After last year’s global reckoning on racial equality and representation, it’s more important than ever to continue celebrating and amplifying voices from underrepresented communities. In Season 2 of our Outside Voice series, that’s exactly what we’ll do. We’re passing the mic to leaders within the creative industry who will tell their stories with the power of audio, through original playlists featuring their favorite music alongside their own words.
To kick it off, we have two U.S.-based curators who use their platforms with a purpose — both telling stories that educate audiences, spur discussion, and contextualize our present societal inequities by honestly reflecting on our past.
Nwaka Onwusa is the Chief Curator and Vice President of Curatorial Affairs at the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame — the first Black woman ever to hold that position. In her annotated playlist, Onwusa champions the power of music as a force for social change and progress. “Music is the soundtrack to our revolution,” she told us. “It's the soundtrack to our narrative as human beings.”
Onwusa also breaks down how she got into the world of museum curation and her approach to honest storytelling that cuts through the B.S. In response to the social movements of 2020, Onwusa curated the Rock Hall’s social justice exhibit, It’s Been Said All Along. She explains how this project was inspired by the words of Nina Simone: “An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times.”
Mike Shum is an Asian-American, award-winning documentary filmmaker, whose work also directly reflects the present moment. His latest work has centered on people in the United States as they live through the COVID-19 pandemic, including the protests in Minneapolis following George Floyd’s death. As he tells us in his annotated playlist, he’s inspired by real-life stories that are “stranger than fiction,” which can create awe and wonder on their own. His projects are made with empathy in mind, aiming to break down silos for different viewers, “if only for 50 minutes.”
Shum’s annotations also touch on the recent surge of violence against the AAPI community. “Racism and violence against members of the Asian-American community is something that I have always thought deeply about,” he told us. “Every other week for the past nine months, I've endured name-calling or racial epithets that point to me and my background being the cause of the pandemic. It’s happened enough times where it's both numbing and a little desensitizing.” Shum details the impact of experiencing this racism, and expresses a desire to eventually use his work to create something that reflects the complicated emotions he’s feeling.
Onwusa is also committed to using her work to create change through storytelling and curation. As she put it: “One of the most powerful things about being an outside voice is feeling that I can actually make change.” Here at Spotify Advertising, we believe in that power too. Stay tuned in the months ahead for more episodes of Outside Voice, which we hope will inspire, educate, and shed light on stories that need to be told.