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Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. executive publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel, the L.A. Watts Times and member of the Black Press of America
Chairman of the Grammys Neil Portnow Denying credentials to the Los Angeles to cover the Grammys appears to have paved the way for a dialogue in the near future between the Grammys and the Black Press
Last November, the Los Angeles Sentinel, the premier Black newspaper on the West Coast, submitted a timely application to the Grammys (the Recording Academy), requesting credentials to cover the 54th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2012. The Sentinel received the following reply: Credential Request Decline LetterThe Recording Academy(r) regrets that we are unable to accommodate your media request to cover the 54th Annual GRAMMY(r) Awards on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 in Los Angeles. Due to extremely limited space within the Media Center and Arrivals, we were only able to credential a small fraction of the hundreds of media outlets that applied. Please feel free to follow any of the show's developments from the official GRAMMY website, located at www.grammy.com, and please let us know if there are any other GRAMMY-related events or stories with which we can help you. Your understanding is very much appreciated.Kind regards, The Recording Academy and Rogers & CowanAfter that response, the Sentinel made a final overture--via telephone and e-mail--but the final answer from the Academy's representative was "No" relative to the credentials. Last week, the Sentinel ran a front page story "Grammys denies Black press credentials again!" What followed is the essence of this article.Though on the surface it seemed to be a misunderstanding, Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., the executive publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel--the largest Black newspaper on the West Coast--and the L.A. Watts Times, believes that it has happened once too often already. He explains, "Black artists, many times before they came to fame and fortune, the very vehicle that they use to get their music to the public, is the Black press and Black radio. And for the Grammys to not have a clear policy that is inclusive of the Black press is outrageous, disrespectful and cannot be tolerated any longer."In attempting to work out this problem, Bakewell reached out to music mogul, Clarence Avant, with whom he has enjoyed a close friendship over the past 30 years. In the entertainment, Avant (known as the Godfather) commands respect from friends and foes alike, and according to Bakewell, "Clarence had a genuinely deep respect and commitment to the Black press."In expressing a tremendous amount of thanks to Avant, (the Grammys has since reverse its denial of credentials to the Sentinel), Bakewell has also stated, "after the story ran, many artists and civil rights leaders have reached out to me and indicated that they would be willing to join the demonstration (against the Grammys) if the matter was not resolved." Speaking with Avant, this is what he had to say, "I think it's a disgrace for this kind of action to be still happening; this is the 21st century. But it shows that they do not respect the Black media, because if they did, this wouldn't have happened. When you're doing the Grammys in L.A.--and as big as the Grammy are for television--I read that they're going to cut out some of the categories in which there's mostly Black people. So after I read the article (the one in the Sentintel), I called Danny and told him my theory is this: it's best to try and meet so that it won't happen again." At present, a meeting is set up for next Tuesday between the Grammys and the Black press, and then according to Bakewell, there'll be a press conference following that meeting. Furthermore, Bakewell said, "This did not just happen with the Grammys, it's the same with the Academy Awards, the Emmys, the Staples Center ... they all show a total disrespect of the Black press. And we (the Black press, the civil rights community and those in the entertainment) are going to ask our elected officials about passing (a) resolutions to counter this kind of behavior because they (Grammys, Academy, Emmy, etc) all use public facilities that are funded by our tax dollars. So this is intolerable and unacceptable."L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson issued the following statement:"I believe that the African American media deserves the same level of respect and cooperation that is accorded to other media. Inclusion sends a much better message than exclusion. I hope there will be a change in the policy." And Assemblyman Mike Davis, vice chairman of the California Legislative Black Caucus stated: "I am shocked that such an insensitivity has occurred. I hope that, Neil Portnow, President of the Grammy's will rectify this decision especially because so many African Americans are significant contributors to the music industry and the awards show."