Last week, I made an appearence on WLOS TV about the lack of hip hop/R&B in the Bele Chere line-up. Honestly, I didn’t know people watch the news like they do (I’m always at work). Since then, everybody and their momma has been saying, “I seen you on TV” and “thanks for standing up for the black community.”
I feel appreciated and grateful that people share the same thoughts and have the same question I do:
Why is there no hip-hop or R&B at Bele Chere?
Considering that Asheville promotes itself as a diverse city, how come the musical line up at Bele Chere (which is the largest street festival in the Southeast) is NOT?
Those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter and Facebook might not know, but the WLOS interview was not random. I was inspired by several people to raise the question to Asheville Parks and Recreation and the Bele Chere Committee. For the past two years, I’ve raised the same questions. To give you a inside look at my argument, I served on the 2011 Bele Chere music selection committee. I witnessed and went through the entire selection process. I will admit, some of the submissions for hip-hop were not that great, but that should not be an excuse. If you don’t have great submissions, then I feel it’s the Bele Chere committee’s responsiblity to fill the void. If the city couldn’t find enough country or rock selections that were quality, they would have recruited more that were. Why does the city even have people submitting to the hip-hop category, if they’ve already decided they’re NOT going to have any representation of it?
Why did I sit through the music-selection process for hours and in the end, every suggested hip-hop act was rejected? The selection process means NOTHING at all when it’s a few heads at the top who make the final decision as to who will play Bele Chere. It’s mind boggling to me that the No. one-selling genre of music will NOT be represented at the largest street festival in the Southeast. Suburban white kids are among the top consumers of hip-hop. So why is there NO representation of it?
Is it racism, fear, the old Asheville mentality or do they just not want to scare the white people? In my opinion, it’s all of the above. I can no longer sugarcoat this issue and stand to see a whole community and genre ignored in Asheville. Within the black community we feel betrayed, left out, and definitely overlooked. The city doesn’t really care about our wants.
Many say it’s just plain ol’ racism. Is it that our music is not good enough? Is it that hip-hop and their crowds don’t generate A LOT of money?
Do the heads of Bele Chere really think that if hip-hop is played, all 10 gang members in Asheville will show up and start a riot? What hole do these people live in? Has there ever been a situation where black people — or any people — have caused a ruckus at Bele Chere because of hip-hop? No.
If you’re not familiar with the genre of music, it would be smart to ask someone about it. When I say hip-hop, I really mean diversity. There is no better way to bring people together than with music, especially with the biggest genre. For those that are in a position to represent the city and make decisions, please keep this in mind. One decision can set back an entire generation. Let’s move forward and get out of this old Asheville mentality.
What worked 20 years ago won’t work in 2011. The black community in Asheville has been excluded for years. It’s time for change. We have been oppressed but we are still humble. We see what’s going on, so don’t think what the city is doing is going unnoticed.