The Black Legacy Project will travel to Los Angeles in December 2022, exploring the history of race-relations in this world-renown diverse, artistic hub. While LA is known for being the entertainment capital of the world with bustling film and music industries, the city and county are also known for their cultural, ethnic, religious, and racial diversity. In spite of this, Los Angeles has also received national attention for acts of racial violence including the Watts and Rodney King riots and racial bias such as redlining and restrictive covenants which prevented Black communities from generating wealth and Black folks from buying homes in places like Huntington Park, Culver City, West LA, and even Hollywood in the first half of the 20th century. As such, Los Angeles has been an incubator for many artists, songs, and musical genres to shed light onto the Black American experience. These attributes are what brings the Black LP to the region.
The theme for the Black LP LOS ANGELES is American Skin. In the roundtable discussions and musical interpretations, Black and White community members will explore the question of how the color of your skin can impact how you are treated, the opportunities available to you, and how you see yourself in America. To explore this question, and more importantly how to build a world in which racial bias no longer exists, the project will examine and reinterpret the songs “American Skin (41 Shots)” by Bruce Springsteen (covered by Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar) and “Sweeter” by Leon Bridges (featuring Terrace Martin).
“American Skin (41 Shots)” is a song written in memory of Amadou Dialou, a 23 year-old unarmed Black man who was killed in 1999 by police in New York when reaching for his wallet. The song was written by Bruce Springsteen, a Grammy award winning artist and recipient of the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom, who is famous for his songs centered around social issues and the lives of working-class Americans. While he grew up in a working-class family in New Jersey, Springsteen eventually moved to California and bought an estate in West Los Angeles when starting a family of his own. With its debut performance in 2000 and its release in 2001, “American Skin” is a poetic expression of the cost that we, and more importantly our children, pay for the legacy of race-based fear, paranoia, and injustice in America. As a White man writing this song, “American Skin” is a powerful expression of interracial solidarity. Moreover, singer Mary J. Blige and rapper Kendrick Lamar (Grammy and Pulitzer prize award winning artist from Los Angeles) covered the song in 2016, showing that the message of Springsteen’s song was still as relevant 15 years later.
“Sweeter” is a poetic expression of Leon Bridges' longing and grief as a Black man in America. Bridges wrote and produced the song in collaboration with Black and White artists from Los Angeles, including well-known producer and LA native Terrace Martin. Released in 2021, Bridges wrote the song drawing from the impact that his experiences of racism as a child had on his sense of self and safety in America.
Both “American Skin (41 Shots)” and “Sweeter” are explorations among Black and White Americans of how one’s skin color can shape one's lived experience in the U.S. Both songs emphasize the toll that racial bias and its resulting impact can leave on the lives of our children and emphasize the importance of passing on a better world to them in which everyone belongs.
Local White artists will reimagine “Sweeter”, a song originally performed by Black artists, and local Black artists will reimagine “American Skin (41 Shots)”, a song originally performed by a White artist. Upon completion, local Black and White artists will work together to write and record a song that offers actionable steps for ending racial bias and co-creating a world in which everyone belongs.