This month we are focusing on BIPOC Vermonters in music.
When examining various aspects of the BIPOC experience in Vermont, it’s easy to find challenges people of color face within our society that are worth writing on. Just this year, VT PoC covered stories of poor working conditions of migrant workers within Vermont, the housing crisis disproportionately affecting BIPOC residents, and even restrictive voting rights policies in the greater US. With the 40th annual Burlington Jazz Festival running from June 7-11, however, it makes for an excellent time to highlight one industry in which members of the BIPOC community have always thrived: music.
From its outset, jazz emerged as a form of artistic expression to reflect the struggles, joys, and resilience of the Black community. Over time, the technical brilliance of jazz, especially its sense of freedom for not only the musicians but also audiences led to acceptance and understanding between Black and white Americans, or at least musicians. So many legendary musicians have left an indelible impact on both jazz and music as a whole. Figures such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane, The Bird, Ornette Coleman, Cannonball Adderley, and the great Nina Simone, to name a few, revolutionized jazz with their innovative compositions, virtuosic performances, and unwavering commitment to their craft.These trailblazers not only paved the way for, and mentored, future generations of Black musicians but also used their platform to advocate for civil rights and challenge the prevailing racial inequalities of their time. Through their music, they broke down barriers, transcended prejudice, and created a sense of unity and understanding.
The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival provides a platform to celebrate the legacy of these iconic musicians while also showcasing the vibrant talent of contemporary Black artists. This year’s lineup promises to ignite the stage with talented performers representing various cultures and perspectives. From soulful vocalists to virtuosic instrumentalists, the festival will offer a rich tapestry of sounds that reflect the multicultural fabric of our society. The festival has brought in bigger contemporary names this year, such as Grammy award winner Samara Joy on June 7, rapper Sampa the Great on June 9 alongside singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cory Henry and saxophonist Kamasi Washington on June 10, and Vermont’s own Myra Flynn on June 11.
Like in many art forms, the successes of projects by BIPOC artists never go untouched by prying eyes. Cultural appropriation has had a resounding effect on the music industry especially, but it is often difficult to pinpoint. How can one identify cultural appropriation, and what can be done to combat it?
For white allies reading this: cultural appropriation involves adopting elements from another culture without understanding or respecting their historical context. To identify it, we must examine if elements are commodified without recognizing their cultural significance. Challenging cultural appropriation begins with education, self-reflection, and engaging in respectful conversations with the affected culture’s community. More concretely, seeing cultural motifs or themes being used in works by artists of a different upbringing, ethnicity, or heritage, should prompt one to question whether the artist is doing so out of respect, or for profit. Keep in mind that social currency is often as valuable as real money, both on and off the internet, in our current “influencer era”.
In the music industry, combating appropriation means celebrating diversity, honoring cultural origins, and amplifying the voices of artists from marginalized communities. We must analyze our actions and motivations as consumers and creators, ensuring we don’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Supporting BIPOC artists and initiatives that provide opportunities is crucial. Challenging cultural appropriation requires cultural sensitivity, empathy, and a commitment to respectful cultural exchange. By fostering inclusivity and celebrating diverse contributions, we can create equity not just within the music industry but within all parts of our lives.
Looking for great music experiences in Vermont this month? Check out the events calendar below for some great performers coming up!
About the Author
Dylan Rhymaun moved to Chittenden county in 2017 and now resides in Winooski. He’s a writer and artist who professionally works in Investments for education and disability savings. Dylan has also worked with the VT PoC Network briefly via the VT Health Equity Initiative and looks forward to continuing to support the organization. View more of their work at dylanrhymaun.com.
VT PoC STaff Spotlight
Our member spotlight this month is on our new Outreach and Member Coordinator, Mimi Duong! Mimi was born in raised in St. Johnsbury, and recently completed their degree in Public Communications and Japanese Language Studies at UVM. While growing up in VT was rough, but they’ve grown to love it thanks to the vibrant community around them. They’re super excited to be working with y’all and we are so excited for y’all to learn more about Mimi!
Resources & Updates
VT PoC Monthly Financial Literacy Series starts again in September!
We are taking a summer hiatus from our workshop so the next Financial Literacy workshop will be on September 7. Click here to register.
Happy Pride Month!
There are tons of Pride events happening this month (and don’t forget the Burlington Pride events in September!). Join in one of these but also make sure to check out your local events as well! For the most up-to-date, check out Pride Center VT’s events calendar.
June 14 – Gender Affirming Clothing Swap – Middlebury Pride (3-6PM)
June 17 – Rutland County Pride Festival (9AM – 5PM)
Annual Flynn Discover Jazz Festival (June 7-11)
It’s Jazz Fest time in Vermont and they are celebrating 40 years of jazz! This year’s lineup includes Samara Joy (June 7), Sun Ra Arkestra (June 8), Dee Dee Bridgewater and Sampa the Great (June 9), Guagua, Snacktime, WITCH, and Cory Henry (June 10). There are lots of activities on all the days, including lots of late-night jazz at Big Joe’s (VT Comedy Club). Click here for more info.
Juneteenth Celebrations Statewide
There are tons of celebrations across the state this year! The following list is not exhaustive so please check with your town or county for more local celebrations!
Burlington VT Juneteenth Celebration – June 17, 11am – 11pm – featuring Arrested Development.
Essex Community Juneteenth – June 18, 1-3pm @ Essex Experience
Winooski Juneteenth Celebration – June 18, 11am-1pm @ Winooski Falls Way
CVOEO Financial Futures Programs for June
There are six programs being offered this month, ranging from small business ownership prep, legal issues around entities and taxes, to accessing capital. Click here to learn more!
Soul Food Sundays (June 11)
Every second Sunday of the month, join The Roots Social Justice Center for a soul food potluck in a BIPOC affinity space! Bring a dish to share; all ages welcome. Click here for more info.
Final Round of Creative Futures
The Arts Council’s Creative Futures grant program is in its final round of applications! If you’re a creative (seriously, the term is quite loose) please apply! If you have questions, we are here to support. Reach out!
Rep. Saudia Lamont Reflects On First Session In Vermont House
Vermont Edition talked with first year Rep. Saudia LaMont, who represents the Washington-Lamoille district that includes the towns of Stowe, Morristown and Elmore, and is a beloved member of VT PoC. She talks about some of the challenges she’s faced in her first year in office. Click here for the full interview.
Champlain College President Hernandez and Entrepreneurship
Alex Hernandez has been in VT for only about a year (and a VT PoC member for just as long), and he’s already making waves for Champlain College. Read more about his work towards empowering students in entrepreneurship spaces in this op-ed. Read it here.
Free entrance to VT state parks & historic sites on June 10 + 11!
Celebrate Vermont Days with free access to state parks and historic sites this coming weekend! Enjoy the great weather with the entire fam! Click here for specific activities at locations across the state! We hope to see you outside!