A Note on Equality, and the Role of a Roots Music Magazine
Like Jill Krajewski, senior social editor at Vice, tweeted after 2 a.m., “not sleeping to follow a revolution is a welcome change from regular insomnia.”
These protests in response to the death of George Floyd while in police custody on Monday, May 25, are not within No Depression’s editorial purview. Our breaking news usually pertains to album releases, tours, and happenings regarding roots music.
As an independent media outlet, one that strives for the ideals of journalistic objectivity, it is not our place to take sides. The best reporting, in any beat, should include multiple perspectives in order to convey the whole story, as well as actionable items that guide readers in making well-rounded, informed choices in the future.
As part of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, however, (even one that does not specialize in matters of racial discrimination or police brutality), we do have a platform to deliver a pointed, poignant message about inequality in America.
Early this morning, a CNN broadcast crew was unlawfully arrested by Minnesota state police. The team was released about an hour later with an apology from Minnesota governor Tim Walz. The entire ordeal — that a national news team covering a community that was protesting a killing of a black man by a white cop could get arrested while complying with law enforcement, all on live television — represents yet another reason why free speech and a free press are vital pillars in the movements for racial justice.
At No Depression, we never just “shut up and sing,” and we’re not going to start now. I’ve always believed in the power of music as a tool for social change, so telling stories that address equality and positive change through art is literally why I do what I do. And in my two-and-a-half-year tenure here at No Depression, we’ve tried to elevate those stories and those voices — from musicians, writers, photographers, illustrators, and all who participate in roots music creation, storytelling, and dissemination.
Here are a few of my favorite examples from our print journal and our website:
(Screen Door) Defining Appalachia: Finding My Place, by Amythyst Kiah
Spring 2018 “Appalachia”
Secret Voices: Yiddish folk music and the stories that connect generations
Summer 2019 “Folk”
Singing to Live: Inuit musicians in Nunavut draw upon tradition for modern survival
Fall 2019 “Wellness”
Renaissance Woman Rhiannon Giddens Transcends Borders and Time, an essay by Allison Russell
Across Generations, The Healing Power of the Banjo, an essay by Jake Blount
We are not perfect. The music and media industries both are built on systems that favor and enable those with financial privilege, many of whom are white. But we want to continue to diversify our contributors and our coverage. We are working to tear down these barriers and welcome more people into our community of roots music.
So in the wake of the latest police murder of an unarmed, nonviolent black man, we are publicly sharing our existing, internal commitment to amplifying underrepresented stories in roots music. We will continue to improve our reporting and work within our editorial, topical, and financial means to share roots music as best we can. Because roots music is really music of the people — all people who are fighting for liberty, justice, and equality.
If you have suggestions on how to address racial inequality within roots music or music journalism, feel free to email us at email@example.com.