The Black American Music Association (BAM) was founded by veteran music executives Michael Mauldin and Demmette Guidry with a mission to preserve, protect, and promote the legacy and the future of authentic Black American music as an indigenous art form. BAM provides music industry professionals, creators, scholars, and music industry stakeholders with opportunities that will help empower future generations through professional training, education, preservation, financial literacy and advocacy.
In part one of a two-part interview, BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke to Demmette Guidry about BAM’s nonprofit arm, how transparent an upcoming awards show will be, and how the Black American Music Association will play an integral part in the future of Black music.
You co-founded the Black American Music Association, along with Michael Mauldin and Judy Klein, as well as its nonprofit arm. What is its purpose and mission?
The Black American Music Foundation (BAMF) is our 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that focuses on education and scholarship, building community-based organization partnerships, increasing civic engagement in underrepresented communities, and charitable giving. The BAM Foundation’s guiding principle is “Sankofa,” (on the top of the crown of our logo) a word and symbol from the Akan tribe in Ghana, which means “It is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” BAMF provides programmatic opportunities and initiatives to further transform our cultural relevance into community relevance. We understand the importance of music education, higher education, and the barriers many in our communities face to attain it. Our goal is to remove as many of these obstacles as we can to help young people succeed, discover careers in the music industry, and music programs to help enhance their proficiencies in Math and Science (STEAM). And to provide college students and aspiring professionals, scholarships, mentorship, and apprenticeship opportunities to further their education and professional development.
With the country experiencing such changes due to the coronavirus pandemic, a new administration in the White House, and the protests against racial injustice and police brutality, how do you think BAM will be received, and do you think the timing of current events will help more than it would have if BAM was launched prior to this year?
BAM was founded prior to the coronavirus pandemic but we launched our first initiative in the pandemic environment. Understanding systemic racism and economic inequality are the root causes of most of the social injustice throughout our communities, it is imperative that we stay vigilant about educating our youth about the importance of active participation in the political process and the importance of voting in all elections, especially the local elections, which directly affect their daily lives. With that in mind, we partnered with Voting Rights Are Civil Rights Initiative and aligned with several entertainment industry groups, community organizations, activists, and election commissioners to focus on staffing polls, voter education, voter protection, and combating voter suppression. We have also allied with community-based organizations and music partners to further localize our efforts, including, The Otis Redding Foundation and Hope For Harvest.
I believe there is no better timing than now for organizing and building coalitions with like-minded individuals and organizations; it’s been perfect for the programmatic activities and initiatives we were already planning. Utilizing the “power of the street” we have been able to help educate voters on the importance of local elections and the different roles the people in those positions play in their daily lives. The time is always right to work with our artist community to help educate fans about their civic responsibility via their engagements.
With the recent buzz of the discontent and criticism of the Grammys nomination process, specifically from Black artists over the years, how will BAM avoid that type of scrutiny as it expands and grows?
We will avoid the type of scrutiny we are seeing presently through our transparent voting process. With the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame (a preservation initiative for BAM) all relevant factors and predetermined guidelines are set forth by BAM and the Georgia Entertainment Caucus. Our esteemed selection committee is charged with vetting nomination submissions to determine if the nominee is qualified for inclusion. Members debate the qualifications, status, relevance, and legacy of individuals nominated. Our aim is to not just simply highlight popularity. Separately, BAM will produce an award show which captures the full essence of Black American Music, including all popular genres associated with Black American Music (Jazz, Blues, R&B, Hip Hop, Rap, Soul, Afrobeats, Gospel, etc.). Our awards show will be different… Unlike a TV Network or Radio conglomerate awards show encompassing “recognition of the entire music industry,” yet mostly focused on Pop Music and often giving little spotlight to Black American Music. Through our transparent voting process, we will authentically celebrate the very best in the field of music and entertainment. We will honor and award artists and individuals in the various genres inside the artform.
When BAM becomes more ingrained in the entertainment industry, what do you see for it long term?
We anticipate that anyone who loves our music, dances to our music, has labored to advance our music, and certainly everyone who creates our music will see the value in the ONE organization whose mission it is, to protect, preserve, and promote the indigenous art form known as Black American Music. We founded BAM to provide “a unity of purpose” for the over 42 stakeholder categories in the global success of Black music. By assuring Black American Music and its creators’ permanent seats at the contemporary music and media tables, we can transform our “cultural relevance into community relevance” empowering future generations. Long term, our goals are centered around building and working in coalition with our partnerships and membership to amplify and innovate the next 100 years of Black American Music, its narrative, and economic positioning while protecting and preserving its contributions and legacy of the past.
Based on the success you’ve had working in this industry, what advice would you give anyone who wants to mirror your accomplishments?