A Petition to Promote Diversity within the BRIT Awards


Following in the footsteps of the American OSCARS this year the UK's 2016 Brit awards have been called out by multiple music artists for their lack of diversity in the nominations.

In response to the snubbed BME artists who have made waves in the British music industry this past year Anant Naik has started a Change.org petition calling out the Brits to disclose the diversity information regarding their voting academy. The Brits have stated, "We do not have the diversity breakdown as we do not ask this of members invited to join the Academy."

Systematic racism in the media industry is nothing new; white artists such as Adele, James Bay, and Years & Years are all nominated for four 2016 Brit awards each. Mainstream white artists have always been the default for nominations, but this petition along with support from famous music artists can change the way awards are decided.

In a now deleted Facebook post famous UK music artist Lily Allen said that the music industry has shown "blindness to black British talent" after acts like Stormzy and Skepta were absent from the nominations. She continued to say that these BME artists "are all unsigned artists, who would gain from them winning anything? In fact them being nominated or even winning poses a direct threat to 'music industry figures'."

Top nominee James Bay has came under fire for comments he made in response telling The Mirror, "It's varied nominations. It's about music. I don't know why she's had to go down that route." Realizing his mistake after public backlash during the past few weeks Bay backtracked and stated to Mail Online, "I fully support and believe the Brits should represent a diverse spectrum of artists and music."

As the awareness grows about the lack of diversity in the Brit nominations more and more artists are speaking out. In an interview with Radio 1 grime artist Stormzy said, "It was such a great year for grime and underground music… I thought maybe this year it might get celebrated." He has good reason to be disappointed, as one of the top grime artists in the UK Stormzy has won Best Grime Act for the past two years at the MOBO, "Music of Black Origin", Awards and the BBC named him an "artist to look out for" on its Sound of 2015 list. His single "Shut Up" made it into the top 10 UK Singles Chart reaching #8 in December 2015.

BME artists and real life brothers Skepta and JME were also left out of the nominations this year after releasing albums that made the top 40 UK Albums Chart. The two performed a surprise show at Koko in London with Kanye West to a sold out crowd earlier in 2015.

The Brits were criticized during last year's awards in 2105 as well for their lack of diversity. One of the major problems is that the most diverse section of the awards is always the international categories which celebrate artists like Kendrick Lamar and Drake, while the British categories ignore their own impressive BME artists. Big Narstie, another famous grime artist, told Channel 4 News, "The only diversity in the Brits is with the Americans," and went on to say, "Years ago when I was making music, I was sending it off to radio stations and getting told it was 'too urban'." As no grime artists made it onto the list of nominations for 2016 this bias obviously still exists.

Because of the petition and the criticism from popular music artists over the lack of diversity the Brits in a statement to metro.co.uk said, "The Academy is refreshed annually, but for all future BRITs a survey of its members will be undertaken so that the their diversity in terms of age, ethnicity, gender and regionality can be assessed and acted on where required." So while they say they have no diversity information regarding this year's academy, the Brits have made changes so that in the future diversity is hopefully more accounted for.

This year the OSCARS did not feature a single BME actor in the nominations inspiring condemnation from the Hollywood elite and the American public. Actors plan to boycott the ceremony and people took to Twitter with the hashtag #OSCARSsoWhite. Both the OSCARS and the Brits responded by committing to adding diversity to their voting academy, these steps are important but not nearly enough. To make a real difference diversity and racism within the industry needs to be discussed further within the institution and with the BME communities.

For the Brits, which will air tonight February 24, people can show their support for diversity with the hashtag #BritssoWhite and by signing the petition at Change.org/BritsSoWhite.

Mary Schlichte