St. Vincent has shared an online conversation with political organiser and Three Point Strategies founder Jessica Byrd in which the pair discuss defunding the police, what people can do to help combat institutional racism, and the responsibilities of the music industry.
The pair spoke in the wake of worldwide protests after George Floyd died while being detained by US police on May 25, sparking civil unrest and engagement on the topic of institutional racism in America and beyond.
St. Vincent – real name Annie Clark – began by asking Byrd what people can do to help make a difference beyond sharing articles online. Byrd talked about her work with the Movement for Black Lives, which she points out includes a list of “exactly what folks are demanding right now”.
Watch the full clip below, with the main body of discussion starting around the 14-minute mark.
“In 2014, this conversation really rattled power structures,” Byrd explained. “People immediately started to come up with reform language: ‘Okay, I know what we’ll do – we’ll train police officers better. We’ll add body cameras. We’ll do these things.’ And in the last six years, data, evidence and more murders have demonstrated that actually that short-term reform is just not enough.
“The movement is now asking that we defund the police in our cities. That’s the demand. I want people to sit with that, to think about what that means and what their tax-payer dollars are going to, and then to demand more from their local officials.”
Byrd went into more detail on the history of white violence operating as a response to civil rights progress, and how some right-wing publications were weaponising footage of looters against the movement: “As they’re in the swell of rebellion, people reverted back to saying, ‘Now y’all have ruined it by making too much noise’.”
Clark herself was asked by Byrd what responsibility she felt the music industry carried in the way it chose to respond to recent events. “The music industry, like all areas of capitalist commerce, has also been a massive perpetrator of taking advantage of black people through the years,” she responded.
“I, as an artist with some type of platform, want to give a voice to you, for example, [people] who are experts in their field and know what the fuck they’re talking about and can share some wisdom and nuance.”
Clark also said she will “make a lot of work” and would be “continuing to give, to try to be on the right side as we go forward”.
A number of artists and organisations have been raising money for anti-racism charities as worldwide protests continue following Floyd’s death.
K-pop superstars BTS have donated $1million to Black Lives Matter charities, while Bandcamp held their latest “100% royalties for artists” day on Friday (June 5), with many artists donating their fees to organisations fighting for racial justice.