When I first came onto campus, I was really looking forward to finding people that looked like me and had the same weird music taste as me. Well, I am still waiting to find those kinds of people.
It's a challenge for individuals to develop friends in college, and it's even more of a challenge when your university doesn't give you a boost to find people with similar interests as you.
There needs to be more inclusivity on campus, and in general, for alternative spaces and alternative music. There also should be a space created solely for alternative people of color.
From microaggressions to full-on racism, it has always been hard for alternative people of color to be accepted in regular alternative music spaces, which are predominantly white. I've gone to many shows where I was one of the five Black people there and ended up feeling like an outcast in a place where outcasts are supposed to meet and gather.
Proper, an all Black emo band hailing from Brooklyn, did an interview with 15 Questions detailing the happenings of being a person of color in the alternative community.
"It’s definitely an expression of identity for me," the band said. "I create from a place of wanting to be understood and validated as an equal. Everyone celebrates the idea of being different but when you’re actually an ‘other’ your entire life, you find yourself doing a lot of mental labor to validate your own existence."
Malachi Smalls, a second-year music industry studies student said he also feels left out within the music scene.
“There's not a lot of people that enjoy the same music taste that I like, and even if they do, I’ve never found them,” Smalls said.
Smalls said it is often isolating attending shows as a black individual.
“It's pretty hard whenever I go to a show," Smalls said. "I can’t really make friends 'cause there's are not a lot of people of color there.”
Historically, there have been some instances of representation of people of color in alternative spaces with bands like Bad Brains in the '70s as well as bubbly pop punk band Meet Me @ The Altar and a brutal powerviolence band, Zulu, today.
For Meet Me @ The Altar, they are just now getting momentum in the alternative scene, but they have been in the race since 2015. In an interview with Alternative Press, Edith Johnson, the lead singer, said she felt bittersweet about the band's rise in popularity.
"We started getting attention when George Floyd was murdered. People were like, ‘Oh, we need to support Black art. We need to support Black businesses,'" Johnson said. "It’s very bittersweet for any Black person that was working during that time because people woke up because of the murder, but it just sucks that we were able to succeed from such a bad thing."
But Johnson said that her band was in the shadows long before the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We were there before,” She goes on and states, “And no one was seeing us or paying attention to us.”
The portrayal people of color have in the scene, on and off the stage, is very limited and fans often have to search for it.
These bands do not have as much recognition as they should because rock is not as accepting toward a Black audience. Rock was originally created by Black artists, but then got stolen from them by white artists. When that happened, rock was then on only catered to white listeners.
An article from Varsity goes into depth about the history of Rock n' Roll, how it's main element of rhythm and blues was taken to make the genre we know as Rock n' Roll. It explains how the history of minstrelsy in America catered to its theft. Minstrelsy is when white entertainers would put on blackface and imitate black people. Minstrelsy led to white Rock n' Roll artists stealing music from black artists, while shunning them from the same genre.
The average white alternative music listener might not be as open to listening to certain bands because they think they can't relate to them.
Even as a fan, I had to discover the bands listed above through deep dives on the internet, and lots of scrolling through comment sections. I also did research on the band and discovered the artists that inspired them, then started listening to them as well.
At a large university, it is a little disappointing that there is no space for exclusively alternative people of color. The alternative community as a whole must take initiative to make people of color feel included and the university should do more to help these smaller communities in getting a start.
Even this small of a club could host mixers, concerts, and hang outs that could make at least one person feel less alone. The alternative community is full of life and vibrancy, and people of color should not feel excluded from it.
The social media presence
should be enhanced as well for these types of events. When it comes to the arts, promotional effort on USC's behalf goes almost unnoticed. The Music Industries Studies instagram account is extremely underrated. The university's account can try to boost their viewership by reposting their photos and stories.
This has been done before, the space Meet Me @ The Altar has made is revolutionary for Black women. The singer, Johnson, is one of the very few Black frontwomen the mainstream scene has seen, with Alexis Brown from Straight Line Stitcha metalcore band from Knoxville, Tennessee, being an earlier example. This goes to show that it is possible.
Smalls said he'd be excited if USC had an event pertaining to alternative people of color.
“The first thing I would want to do is play a show,” Smalls said.
He said he hopes everyone can find a group of people where they feel like they can belong.
“I want to be that inspiration for you to get yourself out there, to either make a band, or just openly express that you listen to that alternative rock music, or you're in the alternative scene in general," Smalls said.
Complete harmony and inclusion in the scene is not going to happen overnight but it can done if people commit to making all music welcoming.