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Remembering the time David Bowie called out MTV for not playing black artists.

A 1983 interview with David Bowie helped bring attention to the network's lack of diversity.

Remembering the time David Bowie called out MTV for not playing black artists.

Early MTV had a major problem: It was almost exclusively white.

As it set out to revolutionize the music industry, MTV hit a few major bumps in the road, which included accusations of racism for the lack of diverse artists on the network in its early years.

"There was a shortage of Black videos by urban artists," MTV co-founder Les Garland told Jet Magazine in 2006. "The success of this AOR (album-oriented rock) format in radio certainly had its influence on MTV. But, there were no music videos. They weren't being made. We had nothing to pick from."


But that wasn't entirely true.

Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for MTV.

Artists like Rick James and Michael Jackson were making music videos, but having a really rough time getting airplay.

And while MTV would eventually premiere both Jackson's "Thriller" and "Billie Jean" videos in 1983, it was the network's initial reluctance to play his "Billie Jean" video that led to Walter Yetnikoff, then-president of Jackson's label CBS records, threatening to pull the entire label's catalog.

"I said to MTV, 'I'm pulling everything we have off the air, all our product. I'm not going to give you any more videos. And I'm going to go public and fucking tell them about the fact you don't want to play music by a black guy," Yetnikoff recounted.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

Rick James, who at the time was trying to get the network to play his video for "Super Freak," said in frustration, "I'm a crusader without an army. All these Black artists claim they're behind me, but when it's time to make a public statement, you can't find them. ... They're going to let me do all the rapping and get into trouble and then they'll reap the benefits."

That's when David Bowie stepped in.

During a 1983 interview with MTV veejay Mark Goodman, David Bowie asked a simple, important question.

R. Serge Denisoff describes the heated exchange in his book Inside MTV.

Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images.

"Why are there practically no blacks on the network?" Bowie asked Goodman during one of their interviews.

Goodman was stunned, not expecting the question. "We seem to be doing music that fits into what we want to play on MTV," said Goodman in response. "The company is thinking in terms of narrowcasting."

"Don't say, 'Well, it's not me, it's them.' Is it not possible it should be a conviction of the station and of the radio stations to be fair ... to make the media more integrated?"

Not about to take that for an answer, Bowie pushed the issue. "There seem to be a lot of black artists making very good videos that I'm surprised aren't being used on MTV."

"We have to try and do what we think not only what New York and Los Angeles will appreciate, but also Poughkeepsie or the Midwest," said Goodman. "Pick some town in the Midwest which would be scared to death by ... a string of black faces, or black music. We have to play music we think an entire country is going to like, and certainly we're a rock and roll station."

"Don't you think it's a frightening predicament to be in?" offered Bowie in response.

"Yeah, but no less so here than in radio," said Goodman.

"Don't say, 'Well, it's not me, it's them.' Is it not possible it should be a conviction of the station and of the radio stations to be fair ... to make the media more integrated?"


Bowie's interview with Goodman was a great example of how to be an ally.

Black artists, as James said, were subject to some major pushback if they spoke out on MTV's lack of diversity. They held no leverage, and they had reason to fear that their careers would take a hit if the network decided to blacklist them.

Bowie and wife, Iman, seen here in 2006. Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images.

So Bowie did what an ally should: He used his platform and his privilege to advocate for others without making it about himself (that last part is important).

Maybe it wasn't Bowie's interview with Goodman that led to more black artists on MTV, and maybe it wasn't Yetnikoff's threat of a CBS boycott that did it; maybe the how doesn't really matter as much as the what.

In the end, MTV helped launch the careers of prominent black artists, and the shift away from early exclusionary policies may have been the best decision the network ever made.

Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

via 1POCNews / Twitter

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