When Stevie Wonder says “boycott,” you take heed. That’s exactly what musical legend, Ronald Isley believes since he’s decided to join Wonder’s boycott of Florida following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The boycott is in response to the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, which Wonder and now, Isley, hope to have repealed. Isley’s support of the boycott won’t officially begin until after a scheduled fall performance in the state, but he has plans to donate proceeds from the show to the Martin family.
“We have something that we were signed to do and that we have to do,” he explains. “But we are planning for all that money from that concert to go to the [Martin] family. After that we boycott from hereon end until they change that law.”
Isley—who is on a summer tour with Frankie Beverly and Kem—didn’t specify whether or not he plans to also join Wonder in boycotting the additional 30-plus states that support Stand Your Ground legislation. Isley’s tour follows the release of his new album This Song is For You,” which has become a hit making him one of the few artists to have a top 10 R&B album in each of the last six decades.
Celebrating activism is one of the key messages of this year’s NYC Black Pride Heritage Awards, presented by event organizer Lee Soulja. The ceremony celebrates its 16th anniversary and kicks off with an awards presentation at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on Wednesday August 14 from 6-10 pm. Honorees include Broadway legend Andre DeShields, fashion industry icon Audrey Smaltz, Olympic medalist Gail Marquis and LBGT rights pioneer, Storme DeLarverie. [Full Disclosure: writer co-hosts the awards show with Sterling Infinity].
The 93-year-old, DeLarverie has helped lay the foundation for the modern-day LGBT rights movement. Her varied history includes being the only drag-king in the famed Jewel Box Revue that began in 1939 and is known as America’s first racially integrated female impersonation show. But perhaps most significantly she is one of the first documented people to fight the police in 1969 at the historic Stonewall Inn riots. For that action, she is commonly referred to as the Rosa Parks of LGBT rights movement. Presently DeLarverie has dementia, lives in a nursing home and is cared for by her co-guardians Michele Zalopany and Lisa Cannistraci. Zalopany hopes DeLarverie’s story will now earn a more recognized place in history.
“Things happen faster now and history is forgotten. She is an important part of history,” she says. “I’ve seen her with young women who want to go through gender change and they look up to her and they are like her kids. She could have passed if she wanted to as a blonde, White and closeted woman but she chose the hard road. She is a strong warrior.”
You also need fortitude to make it in the music business and part of that is strength comes from having the right team. For independent and signed artists such as Drake, Aretha Franklin and new artist, J.Dash, TuneCore is an integral part of that team. Since launching in 2006 the company has become the premier digital music distribution company. One of TuneCore’s most recent success stories is hip-hop artist, J.Dash. He used the service to release his hit single “WOP (Official Version). The song has recently been certified gold thanks also in part to Miley Cyrus, who created her own twerk dance video for the party anthem. For Chris Mooney, senior director of artist promotions and strategic relationships, the secret to TuneCore’s success is its ability to foster an environment through its blog where artists learn successful tips from each other.
“We had an artist on our blog discussing the 7 tips for getting press without hiring a public relations agency. Through stories like that we help artists share what they’ve done and had success with to the larger community,” he says.
Mooney is also an advocate of starting music business education at an early age as he gives back by working with youth programs such as World Up. “I look for opportunities with programs that are trying to help kids find their own path. It’s important that youth understand marketing, distribution and copyright plans so that they understand how you can be successful as an independent artist.”
As Isley’s longevity proves, a community of supportive peers, resources and music business knowledge can make all the difference.
The weekly column, On the “A” with Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises,