MOBOs founder calls on government to help fight music industry racism

June 17, 2020

The founder of the MOBO Awards has called on the government to help tackle racism in the UK music industry.

Kanya King said more should have been done to support black artists and promote black executives to positions of influence.

She has written an open letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden outlining her concerns, and said the racial inequalities experienced by black people could not be "swept under a red carpet".

Ms King calls racism "the worst pandemic we are facing".

Her letter comes after Black Lives Matter protests in the US and worldwide, including the UK, following the police killing of unarmed black man George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Ms King wrote: "As we know, black and minority ethnic people are dying in disproportionate numbers during the current coronavirus crisis so any strategies for dealing with this challenge should also help combat the worst pandemic we are facing which is racism.

"What needs to be taken into account are the structural and racial inequalities that shape the daily experiences of people from black minority backgrounds including the role they play in the music industry as this can no longer be swept under a red carpet."

She added: "The music industry, it is fair to say, could and should have dealt better with black artists, black-run companies and taken on more black executives.

"In many cases the black businesses, institutions and communities that give rise to black expression and talented individuals have not been able to benefit or partake in the financial rewards that have driven billions to the UK and
global economies and helped create entire industries."

Mr Dowden has been approached for comment.

Singer Nadia Rose told Sky News that racism is "very present within the industry".

She said record labels needed to take on more black artists and listen to what they have to say.

Rose said: "I feel like there have been so many times that I've spoken about things and people will tell me 'no, don't say anything' - and I think that's the worst advice anyone could ever give.

"You just need to speak up... it's time, everyone needs to take their power, racism needs to be put in the bin, we're bored, no one has time for it.

"But it is very present within the industry and we can't ignore it and pretend it's not a thing."

The annual MOBOs ceremony, founded in 1996 to celebrate music of black origin, has been an important launchpad for artists including Emeli Sande, Stormzy and rap duo Krept and Konan.

Ms King said the music industry needs a "celebratory event" to give a voice to black artists and music industry workers.

And she announced plans for a national event, called United We Stand "to empower organisations in their fight for equal opportunities".

She also said her younger brother suffered from health issues and "barely leaves his house" after he was racially attacked at a football match.

And one of her sisters who suffered serious discrimination became an alcoholic and died from a broken neck.

"All she wanted was to be accepted", Ms King said.

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