Dear Voice Piece Readers,
First of all, THANK YOU!!! When I first proposed the idea of the website to my roommate through a mouthful of tortilla chips at a bar, I could have never imagined that I’d actually be writing a “Letter from the Editor” less than a year later! I couldn’t have done it without your support, and the support and ideas from our wonderful little staff we have. I can’t wait to see what new ideas we think up in the coming months.
Reading stories and watching videos of Beyoncé’s performance at Coachella this weekend, I couldn’t help but be conflicted about how I felt about the whole thing. On one hand, her performance was a major achievement- not only for her identity as a black woman, but for the festival as a whole. I thought what Craig Jenkins wrote in Vulture put it best: ““Beychella” illustrated through dance, dress, and brash musicology that pride and perseverance are the through line adjoining the last few thousands of years of black history.”
My aforementioned conflict comes from the ownership of Coachella, by Anshutz Entertainment Group, owned by Philip Anshutz. He’s a billionaire who is pretty unsurprisingly right winged, but as Pitchfork uncovered in an article a few months ago, his “charitable donations” included many anti-LGBT groups (which he has since backtracked on,) anti-immigration groups and the main point of my letter today: anti-marijuana legislation groups.
According to the ACLU, while white and black people are about equal in their marijuana consumption, black people are four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. In some states, that number doubles. Just last year, data in New York City (where I live) showed that 86% of people arrested for marijuana possession were people of color. When the numbers are so clear on paper, what’s the excuse for supporting these laws that are, clearly, being enforced with extreme racial bias?
Tougher marijuana legislation, which Anshutz is on the record supporting, has a severe impact on black people. It is a shame that Beyoncé’s show, that was so empowering for so many black people, was at an event where Anshutz will profit, and is likely to put some of those funds into these organizations that end up hurting black people. Marijuana is also not allowed on the grounds at Coachella, despite that option now being available in California. As a private event, it is their right to decide that, but I think it’s really telling of where AEG as an organization stands in respect to Anshutz’s personal beliefs.
As it’s 4/20, I urge you to acknowledge this disparity sometime today while you celebrate. Whether it be through a megaphone, on your twitter feed or to your friends, raising awareness is the first step to real change. And whether or not you partake in the consumption of marijuana, the statistics are undeniable. I believe change will come through reform of marijuana laws including legalization and amnesty for previous arrests, and reform of law enforcement. Here’s a few ways you can put yourself or your dollar towards this fight.
The ACLU – The ACLU fights daily to protect not only discrimination in law enforcement, but also our first amendment rights that give us the chance to even speak up about this disparity.
NORML – NORML works to reform marijuana laws through political lobbying. They also provide education about marijuana usage and reform, and where to find legal assistance for those who have been impacted.
Black Lives Matter – Providing resources for those looking to join protests around the United States, Black Lives Matter have provided opportunities for thousands of people to band together in every city in support of black people and the issues that effect them.
Vote – You know all that money Anshutz gave towards anti-marijuana legislation? It was in his home state of Colorado. Thankfully, due to the people there who went out to vote, his money was wasted. Voting can give you the power to choose which politicians and laws you believe represent the best interests of your community, and our country.
I hope you’ve taken some time to open up your mind (maybe in more way than one) today, and I hope you continue to join us in having a more conscious music consumption.
Peace & Love,
p.s. drop me a line any time at firstname.lastname@example.org – maybe we can start doing letters TO the editor!