Through song and verse, black and mixed-race artists envision a path to a brighter future

black quota”, a compilation album featuring 14 black and mixed-race artists, has “a very emotional start,” said Louisville-based music artist Kali Malia.

“It was around the time the video of George Floyd was circulating…and I think the marches were starting and I was going through a lot of, how to say, sensory overload, I think being on social media too much,” said Malia said.

Malia said it was important for people to know what happened to Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who were shot and killed in her home by Louisville Metro police in March. But Malia also felt triggered by videos of anti-black violence circulating on the internet. To cope, she decided to create something that gave hope.

“I feel things and I turn those feelings into music,” Malia said.

The end result is “Black Quota”, which was released last month and streamed across all major music platforms. Proceeds from “Black Quota” will go to the non-profit civil rights group, Color of Change.

The origins of the title song are personal

The title track, which Malia said she wrote before the album project was fully realized, recalls a childhood experience.

Around the age of seven, Malia said her mother tried to enroll her in a school, having called ahead to make sure there were places available. But when they arrived, they told him that they had no more stains.

“The rep looked at me and I guess he saw my darker complexion…and then my hair in particular, and they were like, oh that’s full,” she said.

She and her mother then saw this same representative tell a white family that there were vacancies. When her mother noted the discrepancy, Malia said she got the following response: “We have met our black quota for the year. We no longer had to take other black students.

Malia, who identifies as mixed-race, says the experience stuck with her and writing the song “Black Quota” was cathartic. She thought of the collective power of artists sharing their stories and hopes for the future through their art.

“I was thinking, man, I really want to collaborate with people on this because I feel like it’s a come together time, or it has to be,” she said.

Collective power of artists’ voices

With a nudge from her sister, Aubree Lynn who co-produced the album, Malia posted on Facebook: “I’m looking for black and mixed-race artists to do this album. Send me songs, if you want to be on the album.

Twenty-one-year-old writer and performer from Louisville Cris Eli Blakwho is a friend of Malia, saw this message and knew he wanted to contribute.

“I said straight away, I don’t know what it is, I don’t know what the finished product will be, I don’t know who else is going to be involved…but I trusted him in as an artist and as a creative mind,” Blak said.

Blak’s spoken word track “The Revolution” is the final track on the album, although it also has two other works on it. He wrote it two years ago in response to “events in my life”, which “unfortunately, fit perfectly” with that time.

“‘The Revolution’ is not a response to the protest and unjust killings of people like George Floyd this year…and by so many names,” Blak said. “This is not a 2020 problem. This is a very deep-rooted and long-lasting historical problem.

Pearl Scott, an R&B singer with “jazz and soul influences” from Indianapolis, Indiana, contributed her song “We Will Be The Change,” which she wrote in June. She heard of Malia’s efforts “at a time when I had songs coming out of me as they related to the event that was happening,” the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Dreasjon Reed and much more.

“I joined the protests and flooded social media with ways to educate, donate and support the cause,” she said in an email.

Then she saw an Instagram post for the ‘Black Quota’ project and, “reading its intentions, I knew it was something I had to be a part of.”

In his submission, Scott wrote that his song “talks about the cyclical nature of oppression in the United States (slavery proclamation/emancipation, Jim Crow/Civil Rights Movement, mass incarceration)…we all need to personally choosing to change our hearts and minds while collectively intensifying our call for justice.

Evelyn Neal, 20, provided the album cover, pictured below, which features her near a mall in Kansas City, Missouri, on May 30.

“This photo represents my strength, my courage to take a stand not only for me but for my ffuture brother and sister [against] all forms of police brutality, as well as racism,” Neal said in an email.

She created the artwork featured in the image “overnight” after her own “encounter” with white police officers “because I fit the description of a black woman driving a silver Ford Fiesta”.

“I thought then I would be next,” Neal said, adding that she also found the strength to demonstrate in front of law enforcement the following night.

She hopes the image will serve as a reminder that being Black shouldn’t put “a target on someone’s back”.

“I used this image because it speaks volume and truth,” Neal said.

Other artists on the album are Rayma Hermann, Ankhet, Yakari, LK Leslie, Shanice Morgan, Riichpsycho, Mi.ta.shu, Khamani Philpotts, Jazire, Myuree and Divana Powell.

Kali Malia said the intent of the album has evolved over the past few months.

“I think I had this kind of angst, like, oh, we’re going to show them the type of mentality and I still do,” she said. It’s just maybe a bit more mature…because I heard everything that everyone contributed.

Malia hopes people will listen to the album, these voices, songs and spoken word pieces, and feel empowered and determined to be part of positive social change.

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