Minnesota's Okee Dokee Brothers decline Grammy nomination over lack of diversity

The group is nominated for Best Children's Album. They and others in the category have declined their nominations.
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The Minnesota-based The Okee Dokee Brothers and others have declined their Grammy nomination this year over lack of diversity. 

The group is among four others nominated for Best Children's Album. In a post on Facebook this week, the Okee Dokee Brothers said all of the nominees are white and all but one are male. 

The Okee Dokee Brothers said they along with Alastair Moock and Dog on Fleas sent a letter to the Recording Academy declining their nominations and asking their names be removed from the ballot and the academy not vote for them. 

The letter to the Academy, which The Okee Dokee Brothers posted to Facebook, said the whiteness and maleness of the nominees in the Best Children's Album category mirror all award categories. The group says over the past 10 years, about 6% of nominated acts have been Black-led or co-led and about 8% have been led by people of color who aren't Black, while around 30% have been female-led.

"These numbers would be disappointing in any category, but – in a genre whose performers are uniquely tasked with modeling fairness, kindness, and inclusion; in a country where more than half of all children are non-white; and after a year of national reckoning around race and gender – the numbers are unacceptable," the letter states. 

The Okee Dokee Brothers, who are regulars at the Minnesota State Fair, said the past two weeks have been "intense, difficult, but also educational" for all the nominees in the Best Children's Album genre. 

"While we may have different approaches for how best to address the problems, we all recognize the need for change," The Okee Dokee Brothers said. "We also recognize that this year’s one female nominee is in a different position from the rest of us, not least because it’s her first nomination."

The Okee Dokee Brothers said their decision may lead to disagreements in their community, but they hope the conversation stays focused on "implicit bias and the systemic racism and sexism that affects our genre."

"We don't pretend to have the answers, but we want to be part of the solution," the post said, adding that the job of allies in their field will be to "listen, learn and then commit to real change within ourselves and within our genre."

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On June 10 of this year, the Recording Academy announced "major changes" to ensure the Grammy Awards are "inclusive and reflect the current state of the music industry." 

The changes included removing "urban" from category titles and required nomination review committee members to sign conflict of interest disclosures. 

"We thought that this year – after recent national events, all the hard work of the Family Music Forward racial justice collective to bring attention to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in our genre, and changes within the Academy itself designed to reduce bias – we might see a different outcome," the letter to the Academy said. "We didn’t, and the results are frankly an embarrassment for the field of children’s music."

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