Last week, the themes of social justice, equality, and perseverance resonated strongly for those in attendance at the 9th annual OUTMusic Awards (OMAs). Marketed as “the biggest night in LGBT music,” the OMAs almost didn’t happen. About three days before the awards show was to be held at New York City’s Town Hall Theater the OMAs executive director, Diedra Meredith was forced to notify the public that the ceremony was postponed for reasons that remain undisclosed.
In its place Meredith, presented an intimate reception for honorees at the W New York Times Square where she underscored the challenges facing the LGBT music movement. “This is what struggle looks like,” she told the gathering of tastemakers and nominees. “Financially this community has not received equivalent funding like mainstream industries get from corporate sponsors.”
But funding hasn’t been the only issue plaguing the awards show. In 2010, pop culture columnist Michael Musto wrote a scathing review of the OMAs that questioned the organization’s professional reputation. In the column he highlighted several instances of miscommunication, lack of organization, and even an alleged onstage fight. For many the postponement of this year’s OMAs will further call into question the organization’s professionalism and ability to produce a viable awards show. Yet, for others it remains worthy of supporting as one of the few avenues of exposure for LGBT music artists.
Openly gay rapper, Tavon who has been a member of the OMAs for the past year falls into the latter category. “It makes me want to invest much more,” he said. “The entertainment business is not easy especially when it is an organization focused on the LGBT voice.”
R&B singer Monifah Carter was given the Vanguard Award for breaking ground with the first televised African-American lesbian wedding in the U.S. to her wife, Terez Thorpe which aired on TV One’s “R&B Divas: Atlanta.” For Carter, the OMA honor reflected the MLK day message of pursuing social justice. “Equality is a fight we have to fight unfortunately,” she said. “But here we are and we are doing a really good job. I am proud to be acknowledged for my part.”
Even though she lives in Miami, Deborah Cox still made the trip to NYC to accept the Pillar Award. As an ally to the LGBT community, Cox revealed that she catered to the LGBT audience against her record label’s wishes after the success of her club dance remix to the 1996 hit “Who Do You Love.”
“A lot of people think it was calculated but it wasn’t. The song resonated with the community and I supported that because they showed love. So I would do clubs and things even though the label didn’t understand and they didn’t support it back then,” she shared.
With the support shown to her by artists such as Tavon, Carter and Cox, Meredith is committed to forging ahead in her quest to celebrate LGBT music and raise its profile. The OMAs plan to return with a full-scale awards show this spring and the organization is currently filming a documentary about the rise of LGBT music titled, “For Which WE Stand (One Queer Music Nation In the Visible).” For Meredith now is the perfect time for the OMAs to grow in an age of openly LGBT artists from various musical genres such as Sam Smith, Frank Ocean, and Azealia Banks.
“I think this generation is so about who we are. We hold the key to our own freedom by stepping out and being authentically ourselves. This generation is so fierce and I am glad to be in the position to usher this moment,” she said. “When you’re born in the South like I was you’re born into the civil rights movement so this struggle to me is easy.”
The weekly column, On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.