Archive for racism

Book Review: Laina Dawes- What Are You Doing Here?

Posted in Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2014 by 80smetalman

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Not many posts ago, I revealed a book written by Laina Dawes entitled “What Are You Doing Here?” In the book, Ms Dawes tells us of her experiences as a black woman who is into heavy metal, the music she was into and the bands she saw. She also relates the experiences of other African American women who love heavy metal as well as some black female artists who can totally rock. Now that I have read the book in its entirety, I can say that what I read was truly eye opening indeed.

Let me get one thing clear and I know that no one is actually saying this but I am not ashamed of being born white. No one can help the colour of the skin they were born with and that is one reason I take a huge exception to anyone of any race who persecutes human beings who were born of multi- racial parentage. That aside, I am often embarrassed by some of the things my ancestors have done throughout history like slavery, discrimination, the colonization and subjugation of the African continent by Europeans. Now, having read this book, I am ashamed that white, male metal heads could act this way. I have always said that heavy metal could unite the world but after reading I still see that metalheads have a long way to go before we can do this. Furthermore, while I have campaigned against the right wing belief that heavy metal turns you into a criminal and gets you to hate your country, I have also campaigned against the left wing view that our genre of music is sexist and racist. I now know that I may have been wrong because Dawes tells of many experiences of both.

Laina Dawes

Laina Dawes

In “What Are You Doing Here?” Dawes tells quite openly of her negative experiences and some of the positive ones. She had to face down attitudes such as “You think you’re white” as well as the “only one” syndrome being the only black female at many shows. However, the whole time she never comes across was playing the victim. In fact, she tells how she doesn’t let those attitudes stop her enjoying the music she loves and reading some of the acts she’s into, I would love to go to a concert with her. Just no one tell Mrs 80smetalman.

The one thing that is really done well in the book is how she traces the history of rock and metal back to its origins. I began this blog with Jimi Hendrix, (another great black musician who help found metal as we know it today) but she goes back even farther than that to some of the great old blues musicians including BB King. In this case, Laina is absolutely correct in the fact that we as metalheads owe the origins of our music to music originally started by African Americans.

So, I would encourage all to grab a copy of “What Are You Doing Here?” It not only shows us the true origins of our music but also points out that heavy metal still has quite a long way to go before we gain true harmony.

Next post: The Moody Blues- Long Distance Voyager

To buy Rock And Roll Children go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London

A Metal Book Worth Reading

Posted in Heavy Metal, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2013 by 80smetalman

While I was going through my daily dose of heavy metal google alerts this morning, I can upon a book that sounds fascinating to me. The book is called “What Are You Doing Here?” by Laina Dawes. It tells about the struggle on an African American woman in the world of heavy metal.

When Laina Dawes was eight years-old, she sat in front of her television watching the made-for-television movie “Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park.”  Soon after, her parents gave her Kiss’ Double Platinum record, and later followed an obsession with bands like Judas Priest and Black Sabbath.  Laina Dawes is a bona fide metal head. But her fandom is complicated, though it probably shouldn’t be, by the fact that Laina is a black woman.

During her time in the heavy metal scene, she has experienced a lot of racism and sexism, as well as judgment and hostility from various black communities. Laina Dawes is the author of “What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal” (Bazillion Points, 2013).

Dawes talks with host Frank Stasio about the complicated relationship she has with heavy metal. She says that although heavy metal has in the past been viewed as a white male scene, the music can be powerful for anyone who feels like they need an outlet for anger.

“Heavy metal has always had this stereotype of being a working-class blue collar music for predominantly men who are frustrated by their day job, and want to listen to music to let out their aggressions…” Dawes says. “I think that translates to how people are still drawn to the music…It’s for the positive energy and the positive aggression that you have the ability to let out…and we’re not able to do that in other aspects of their lives.”

Dawes grew up in rural Kingston, Canada, as one of the only black people in her community. Listening to heavy metal was one of only a few things that helped her deal with her frustration and feelings of isolation. 

Dawes tells host Frank Stasio that “the music was what got me through…I never did fit in, and I always felt like an outsider, but I knew that I desperately needed something to make me feel better, and to make me feel more empowered then I did in my everyday life.”

Although heavy metal can be very empowering to its listeners, the scene surrounding it can be very racist and sexist. Dawes spoke to many black women involved in those scenes in their respective communities who survived violence inflicted on them on the basis of their race.

“One of the women I interviewed for the book was knocked unconscious” states Dawes.

“Another girl in Atlanta was chased around the venue by a bunch of skin heads, because they had warned her that she had to leave because they didn’t want her there…And then they stayed so they chased her,” she recalls.  “You get these extreme stories of people violently reacting to your presence.”

And not only has there been push back from white people in the heavy metal scene, but black communities have taken issue with black people’s participation in heavy metal. Dawes explains that listening to heavy metal as a black person is often seen as something that makes you “less black.”

“One of the reasons I’ve faced resistance from various black communities is the [link to culture]. Blues music is not just music, it’s seen as a narrative of the lives of African Americans who came before us…it has a connection to African-American listeners,” says Dawes. “But on the other hand in terms of listening and participating as a fan or musician it should be wide open.”

But there are still black women breaking down barriers and performing heavy metal. Dawes says that her favorite part of this project has been meeting women who challenge the norm with their passion for the genre.

“The best part of this journey is meeting extremely strong women who want to play the music that they’re passionate about and also realize that there are a lot of roadblocks in their way,” Laina reflects. “And for them it’s not about the money. It’s about them being passionate about their art.”

I, for one, am going to read it because I have always battled against the accusations of heavy metal being sexist and racist and I’ve always believed that knowledge is the best weapon.