By Ashley Benkarski
NASHVILLE, TN — Sports and music industry professionals were present to support a fundraiser for the National Museum of African American Music April 24, highlighting the impact of black artists and athletes on social justice movements throughout America’s history.
Titled “Sounds of Social Justice,” the event featured a live auction of artwork inspired by
black musicians, performances of local artists The Shindellas and Jason Eskridge, an appearance by Grammy-winning artist and NMAAM National Chair India.Arie and a panel moderated by Michael Eric Dyson featuring ex-NFL stars Malcolm Jenkins and Derrick Morgan, BMI vice president Catherine Brewton and the museum’s senior curator Dr. Dina Bennett.
“The history of American music is one of struggle and triumph, just as it is with athletes,” said NMAAM CEO and President H. Beecher Hicks III. “We’re honored to join forces in celebration of the ways in which music and sports can come together to advance our nation.”
Panelists provided poignant perspectives concerning the use of celebrity platforms to elevate social justice issues, especially in times of protest. Dyson referred to black athletes, past and present, who have raised their voices to challenge structural white supremacy. Of course, that challenge often means pushback—such as Fox News host Laura Ingraham telling LeBron James to “shut up and dribble” or Donald Trump’s attacks on Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
But that reaction doesn’t concern Jenkins. “We’re close to making some impact, otherwise he wouldn’t care,” he said. Just last week, a few Red Sox players declined to visit the White House, a sign of the continuing tension between athletes and the Trump administration.
Bennett, an ethnomusicologist, described the importance of music to black culture, from the spirituals sung during slavery to the artists of today who use their work to reach millions. Recalling Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words, Bennett described the history of the “triumphant music” of black culture. “It’s music that we will celebrate and we will also used to inform Nashville and the world about the significance of African American music and its contributions,” she said.
The NMAAM will feature exhibits detailing various genres of music with over 1400 artifacts to bring the history of black music to life and is set to open in 2020 on the corner of 5th Avenue and Broadway in Nashville.