Music Schooled in Racism, Power + Privilege 101
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Music Schooled in Racism, Power + Privilege 101

Tonight, Hooded Fang's April Aliermo hosts a PWYC panel discussion on racism in music featuring Fucked Up's Damian Abraham and more.

Racism Power Privilege 101 event flyer To say that power and privilege remain hot-button issues in the music community would be an understatement.

It’s the main reason why Tuesday’s MUSIC: RACISM, POWER + PRIVILEGE 101 session at The Music Gallery promises to be an engaging affair, according to panel moderator April Aliermo of Hooded Fang and Phedre fame.

The Toronto-based bassist, songwriter and educator notes that the panel is more than just a “preaching to the choir” type event. It’s about having a frank discussion, according to Aliermo.

“There is obviously a need for some open dialogue and clarity,” she says over email. “A lot of people have never had to think about the power structures that govern even our little Canadian music scene. Why would they? They’re just here to make music or write about it or present it or consume it. A lot of people are upset at having to answer questions or explain these issues of race all the time. They just happen to experience it but just want to make music too.”

Aliermo, of course, was the writer behind the Exclaim! Magazine online piece “Not Yours to Play With: Why Viet Cong’s Name Offends” a measured, thoughtful and damning statement on why a seemingly obvious complaint against a band name being appropriative and racist can gain minimal outcry by certain members of the mainstream music community.

Photo by Corbin Smith Photo by Corbin Smith.

“I never wanted to write that article about Viet Cong. I’m not a writer. It was mentally, emotionally and time-wise consuming,” she admits. “As far as I could see though, there’s wasn’t anything being critically written in any Canadian media about this important issue. I received a lot of positive feedback about the article…usually underrepresented voices thanking me for writing it…others from the dominant culture thanking me for helping them see these issues of race in our scene with more clarity. There were however, some that were upset by the article. They felt that they were being personally blamed for ‘something that they didn’t do.’ The whole point of the article stopped at their own self analysis and defence, and then went right over their heads.”

Indeed, according to a collective statement from the panel’s organizing artists—which includes YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN’s alaska B, Pitchfork writer and artist Max Mohenu and Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham—there needs to be a “deeper understanding” of the systemic issues inherent to Canadian multicultural landscape, “if we are to move forward as a supportive, empathetic community of music creators, producers, consumers and critics.”

“If we are to move forward as a supportive, empathetic community of music creators, producers, consumers and critics, we need to have a better understanding of the systemic issues that are unique to Canada’s multi-cultural landscape. This panel is an attempt and a hope at moving forward as some kind of community.”

More importantly, the panel promotes a safe space, encouraging the public to pose questions and comments anonymously (via Survey Monkey): “We hope that this panel can be a safe non-judgemental place where it is possible to ask and answer questions like this,” says April.

“We’re hoping to go beyond social media conversations and talk about, dissect and understand issues of race in our scene at a deeper level. How does cultural appropriation manifest in our scene? Why does it matter? Why doesn’t it? We purposefully added the “101” at the end of our title because we’re hoping that people who are curious and want to know more will attend.”

She adds: “I think even if one person, no matter who they are, walks away considering new perspectives, it’s a positive outcome.” 

Music: Racism, Power + Privilege 101: Music Gallery (197 John Street). November 24  (7 p.m.-9 p.m.) Admission: PWYC