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At BMAC Event in L.A., Mickey Guyton, INK and Other Panelists Assess What Beyoncé’s ‘Cowboy’ Moment Means for Black Female Country Artists

The tide of Black women in country is a phenomenon that much of the world has suddenly become aware of, thanks to Beyoncé’s “Cowboy Carter” and the lesser-known artists being championed through guest slots on the album. Does this mark the true signal change that advocates for diversity in country have long dreamed of? Or is the real progress within the ranks of the music industry that could allow young Black country artists so lacking that the current excitement might be destined to go down as a glorious blip?

These were among the topics of a presentation by the Black Music Action Coalition at Live Nation’s Beverly Hills headquarters Wednesday, with Mickey Guyton, songwriter-artist INK (who is a key contributor to “Cowboy Carter”) and academic researcher Dr. Jada Watson among the panelists offering both hopeful and cautious thoughts on the genre’s progress. Willie “Prophet” Stiggers, the BMAC’s CEO-president, asked many of the tough questions, joined by Billboard moderators Melinda Newman (who oversees the magazine’s Nashville coverage) and Gail Mitchell (who manages R&B and hip-hop reporting).

Beyond a Q&A with the well-established star Guyton, the gathering at Live Nation also offered a performance by Carmen Dianne, a young singer championed by the Black Opry movement, and just the kind of aspirant who could benefit from the current wave of receptivity to Black women artists, if it indeed endures. It’s a sign of just how influential Guyton has been — but also how rare she has been — that Dianne used part of her short stage time to cover Guyton’s “Black Like Me.” Dianne cited Guyton’s role modeling as critical in her passion to pursue country: “I remember where I was when Michael Jackson died,” Dianne said, “and I remember where I was when my mama told me there was a Black girl country singer. And that’s just made the hugest difference in my life.”

Offered INK: “We need to be in the building, but a lot of times the building wasn’t built for us to enter. So if it was never designed for us to be in there, they’re just protecting what they feel like is theirs. So now it’s up to us to just come in and do our own thing. We’ve gotta open up our own Black country labels. It ain’t gotta be just for Black; if you’re white, we’ll sign you too, baby! If you’re rocking. But we have to have visions for ourselves and for our communities.”

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