Jana Hunter is a white Baltimore transplant. Abdu Ali is a black Baltimore native. For an Op-Ed piece at Pitchfork the two lauded musicians sat down and talked about the ways segregation, privilege, and oppression play out in the city’s music scene.
When Hunter moved to Baltimore “seven to eight years ago,” she had fairly uncomplicated feelings about it. “[W]hen friends who lived elsewhere asked me about [Baltimore], I said many of the same things I’d heard about it before I moved,” Hunter wrote. “That it was magical. That I’d never felt so at home. That the people were beautiful and purposed and supportive.”
Eventually she saw the opportunity Baltimore afforded white artists, largely in the form of cheap rent, as impossible to separate from the city’s troubled racial history. And she saw segregation play out even among Baltimore’s bohemian set.
Ali’s advice for white artists is to “book shows for people you usually don’t book shows with.” But he also told Hunter he can see why that can be harder than it sounds. “A lot of times I feel like as far as race, a lot of white creatives are scared to approach black people,” he said, “and it might be some subconscious racist trip but it almost might just be some racial insecurity stuff, they don’t wanna feel like they wanna step on people’s s—, which I completely understand.”
So, what’s everyone’s way forward? One part fearlessness, one part compassion. As Ali said,”We gotta be not afraid of…just being criticized and criticizing.”
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