by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson
I’ve been having way too much fun writing for Clutch Magazine.
As a member of staff, I generally spend my time conducting interviews with artists, writers, and directors that I love. It is a welcome reprieve from all the editorial I write here and for Cerise, and allows me to climb inside someone else’s mind for a few minutes.
Lately, I’ve started to notice some interesting patterns emerging, especially when I talk to artists about community issues.
Rissi Palmer is a black country singer and rising star. Before the interview, I had asked around to see exactly what questions I should pose. Most Clutch readers aren’t really into country – we tend to focus on neo-soul, hip-hop, and R & B, with a few notable exceptions. I did not want to ask too many of the obvious questions. I knew everyone was going to ask her about race and the role it plays in her career and while I wanted to cover those issues, I also wanted to go a little deeper.
I did a bit more digging and asked her about a blog entry she wrote concerning the Jena 6:
Clutch: I noticed on your blog that you wrote about the Jena 6 issue. That blew one of my main misconceptions out of the water, so it was good to see that a black girl doing country could still be racially aware. (Going by popular perception here that African Americans and C & W don’t normally mix.) Do you think your race has influenced your treatment in the music industry? How does race impact you in your daily life? (Or does it?)
RP: Let me start by saying that I’m extremely excited someone read my blog! Seriously though, It saddens me a little to know that people would assume that because I sing Country music, that I must be going through some sort of identity crisis. I am a proud Black woman who is racially aware and very cognizant of the issues that affect myself and other human beings. I decided to write about the Jena 6 in my blog because I know that many different people, from various racial backgrounds, read it and I felt like it was an issue that affected EVERYONE and that they should be aware, if they weren’t already (I also posted a link to the petition). I don’t want to go off on a tangent but it blew my mind that in this day and age when a black man is running for president, there is still discussion of unequal justice between whites and people of color. It saddens and frustrates me, but the one bright spot was the way everyone came together peacefully to show support in Jena. I hated that I wasn’t able to go but I did wear black in support.
Rissi’s responses to another question were also very telling. When asked about reactions to her first effort and single, she commented:
As far as the African-American community, the feedback has been extremely positive and supportive. So many people say: “finally there’s someone out there that looks just like me that I can relate to.” Also, a lot of African-Americans who maybe aren’t necessarily country fans are just happy to see someone venture outside the box and simply like the music I make.
She hit that last nail on the head – in our comments section, a few commenters mentioned how refreshing it was to see an African American woman finding her voice in a different musical niche. Others were just proud that she shattered boundaries.
In subsequent interviews, I started to ask more probing questions. I wanted to know what some of our favorite artists were thinking about. What was important to them? Read the Post The Diversity of (Black) Thought