Belmont University’s Urban Showcase is the center of a petition to stop using the word “urban” and to create more showcases to highlight African-American artists and musicians.
The petition, “Remove The Word ‘Urban’ and Redesign Belmont University’s Yearly Showcases,” has 973 signatures, and was created by Belmont student Claire Ernst, a junior songwriting major.
“My goal was to start the conversation and bring awareness to the word,” said Ernst.
“I am not going to claim I understand how this word is offensive, but I just feel it was time for me to use my privileged voice to speak as a whole.”
Ernst created the petition on Saturday after seeing companies such as Republic Records posting on social media that they are going to eliminate the word urban from their vocabulary.
Fallon Nell, the director of the showcase series, responded to the petition within the comment section, saying she is listening and hears the concern.
“I plan to discuss with faculty, staff and students and will update you as soon as possible,” she wrote.
Though Nell has acknowledged the petition, Ernst said she wants to keep the petition up until there is an official change.
“I don’t think I’ll stop until I see an official change or until at least the word ‘urban’ is removed because it’s just a weird word in these times,” said Ernst.
The Urban Showcase title has bothered Ernst since applying to work at the showcase and read the description of the genres covered within the one night.
“In the description, it listed genres like R&B, rap, hip-hop, soul, neo-soul and jazz – pretty much all-black-based genres. I just thought that was really peculiar and I have always been sitting on that since I saw it,” said Ernst.
Because of the variety of genres grouped together within the showcase, Ernst said there could be two potential solutions: eliminate all genre-based showcases or divide the genres into different showcases.
Ernst, who said she favors the former option, said Belmont could also split the “urban” genres that were featured in the showcase and “do an R&B and hip-hop showcase and a soul and jazz showcase, or something like that.”
Student Kay Palla, a junior songwriting major and backup vocalist for Chloè Hogan in the Urban Showcase this past year, agrees with revising the genres within the showcases.
“If we’re going to do genre-based showcases and we are at the caliber we are as a music school, I think we need to be doing a lot better,” he said.
“I think rock should be moved over to Battle of the Bands because that makes the most sense in terms of genre, then pop should stay as a separate showcase. And then urban should be split between jazz, R&B, soul and neo-soul. And then rap and hip hop.”
Eliminating the word “urban” and creating more specific genre-based showcases would make clearer descriptions of the music covered within the showcases but would also help artists and bands looking to audition, he said.
“Approaching this coming year and knowing that I want to participate in the Urban Showcase, and setting out my game plan on how I want to get to the top four or the top eight. The repertoire in which I’m picking my songs, I’m not super confident or clear as to which songs I should pick,” said Palla
“The word ‘urban’ is so broad that I’m worried if I pick a genre, that it’s just not going to be what they’re looking for, for someone like me.”
Figuring out how to redesign the genre-based showcases would be a big task to undertake. However, Palla said Belmont should consider it.
“I think there is an excuse of ‘well other schools don’t do it’ but that means we’d be the first to do it. We would be the ones who are trailblazing,” said Palla.
“Trailblazing and being innovative is what makes artists attractive and what makes the music industry so attractive in general. It’s always constantly changing and evolving and morphing into something different every year.”
This article written by Madison Bowen.