I saw Beyoncé get booed at the CMAs. I’ve been waiting for ‘Cowboy Carter.’

To that inevitable icebreaker question, “What was your first concert?” my heart always beats with excitement at the chance to share that in 2000, when I was 8, I was lucky enough to see the group that’s now known as The Chicks. But almost every time I give that answer, I get confused looks, blank stares and sometimes laughs. Women in country music were all I was ever interested in when I was growing up, and many of the kids at school made fun of me for that. It wasn’t the cool thing to do, especially for a Black kid. But not even seeing my favorite group when I was 8 compared to the November 2016 CMA Awards when The Chicks were joined by an unannounced Black artist whose love of country music has also been questioned.

Women in country music were all I was ever interested in when I was growing up, and many of the kids at school made fun of me for that.

As soon as I heard those horns begin playing and heard Beyoncé say the word “Texas,” I knew that we at the CMAs were in for the treat of her performing her then-hit “Daddy Lessons.” Even better, she was performing it with The Chicks, the group I grew up thinking was everything. And then I heard a woman in the row ahead of me yell, “Get that Black b—- off the stage!”

In a March 19 Instagram post promoting “Act II: Cowboy Carter,” her album that was released today, Beyoncé wrote, “This album has been over five years in the making. It was born out of an experience that I had years ago where I did not feel welcomed…and it was very clear that I wasn’t. But, because of that experience, I did a deeper dive into the history of Country music and studied our rich musical archive.”

Beyonce performs on stage with The Dixie Chicks.
Beyoncé with the group then known as The Dixie Chicks at the 2016 CMA Awards in Nashville.Image Group LA / Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images file

Beyoncé did not say exactly which experience had left her feeling unwelcome, but the hostile, often racist, responses she got on social media after performing at the 2016 CMAs and the CMAs taking down a post promoting her and The Chicks were big news (a spokesperson for the award show said the post hadn’t been approved by Beyoncé).

The day after their performance with Beyoncé, The Chicks posted a link to “Daddy Lessons” on social media and wrote, “If we all turn this up really loud, together we can drown out the hate.”

The woman in front of me yelling at Beyoncé had so much rage in her voice. Months later, I was still replaying that moment in my head. I’d ask myself: Do people feel this way about me when I enter the country music space?

Five years later, while listening to Rissi Palmer’s “Color Me Country” radio show on Apple Music, I crossed paths with Holly G, the founder of the Black Opry, a home for Black artists, fans and industry professionals working in country, Americana, blues and folk music. I accepted her invitation to the 2021 CMAs, the first time I’d been there since I saw Beyoncé disrespected. This time, because I’d found my community, the environment felt different. I felt supported.

“My hope is that years from now, the mention of an artist’s race, as it relates to releasing genres of music, will be irrelevant,” Beyoncé  said in that March 19 Instagram post.

A common experience among Black country artists and fans is feeling unwelcome. Many of us were told that country music wasn’t meant for us. I think for a majority of us Black country music fans, we waited until we were a little older and less concerned with fitting in to be open about being fans of the music. That is, we became more open about or love for the music when we became more interested in finding the joy in standing out and being authentically ourselves. With the release of “Cowboy Carter,” we find solidarity with Beyoncé, who’s been open about feeling unwelcome in the country music space. Our hope is that with so many eyes on Beyoncé and Black country artists, there will be greater appreciation for Black people’s history in country music and Black country artists across the board will be in higher demand.

A common experience among Black country artists and fans is feeling unwelcome.

Beyoncé made history when her song “Texas Hold ‘Em” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. According to Billboard.com, “Prior to the triumph for ‘Texas Hold ‘Em,’ no Black woman, or female known to be biracial, had previously topped Hot Country Songs.” That feat is worth celebrating, but it’s not at all surprising to learn that Beyoncé has a song at the top of the charts. The more pressing question is what are country radio programmers going to do for Brittney Spencer, Camille Parker, Chapel Hart, Roberta Lea, Julie Williams, The Kentucky Gentlemen and so many other Black artists who have been knocking on country music’s doors for years? How are the people coming to the genre because of Beyoncé going to respond to those artists?

During the flood of adoration for Queen Bey’s new accomplishments, there’s a whole community of Black country fans who are hopeful that the visibility she brings to the music quickly turns to financial and substantial long-term support for lesser known Black artists in country music.

First appeared on www.msnbc.com

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