Three acts that were nominated for the 2021 Best Children’s Album Grammy Award declined the nomination and they all agreed on the reason: all five acts nominated in the category were white.
Alastair Moock, Dog on Fleas, and the Okee Dokee Brothers all asserted that the dearth of nominees of color catalyzed them to turn down their nominations, as NPR reported. Moock’s album, Be a Pain, revolves around various historical figures including The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Milk, and Rosa Parks, among others. He stated, After this year, to have an all-white slate of nominees seemed really tone-deaf,” adding that in other circumstances a Grammy would be welcome “but I don’t want it like this, where the playing field’s not even.”
On Monday, the Okee Dokee Brothers, who won a Grammy in 2013 for their album “Can You Canoe,” tweeted:
A few days after we sent our letter of declination to the Recording Academy back in December, the chief executives at the Grammy’s reached out and, thanks to the leadership of Family Music Forward (FMF), we had a productive and positive meeting. We are impressed with the Grammy’s new leaders and their thinking on these Diversity, Equity & Inclusion issues going forward. However, they admitted that the Grammy’s did not have strong representation from people of color on the Children’s Music Nomination Review Committee this year.
The Grammy’s (sic) say they are taking many steps to counter this oversight and we provided ideas for how we can see them addressing this problem. We share this only to highlight the mere beginning of this journey. The work doesn’t stop when we find just one culpable issue. There’s plenty to do and we’re committed to advocating for change in our genre and in our communities.
…back in December, the chief executives at the Grammy’s reached out and, thanks to the leadership of Family Music Forward (FMF), we had a productive and positive meeting. We are impressed with the Grammy’s new leaders and their thinking on these Diversity, Equity & Inclusion…
— okeedokeebros (@OkeeDokeeBros) January 4, 2021
for how we can see them addressing this problem.
We share this only to highlight the mere beginning of this journey. The work doesn't stop when we find just one culpable issue. There’s plenty to do and we’re committed to advocating for change in our genre and in our communities.
— okeedokeebros (@OkeeDokeeBros) January 4, 2021
Joe Mailander, one of the Okee Dokee Brothers, said that the group “thought that it was the strongest thing we could do, to stand with people of color whose albums are too often left out of the Grammy nominations. … This is not just white guys with guitars playing for kids. We want to welcome all different types of music to this community.” The other Okee Dokee Brother, Justin Lansing, echoed that the group felt that because the genre was “tasked with modeling fairness and kindness to kids and families,” the group should respond accordingly.
Joanie Leeds, the only woman nominated in the same category, offered her own intersectional reason for accepting the nomination: “I didn’t decline because my album is really about empowering young women. I mean, I have 20 women on my album. So for us, it was like it was kind of counter to our empowering women message to step down. I know that this is really about the guys that dropped out, but I feel like a lot of times women are kind of left on the side. It’s a shame. I wish there was more equality with women.”
The three acts that declined the nomination had written a joint letter to the Recording Academy arguing they “couldn’t in good conscience benefit from a process that has historically overlooked women and artists of color.”
Yesterday, we (& 2 other nominees) wrote the pictured letter to the Recording Academy respectfully declining our nominations and asking for our names to be removed from the final round ballot. We haven’t heard back – regardless, we ask voters to please refrain from voting for us. pic.twitter.com/N0vlqX9eSt
— okeedokeebros (@OkeeDokeeBros) December 9, 2020
The Recording Academy’s first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, Valeisha Butterfield Jones, commented on the organization’s efforts, “We’re an organization that’s ready for change, but you know, we’re not unique to the challenges of the world and to the challenges of our industry. I think it’s time. You know, we saw in 2020 a racial reckoning. So now, you know, it’s, you know, up to us what we’re going to do to take real and meaningful action.” She added, “We have made a very clear and firm commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion as a part of our core values. I think many of the actions that we’ve taken and have put into place are signs of that. But we still have a lot of work left to do.”
“All of the musicians interviewed for this story agreed that Pierce Freelon should have been nominated this year for his critically acclaimed album D.a.D., which has elements of hip-hop, jazz, electronic and Afro-Caribbean rhythms,” NPR noted.
Freelon said of the acts declining the nomination, “I just couldn’t think of another example in my memory of white men specifically revoking their privilege in this way.”