – sometimes you can just find it and sometimes you cannot, and sometimes you pull them out and you’re like, ‘Just go back in there!’” But with a critical eye and clever wordplay, Aux reveals just how much she cares about the message she and GRAMN. bring to their audience.

Follow GRAMN. on Facebook for ongoing updates.

PLAYING CINCY: GrandAce Urges Fans To “Bus Back” Against Systemic Racism In New Single

Photo Credit: Romain Maya

GrandAce confronts systemic racism and police brutality head-on with his bouncy new single, “Bus Back.” The self-produced track lays down a vibey minimalistic base, while the Cincinnati MC gets straight to work.

“These last few weeks have had me spinning, so I had to resort to music to figure things out,” he wrote of the single on YouTube. “I want retaliation in the form of policy, legislation, and defunding corrupt systems. To those in power, it’s really not even hard.”

In a statement provided to Audiofemme, GrandAce further elaborated on why he chose to speak out against ongoing injustices and contribute to the current Black Lives Matter movement with his music.

“I’m not a big artist nor do I have a large platform, but I realize that my greatest superpower is that I’m able to use my voice to speak out on what’s wrong,” he explained over email. “If my words can resonate with even one person, it can make the movement behind the fight for justice and equality one person stronger. I’ve always made music with the aim of soundtracking life, and that includes revolution as well.”

“‘Bus Back’ [means] not only in the physical [sense], it’s also firing back at oppression through policy, legislation, dismantling of systemic inequality, and my joy,” GrandAce continued. “The beauty of joy is that it can be weaponized to overcome the worst situations. I hope others hear it and are inspired to keep pushing forward.”

“Bus Back” follows a healthy dose of singles from the Queen City rapper this year, including “Mad Shook” from earlier this month, “Satellites,” “Free Space,” and “Magic Something.” Last year saw the arrival of GrandAce’s Christmas three-pack, aloneon25, and his five-song EP, Also Codachrome.

Listen to GrandAce’s new single “Bus Back” below. Also, find more resources and organizations to donate to in the fight against police brutality and systemic racism here.

Mickey Guyton Releases Powerful Single “Black Like Me” as Country Musicians Take Stand Against Racism

Photo Credit: Chelsea Thompson, courtesy of Capitol Records

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of a former Minneapolis police officer has sparked protests across the world calling for justice for Floyd and the end to systemic racism in America. Some of those voices are coming out of Nashville, from a genre of music that has largely remained quiet on issues related to justice and politics in the past. Kane Brown, Darius Rucker, Jimmie Allen, Carrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett are among the many artists who have spoken out against Floyd’s inhumane death, with reactions ranging from honest reflections on living in a racist society as a black person to steadfast support for the black community.

Perhaps one of the most profound statements has come from Mickey Guyton, who tells the world how it feels to be a black woman in America on her powerful new song, “Black Like Me.” As one of the few Black women working in mainstream country music, Guyton has long been outspoken about the obstacles she’s faced trying to have a voice in a genre dominated by white males. “Black Like Me” cuts through the noise to share an honest and important perspective about what it’s like to live in her skin. Guyton explained in an Instagram post that she co-wrote the song in 2019 with Nathan Chapman, Emma DD and Fraser Churchill as a response to the “hate” and “oppression” she was witnessing in the world. Across three minutes and 31 seconds, Guyton takes the listener inside her journey as a child on the playground where she was told for the first time that she was “different,” later watching her father work twice as hard to buy a home to raise his family in. But the chorus is where she delivers a truly gut-punching declaration:

“It’s a hard life on easy street/Just white painted picket fences far as you can see/And if you think we live in the land of the free/You should try to be/Black like me/Oh, and some day we’ll all be free/And I’m proud to be, oh, Black like me.”

“Our world is on fire right now. There is so much division and hate. I wrote this song over a year ago because I was so tired of seeing so much hate and oppression. And yet here we are in the exact same place!” Guyton explains in the post debuting the song. “We must change that. I hope this song can give you a small glimpse into what my brothers and sisters have endured for 400+ years.” While she continues to serve as a passionate advocate for racial justice, she is also calling on her country music peers to do the same, many of whom have answered the call.

Darius Rucker also expressed his viewpoint on how it feels to live as a Black American. In a vulnerable, three-page statement, Rucker shared the “raw feeling of pain” he experienced watching the video of Floyd’s murder.

“As an American, a father, a son, a brother, a singer, a man…I have faced racism my whole life from kindergarten to the life I live today,” he begins. “Racism is not a born thing; it is a taught thing. It is not a strong belief; it is a weak belief. It is not a financial issue; it is a hatred issue.” As a father of three children, Rucker explained the “anguish” and “anger” they’ve felt in the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, urging for people to unify in order to bring about change. “The only way it will ever change is if we can change people’s hearts,” he encourages. “I really hope that we get better as a nation. My request to you guys is to search your heart on behalf of all of us, and root out any fear, hate or division you have inside of you. We need to come together.”

Like Rucker, “Best Shot” singer Jimmie Allen is the father of a six-year-old Black son and welcomed a daughter with his fiancée Alexis Gale in March. Allen expressed deep sorrow and concern for his son’s future growing up in a racist culture, also calling for people to use love as a guiding force for systemic change. “The continued non value of life towards black men in America concerns me. As a black man and a father raising a black boy I’m worried. The uncertainty of his safety turns my stomach,” he confessed in a recent Instagram post. “I challenge everyone to love each other and let our hearts speak louder than the injustice. Love so hard that it suffocates the hate.”

Kane Brown echoed this sentiment, calling on people of all backgrounds to unite in order to achieve world peace. “We will never see peace in this world until we ALL see each other as PEOPLE. We will never understand each other when you have people on 2 different sides. We have to become one to be at peace,” he explains in a Twitter post.

While Black country artists made it a point to speak out, many white allies also raised their voices in support. Two of the most profound statements came from Thomas Rhett and his wife Lauren Akins, the parents of four-year-old daughter Willa Gray, who they adopted from Uganda in 2017. Both spoke honestly about it’s like to be white parents of a Black daughter, pledging their unconditional support not only to their child, but the Black community as a whole. In a open-hearted message shared on Instagram, Rhett reveals that while their blended family has been mostly met with unconditional love, they have dealt with racism “directly,” previously instilling him with a fear that stopped him from making a public statement. He also notes the fear that his Black crew members have felt while touring on the road with him, behavior he deems “unacceptable.”

“When I witnessed the horrific murder of George and think about the mistreatment of other black men and women in America, I am heartbroken and angry. I get scared when I think about my daughters and what kind of world they will be growing up in and how my JOB as a father is to show them how to lead with love in the face of hate. To know their worth and value as not only women but human beings,” he explains. “So if there is any question on where I stand let me be clear – I stand with you, I stand with George and his family and all those who have faced racism. I stand with my wife and my daughters. We will be fighting this fight for the rest of our lives. Rest In Peace, George. We are not letting this go.”

Akins also spoke about her role as a parent to their multi-race children, stating that in the past she has been shamed by people who believe she is unqualified to be the mother of a Black daughter, creating a sense of “anxiety” that has led her to not speak out publicly – until now. “But as her mother, I want her to be VERY sure that I am HER mother who stands up not only for her, but for every single person who shares her beautiful brown skin. I want to be her mother who raises her to know what it means to have brown skin and to be proud of it,” she pledges. “I believe if I stay silent I am betraying my brothers and sisters. I believe if I stay silent I am betraying my daughter… Together, let’s be an army for love. That means speaking up loudly for injustices whether or not we share the same skin color, language, beliefs… I want my children to cling to the good. Love, peace, kindness, joy. I want them to BE the good.”

For a genre that has historically been remiss in standing up for justice, it offers a glimmer of hope to see many country artists use their voices to take a firm stance in opposition to racism, asserting that Black Lives Matter. My hope is that the country community will continue to fight for equality and turn these words into action, adding to the ocean of voices that are rising to end systemic racism and change this world for the better.

Devin Burgess Releases ‘SayTheirNames’ Beat Tape To Benefit Families of Police Brutality Victims

Devin Burgess

Devin Burgess

Much like the rest of the world, protesters in Cincinnati continue to rally against the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the countless other Black men and women who have fallen victim to racially unjust and violent policing practices.

Amid week-long protests, petitions, and social media campaigns, Cincinnati’s own Devin Burgess decided to channel his emotions into a beat tape, called SayTheirNames. All proceeds from the project, released via Bandcamp, will go to benefit the families of Floyd and Taylor through GoFundMe.

“I wanted to be able to use my talent for the greater good, and not necessarily make music about what’s going on, but make music that represents what’s going on,” Burgess tells Audiofemme. “So, I compiled these beats – some of them are a year or so old – and I went through my archives and just thought, ‘What sounds like how I’m feeling right now?’”

The beats range from somber to urgent, sample audio clips from news coverage, and are each named after a victim of police brutality or racist violence, including Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Botham Jean, and others.

“They’re all relatively heavier; they feel more emotional,” Burgess explains. “It’s a heavy listen, and I wanted it to feel like that because that’s how I feel. My heart and soul are so heavy with what’s going on right now.”

Burgess promoted the track in an Instagram post, alongside a profound message: “Music is a time capsule. Songs live on forever and people do not. But when it comes to injustice, artists have some what of a responsibility to merge the two to educate and inform the people,” he said. “Music lives on, and I need these precious souls to live on with the music. Their names can’t go forgotten. I know that this is only a SMALL, percentage of the people that have been killed by police, but i’m using this to represent them as well. Along with all the people who DON’T get mentioned when they die by the hands of the police.”

Besides using the tape as a way to contribute to reform efforts, the rapper/producer says SayTheirNames has also been an outlet for self-care. “I’m Black, so I know the vibes with this injustice. This is something I’m feeling every day,” he says. “I’ve been trying to stay busy and stay informed. It’s very hard to put my phone down. Like, of course, you gotta take a break every once in a while, but you also wanna be informed at all times. So, that’s what I’m battling with right now.”

SayTheirNames will remain on Bandcamp so that listeners can continue to donate to both Floyd and Taylor’s families. Burgess says he’d also like to donate to the Cincinnati Bail Fund to assist local protesters who have been arrested.

“I wasn’t expecting as big of a turnout for Cincinnati [protests] and for it to be this consistent – people are still out there protesting,” he says. “Good has already started to come out of this, we just need more good. We gotta fight harder.”

Besides protesting, supporters can also sign petitions, donate to the National Bail Fund and reform efforts in Minneapolis and Louisville, and support the Movement 4 Black Lives Coalition and Black Lives Matter Network.

“Don’t just scroll past these petitions, ‘cause they’re just as important as the donations and the money,” Burgess adds. “Money’s cool, but money doesn’t always make everything happen. Do your research. Keep donating to these families. Continue to protest. This shit will not stop after a week, this is something that we have to keep going.”

Find a list of charities, petitions, and resources in the fight against systemic racism and police brutality below.

Cincinnati Bail Fund – sponsored by the Beloved Community Church
Movement 4 Black Lives
Campaign Zero
Justice For Breonna Taylor Petition
Justice For George Floyd
Know Your Rights Camp
The Bail Project
Donate to Breonna Taylor’s Family
Donate to George Floyd’s Family
Louisville Community Bail Fund
Reclaim The Block

PLAYING SEATTLE: Cellist and Activist Ebony Miranda Talks Resistance and Allyship Through Music

According to a 2014 study by the League of American Orchestras, less than 2% of musicians in American orchestras are African American, only 4.3% of conductors are black, and composers remain predominantly white as well. Hence, as a classically-trained cellist and person of color (POC), Ebony Miranda’s music career is in itself an act of resistance.

The classical tradition has resisted the influence of black music and perpetuated white supremacy for hundreds of years, and as one of Cornish College of the Art’s only students of color in the classical program, Miranda fought for more diversity in curricula, the student body and staff until their graduation in 2017.  Years later, Miranda has also become a vocal organizer within Seattle’s official Black Lives Matter chapter, and their free improvisational solo project on electric cello, Undesirable Body, continues to explore and amplify the effects of racial oppression and the injustices faced by African Americans every day.

Ebony Miranda took some time away from supporting Seattle protesters on the front lines to speak with Playing Seattle about how music can be used as a tool in the fight against racism, their thoughts on the music industry’s blackout on Tuesday, and how allies in the music industry can step up to better support musicians of color in Seattle and beyond.

AF: Tell me about your background and how you go into music. Are you from Seattle? 

EM: No, actually, I’m originally from Southern California. I moved up to Seattle seven years ago to attend Cornish. I started playing cello down there, went to a music/arts high school and decided to pursue music for school. I came to Cornish seven years ago, graduated with my degree in music, specifically classical music.

While I was studying classical music I had opportunities to do jazz band and that’s when I got more involved in free improv, in particular. Which is sort of what really set the stage for the music I do now. I never thought I’d be doing any type of improvised music but now it’s almost exclusively what I do and my solo project Undesirable Body is exclusively improv-based. 

AF: And you decided to stay in Seattle. Did you feel you had enough of a community here? What prompted you to stay? 

EM: Definitely, from a music point of view, yes. I was able to develop a lot of really great connections at my time at Cornish, especially in the improv scene, and really able to connect with a lot of different people, especially with those associated with Cafe Racer and greater than that, [the label] Table & Chairs. So I’ve been able to be part of some really cool things like play in the Seattle Improvised Music Festival and host a few sessions as well. The improv community here, to me, has always been a positive environment and has been a really nurturing space for me to develop and explore new ideas. 

AF: What are some of your artistic inspirations? 

EM: I will start with some music influences – I mean coming from a classical background, yes, there are a few composers that stick out. Being a cellist, Bach is a huge influence to me especially in terms of like how I think about improv, and I’m a really big fan of using double stops and I think about intervals pretty much constantly when creating my music. Having learned a good amount of the suites there’s a lot of double stop work in there and a lot of chord work. I think that has, one, made my left hand very strong because I really like to push all the limits, try to get all the weird stretched out chords as I can. Bach is definitely an influence, and I’m sure all cellists would say that, just that kind of style of thick chords and things like that. Also, when I was younger, Shostakovich was a great – his concept of melody. He was someone who lived in extremely dark times, under Stalin and horrible government, and was experiencing great pressure in his life and oppression. You can really hear that in his music, so from an emotional standpoint he always stuck out to me. 

Sun Ra was a really great musical inspiration for me as well. My music may not be fully reflective of that – as a person and advocate for Black people in music. His love for our community. I’ve also sampled some of his work in some of my pieces as well. And really, a lot of what I’m putting into my music, the energy I’m putting behind it, is usually influenced – it isn’t even always necessarily events in my life, but just whatever I’m feeling in that moment. The overall feelings, my lived experience, if that makes sense. 

AF: Once, when I saw you perform, you talked about the tortured relationship you’ve had with the cello. At the time, you talked about how a lot of your music has come out of a desire to untangle cello from the history of white supremacy in classical music. Could you talk a little bit more about that?  

EM: So, at that time I had such a complicated relationship with my alma mater, to put it frankly. I had a complicated experience being one of the only black people in my department and knowing there was already a huge lack of representation there and just trying to find my place in the music world. I was really grappling with those feelings and trying to separate myself from the academia side of things and for myself realized what playing cello and music is about. From an early age I knew I was never going to be, you know, in the concert hall as a soloist, but I also knew I loved playing and for some reason people enjoyed hearing me play, so I think I was just trying to discover what was out there and possible for me as a musician. 

Over the past few years I’ve gotten more experience, which alone has helped. I also switched to an electric cello and that did a lot for me to expand my sound. Also, [the electric cello] had the potential to be a lot louder, which was something new for me as well. That really opened some doors to explore my instrument, because I was literally playing on a new instrument.  I [still do] some gigs where I play classical music or classical adjacent music or chamber music, things like that, but I don’t feel that burden anymore, that complicated relationship. I think I’ve been able to find what I enjoy most and really run with it. So when I do go back it’s like visiting an old friend – not to sound too corny. I am able to approach that style of music on my own terms now. 

AF: Can you talk about being one of the only POC at Cornish College of the Arts? 

EM: It’s not just the music department – I think in general a lot of POC students at Cornish struggle to find representation not only within Cornish as an institution but also in the curriculum being studied. I think there was a general dissatisfaction with the lack of diversity in the material we were given. I actually formed a People of Color Union at Cornish, a POC Union to help group us together and discuss what the discrepancies were within our departments and within Cornish as a whole. To put it simply, it was just trying to challenge either certain policies that the school had instated, or encourage diversity in curriculum and staff as well. One of our biggest achievements was being able to get a therapist of color on campus, which was a huge thing for us. A lot of universities and colleges, any sort of institution—they could always use a little… input. 

AF: You’ve talked about using music to transform and heal. How do you think music can be used as a tool to fight what’s going on in the world right now in terms of racism and unrest? 

EM: I feel like this can go so many ways. There’s the literal application of putting your personal political beliefs within music. Either through words, or making it a concept, really stamping on, like, ‘this is my statement.’ Literally using the music to fight back or to encourage change. But I think there are other avenues as well, and part of that is representation. Even if the people on stage may not be giving a political performance, it’s also very encouraging to see people that look like you or who are in your community expressing themselves as well. Someone like me, I make strictly instrumental music for the most part but I still get told that the energy I have behind my music, the values I have as a person are very prevalent. I feel just as much whether you have a verbal effect, you also have an emotional effect as well.

Even if it’s for the purpose of just bringing people together. For example, I hosted a fundraiser a couple years ago when all of the protests were happening at the detention centers. I hosted a fundraiser for Northwest Immigrants Rights Project for when the movement of families belong together was happening. But yeah, I hosted, I performed along with two of my friends and it was great. We definitely had some good messages in between. We had a wonderful host that reminded everyone why they were there. But at the end of the day we didn’t necessarily have anything to do with immigrant rights or detention centers but it was just having music there in that space, that energy present really made an impact for folks. 

AF: When did you start considering yourself an activist and getting more involved? 

EM: I mainly started getting involved in things when I was around 19 or 20 – really the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole got me more politically involved in things. I remember I hosted a silent protest once, just me and one other person. That was the first time I did a political action, if you will. And I also participated in a lot of the protests that were happening in 2015. That must have been the officer who killed Mike Brown – that was a big, especially here in Seattle. There was a really big explosive impact and was kind of the start of BLM activity in Seattle. That was when the original chapter was started. So I started getting more involved that way and participated in some protests. There I mainly focused on ways I could act within Cornish since that was the context of most of my life – that’s when I created the POC Union and we put together a yearly show for people of color there and that was really great, and I was in a lot of meetings with administration really trying to push for change there. At my last year at Cornish in 2017, I was an organizer for the Women’s March on Seattle, the first one. For me personally it was a big mess, but it made me learn a lot about grassroots organizing, what I like and didn’t like about it, and got me back into getting more involved in the political scene, since I was finishing school at the time.

At the end of 2017, myself and two other individuals founded Black Lives Matter Seattle – King County as the original chapter had been long gone and dissolved by then. Myself and two others founded that at the end of 2017, and we created our board, got incorporated and got all the official business out of the way. We do go by BLM-Seattle too, for short, but in our mission we incorporate all of King County.

AF: I saw you posted on Facebook about protests – I’ve heard that the BLM activists weren’t involved in a lot of the Seattle protests over the weekend, is that true? 

EM: It’s about half and half. It’s been hard to decipher information, but essentially there was one protest – well, let’s back up. There was a protest happening on Friday that was organized by local anarchist and leftist groups. There was a demonstration on Saturday at noon that was being put on by a white ally [who] brought in some people from the King County NAACP [to speak]. And then there was another one that happened later that day that was hosted by a black organization called Not This Time, and they’re most known for putting on the campaign to get I-940 passed, that’s what they’re connected with. And then there’s another demonstration happening on June 14th, that claims to be the original BLM “chapter,” but it is an individual who was involved in those movements back then. He essentially hosts the majority of any protest that we’ve seen with Black Lives Matter. You know how they have the Black Lives Matter Friday and things like that? He is hosted those events. He’s an individual, not a chapter. There’s a lot of confusion. 

AF: It is really confusing. It all gets muddled on social media too. Can you tell me how the George Floyd protests have affected you, and have you been involved in any of them through BLM or individually? Can you clarify your BLM chapter’s stance on protesting during the pandemic? 

EM: It was a pretty tough decision – a lot of events were popping up this past weekend, and as we’ve seen continuing throughout the week, so as an organization our board is not currently hosting any in-person protests for a couple reasons, the main reason being we’re still in the pandemic, COVID-19 is still extremely vicious and prominent within black and brown communities, and as an organization we figured it would not be best to encourage our community to go out and protest. We are a thousand percent behind those who do feel the need to demonstrate and we’re not going to tell people not to protest because we fully understand why people do, but if they’re feeling on the fence about it, we want people to know we are understanding of the fact that we are still in a pandemic. We do care about our community first. In lieu of that, we have mainly been working behind the scenes to provide support for those who are deciding to protest. So, we have created our bail fund which got fully funded, and which I am extremely excited about. We created a protester safety guide that is on our website. It has COVID safety information as well as a lot of different resources for folks that are going to be out there. And then, with the bail fund we are also working on helping bail out protesters who are getting arrested. That’s all happening right now. 

It’s such a weird juxtaposition  of feelings — there’s so much crisis happening, I’m emotionally exhausted and there’s so much grief happening, but at the same time it has been extremely encouraging to see how much community support we’ve been getting. Our [local] chapter has not gotten this type of attention ever really and we’ve been around almost two years and have been doing a lot of really great work. It’s been really incredible seeing people come out to support us and support the work we do [and] we’re still with our community and still want to support people in any way we can. 

AF: What can the music community do to support BLM and more broadly, POC musicians? 

EM: I have a lot of different thoughts pop up. I think a really great example is the Seattle Symphony hosting a march, which I was really shocked at! I thought it was really cool. It goes back to my personal experience – there’s still a lot of racism and sexism within music community, especially in the classical music community, and there’s always so many talks about how we create diversity within classical music, whether it be on stage or in the concert hall. How do we do outreach, how do we make this music accessible to people? Performances are going to be on hold for a long time so this is the perfect time to really strategize on how we can make classical music in particular more accessible to marginalized communities, whether it be in education, or performance, or just accessibility to hearing that kind of music. A lot of symphonies and organizations and music unions and educators should be thinking about those things. It’s really reflective of the amount of time that I’ve been criticized because I couldn’t afford lessons, because my mom was working two jobs so I could go to my arts high school. Lack of resources [is something] a lot of young Black and POC kids experience when trying to pursue a field that’s incredibly expensive. I think this is the perfect time to think about that.

In terms of the greater music scene, especially when we’re all starting to really feel the effects of COVID-19 in terms of our work, supporting Black and POC musicians, making sure their music is getting played and they’re getting the support they deserve. Again, it just comes back to that – even in mainstream festivals, there’s still a big lack of diversity. So again, how do you make sure you’re curating your venues to really be diverse – not to just tokenize, but truly be diverse. What audiences are you really advertising towards? Who’s your audience and why? What crowds do you want in your establishment? There’s still gatekeeping in that sense. I can very much tell if the space has me in mind or not, whether I’m playing at a venue or attending one. 

AF: Speaking of taking advantage of the pause, what do you think about #theshowmustbepaused social media campaign? 

EM: It turned into a giant mess. I didn’t even actually know that it was started by the music community. I think people very quickly realized how damaging it could be to fill up a very relevant hashtag with a bunch of blank images. I think people understood the harm that has caused, but to the original purpose of it, what it was meant to be, it wasn’t anyone’s fault that it got misconstrued. That’s just how social media works at times. From what I remember from reading, it was a way for the music community not to promote anything and really pause everything to honor POC.

My personal feelings on actions like that, while I think the visual and yes the more performative aspect of those types of actions can have a lot of impact on people, for someone like myself who’s been doing this work and been involved in this type of environment for a long time, concrete action and consistent concrete action is always the most impactful. I always tell people, any action you do, you can do one really big action but it may not be as worthwhile as even like a smaller but very consistent action. As we always say it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. In two weeks, Black people are still unfortunately at high risk of getting killed by police in this country. These record companies want to take a stand – that’s great, but again, you really need to apply that in all elements of your company. Who you’re signing, payment of your artists, the money they’re able to make from you and feel supported and feel represented as well. 

Stay tuned to Ebony Miranda’s website for ongoing updates and new music.

The Bay, Black Lives Matter, and Bandcamp: Local Resources and Ways to Help


Hey Bay Area,

It’s been a rough week. It’s also been, hopefully, a first step in a greater reckoning regarding racial justice, discrimination, and police brutality in America. Black people are suffering even as they are mobilizing, speaking out despite years of attempted silencing, and working their way through each day, the best that they can.

The Bay Area, as always, will play a crucial role in the future of this movement. As much as the Bay celebrates a rich history of political activism, Black music, and Black culture, on the other side of that coin is a painful history of white supremacy and violence against Black bodies.

There are many different ways to contribute to this movement, and a myriad of resources to help you do so. There is no such thing as a definitive list, but here are some local resources to help you get started (or continue) your support.

Support Black artists with Bandcamp

Bandcamp is, once again, waiving its share of sales on June 5th to help artists impacted by COVID-19. Support local Black artists buy buying their music and merch. Also, a lot of artists and labels are preparing special releases for the 5th, with the proceeds going to organizations supporting racial justice. Bandcamp has compiled a list of those here. Also, there’s a big chance a lot of your favorite bands are donating their proceeds from the day. Check their socials for confirmation, and get yourself a t-shirt.

Want to spread the word about your favorite Black Bay Area musicians? Make a playlist of Bandcamp bops using this cool website. There are currently a lot of playlists featuring exclusively Black Bandcamp artists on there if you are on the hunt for new music. Unfortunately, the website does not currently have a native search function, so keep an eye on the “Newly featured” section.

Finally, mark your calendars: on June 19th, and every June 19th hereafter, Bandcamp is donating all of their cut to the NAACP legal defense fund.

Here are some cool local musicians to support June 5th,  June 19th, and every day:

Fantastic Negrito

Oakland native Fantastic Negrito makes funky, soul-influenced rock. His upcoming album title asks the same question we’ve all been asking ourselves every day since quarantine started: Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?

Wizard Apprentice

With a delicate voice layered over stripped-down, variant techno beats, Wizard Apprentice makes intimate music about universally difficult subjects.

Tia Nomore

“i just record when i can and write all the time,” states Tia Nomore’s descriptor, a sentiment which can’t fully encapsulate the self-assuredness of her straightforward raps with a 2000’s throwback vibe.

Kidd AM

Kidd AM is a recent Bay resident, but her commitment to examining the ways that her hometown of Clinton, Louisiana has shaped her musical style can be appreciated by anyone who knows what its like to love, hate, and everything-in-between the complex and brilliant Bay area.


Despite a period of musical silence, SF rapper A-1 is has been slowly moving back into releasing new work, including this excellent single he started working on after the murder of Philando Castile in 2016, but didn’t make public — until now.

Support local organizations working towards racial justice & rebuilding

Check out these organizations working to dismantle oppressive power structures, empower their communities, and spread education and awareness.

Anti-Police Terror Project — Community support, legal referral, police reform/eradication

Bay Area Anti-Repression Committee — education, bail funds

Black Earth Farms — food distribution, food education

Masterdoc of Oakland business who are requesting support — various needs

NLG – Bay Area Chapter — legal defense and support for protesters

People’s Breakfast Oakland — homeless support, food distribution, bail funds

People’s Community Medics — free basic first-aid workshops

Internal work, external change

People who are not Black have a responsibility to their communities — and to themselves — to work towards dismantling white supremacy. There are so many different ways to do this. Work to find the best way for yourself.

Black Lives Matter. Stay safe, and take care of yourselves.