On Tuesday night, LMU’s Kathleen Kim, dean for Equity and Inclusion, held a virtual discussion with performer Guillermo E. Brown on the ways that social justice issues have historically been present in the world of art and music. Brown also gave some background on the current efforts made by live TV musicians who are using their platforms and art to expand their rights in the broadcasting industry.

Brown is a drummer on the Late Late Show with James Corden and solo artist under the name Pegasus Warning, who uses his music to express current political and social injustices. “A lot of my work has been around explaining the differences between individual microaggressions, racism and prejudice that you may face on a daily basis and structural racism,” Brown said.

During the discussion, Brown delivered an interesting point on the musical and artistic innovation that originated from people of color throughout history. Using the history of graffiti and subway advertisements in NYC, Brown explained that the artistic and musical content created by people in ethnically diverse and underrepresented communities often goes unappreciated or judged in the United States. Brown stated that “the co-option happens when the originators of the particular new form aren’t able to exploit their own intellectual property for their own well-being.”

According to Brown, it has become historically routine, as a capitalistic society, for the work of artists to be exploited by those with more power or a larger platform who take ownership of that idea and then reap financial benefits from it decades later. “That’s one of the places where I find it problematic,” he said.

Also mentioned in the discussion were the economic impacts that musicians are currently facing with the COVID-19 pandemic; many live television performers are using this time to express their grievances with wage inequalities through various broadcast stations such as NBC, Disney/ABC and CBS. Performers are making these efforts towards change in order to see a more financially equal work setting when they return to work.

Brown explained how he has used his platform to become a part of the #RespectUs efforts started by the American Federation of Musicians. This racially diverse community of TV artists and musicians around the country are currently working together to create change regarding the lack of fair wages, healthcare access and content rights by expressing their issues over various social media platforms. “It does such a good job of highlighting how systemic racism has operated in the music industry,” Kim mentioned. “This is historic.”

Brown expressed his inspiration for participating in the #RespectUs campaign, saying that he is “trying to make the union face its own legacies around racism and its own injustice around dealing with performers and creators of color.” By being a part of this informative discussion with Dean Kim, Brown educated LMU students and faculty on the purpose of fighting for wage equality among both current and future musical artists headed towards the broadcasting industry. This online discussion also gave students the information to express their own stance on this campaign and take action to make real change.

With LMU being a community that holds a diverse population of writers, actors, musicians and others in the creative community it is important that we become involved with working towards a fair and equal workspace within the broadcasting industry. LMU students can become civically engaged with this issue of wage inequality by checking out the #RespectUs campaign online. Speaking on the future of the American Federation of Musicians, Brown said, “we have to do some organizing around changing our leadership for some young folks to have some power.”

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