UPDATE, FEB, 6, 1:56 P.M.: Presente.org and Grammywatch.org, which has its own petition in circulation, are joining forces in calling for a protest this Saturday over the slashing of Grammy Award categories.
The Facebook page for the protest, which encourages supporters to bring their instruments, reads:
Come Support Musicians- Blues, Mexican, Latin Jazz, Gospel, Cajun, Native American, Hawaiian, others- fighting for music justice!
Join us in sending a message to Grammy President, Neil Portnow and the Grammy Board and Demand that they Reinstate the Musical Categories now!
The action is being called for from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, February 12, with folks gathering at the corner of S. Figueroa and W. Pico Blvd. in Downtown Los Angeles. Greg Esparza, vocalist with Chicano soul band Thee Midnighters, has already stated his intention to attend. Later that day from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. is an Alternative Grammy Party scheduled to take place at Mama Juana's Latin Lounge in Studio City.
Activists invite people to come and listen to the very music the Grammys are set to stop formally recognizing.
ORIGINAL POST, FEB, 3, 2:23 P.M.: The 54th annual Grammy Awards are gearing up to take place at the Staples Center on February 12th, and when they do, they will be much slimmer than previous ceremonies. The Recording Academy has slashed the number of categories down from 109 to just 78. The consolidation, suspension and elimination of awards has rankled prominent musicians and activists alike.
Carlos Santana, Ruben Blades, Bonnie Raitt, Cornel West, Herbie Hancock, Paul Simon and Bobby Sanabria have all spoken out against the changes saying they deliver a blow to diversity and people of color musicians. Grammy President and Chief Executive Neil Portnow justified them in April of last year describing the previous categorizations as having become "a collage without consistency." Those remarks prompted a coalition of artists to form and issue a letter to the Recording Academy Board of Trustees.
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The written statement with numerous signatories didn't mince words in saying that a "collage" was a strength to be preserved at the Grammys and that Portnow's justification was a "blatantly racist." Roughly half of the cut categories were predominately fielded by people of color musicians. At the 54th annual awards, honors for Best Latin Jazz, Hawaiian, Native American, Zydeco or Cajun Albums will be no more. Best Banda, Norteño and Tejano have all been eliminated as stand alone categories and have been consolidated further marginalizing popular musical genres. R&B and Gospel fields were subject to similar cuts.
Sanabria and other Latin jazz musicians took their grievance one step further filing a suit against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in the name of reinstating their category. The musicians also called for a boycott of CBS, who will broadcast the award ceremonies.
As the Grammys are quickly approaching this month and millions will be set to tune in, Presente.org, a national Latino advocacy group, has taken up the overall cause. They are currently circulating a petition to be delivered to Portnow next week demanding that the Grammy award categories in question be reinstated in support of diversity. People who sign on, the organization says, will also be sending a strong message of support for the genres and musicians who gift their talents to them.
Seriously, no more Best Native American Music Album category while Best New Age Album remains intact? That's just wrong!