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National Museum of African American Music expands mission, names first Black woman as board chair

by Cass Teague

The National Museum of African American Music has announced a new roster of board members, as well as launched a State of Black Music podcast and partnership with Blanx, a brand dedicated to elevating voices that too often go unheard.

Stacey Garrett Koju

The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) has announced the addition of seven new board members, new leadership under Stacey Garrett Koju, a museum-affiliated State of Black Music podcast and a partnership with Blanx, an artisan footwear brand that tells a story on every shoe.

As the museum rounds out its inaugural year, these updates mark the beginning of a transition from a brick-and-mortar museum to a unique storytelling institution.

Under Koju’s new leadership as board chair (and as the first Black woman to lead the museum’s board) the changes have begun with the appointment of board members:

  • Bret R. Babcock, COO/CFO at LOGICFORCE
  • Vince Gill, recording artist
  • Brett Sweet, Vanderbilt University’s Vice Chancellor for Finance/CFO
  • Jon Platt, chairman/CEO of Sony Music Publishing
  • Tom Curtis, managing director, truist
  • Dene Oliver, former chief vision officer (retired), Brookfield Properties
  • Monique Idlett-Mosley, president/CEO of Reign Venture Capital

“With Stacey at the helm of the board, NMAAM is expanding its purpose, vision and mission from historical documentation to include more active storytelling ventures, all with the function of elevating Black stories to wider audiences,” said Henry Beecher Hicks III, president/CEO at NMAAM. “Along with the rest of our new board members, NMAAM is looking ahead to the future of this museum and how we can remain at the cutting edge of Black cultural preservation and education.”

The State of Black Music podcast, hosted by Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly of Louis York, Phil Thornton, and Tamone Bacon, premiered in June. Each biweekly episode will feature a conversation with Black music industry professionals about aspects of Black music, culture and history. The first episode was recorded at the museum’s inaugural State of Black Music Summit, hosted at NMAAM on June 18, and included a conversation with the legendary Mary J. Blige and fashion architect Misa Hylton. The podcast is in partnership with Visit Music City.

Blanx is a brand with a voice determined to give a platform to social issues ranging from racial diversity and gender equality to mental health and climate change. In partnership with NMAAM, they are launching an exclusive shoe highlighting its visual signature design that ‘Black Music Has a Home,’ inscribed with the museum’s tagline ‘One Nation Under A Groove.’ The capsule collection features a design by Grammy nominated singer, songwriter and producer Eric Roberson called ‘Revelations.’

“Our core aim has always been to narrate the impact of Black music and culture on American life, and our two newest ventures move us in the direction of fulfilling that second part. We are committed to telling stories of impact, hope and resilience, and truly highlighting the Black experience, which has many of its origins in music,” said Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson, vice president of Brand and Partnerships at NMAAM.   “In working with new partners like Blanx, we’re able to push the boundaries of our reach. Moving forward, we’re excited to provide more platforms for Black storytellers in the arts through collaboration with others who have the same mission.”

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