Twenty three thousand signatures have been gathered in protest of the 2012 Grammy awards, scheduled for this Sunday, in response to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences decision to cut a third of the categories from the ceremony.
A large number of NARAS member names are included on the petition as well Rev. Jesse Jackson who “demanded to meet with NARAS president Neil Portnow over what he and many protestors see as ethnically discriminatory shutouts” according to Spin Magazine.
The awards have a history of snubbing musicians with ethnically diverse backgrounds, passing over iconic figures such as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Public Enemy, while awarding hip-hop artist, Eminem, thirteen awards since 2000 despite his often homophobic and misogynistic message.
In a press conference held Thursday Executive Vice President of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Inez Gonzalez, pointed out that “under President Neil Portnow’s leadership, NARAS has failed in its mission to honor, propagate and nurture all forms of American born music and to educate the general public about all genres.
“This action not only reduces diversity on the Grammy’s show, but most importantly it negatively impacts the musicians’ careers,” she said.
According to Spin Magazine, four Latin Jazz artists filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court in August of 2011, stating their careers were affected negatively by the eliminations and that the NARAS is “violating its contractual obligations to its members.”
Latin jazz, contemporary jazz, Native American, Zydeco, Cajun, classical, Hawaiian, regional Mexican, world music, contemporary blues, polka and other ethnic music as well as gender-specific categories got the axe, while a contemporary Christian music was added to the Gospel category, according to Spin.
The academy began a “comprehensive evaluation of both the award categories and voting process” in 2009 to “give the Grammy’s a more cohesive structure that better matches the current musical landscape,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
“All categories will remain, they’ll just be found in different genres” said Portnow in an April 2011 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “The message isn’t about cutting; it’s about changing the way we present the awards. We welcome all artists who make music in the Grammy process; it’s just going to look a little different.”
The protest will take place outside of the Staples Center from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. and will be followed by the Not Those Awards All Star Latin Jazz Jam at Mama Juana’s nightclub in Los Angeles.