Celebrating Black Culture Through Music, Starbucks Canada Spotlights Emerging and Established Black Artists with Curated Playlist

The playlist was created in collaboration with the Starbucks Black Partner Network (BPN), the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) and SAY IT LOUD to celebrate Black excellence.

In celebration of Black History Month and the accomplishments, culture and unique experiences of the Black community, Starbucks Canada today announced a special curated playlist, which spotlights established and emerging Black artists and the wealth of diverse talent and artistry within Black culture.

The playlist was created in partnership with Starbucks Black Partner Network (BPN), the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) and SAY IT LOUD to celebrate Black excellence and inspire listeners. It will be made available in stores across Canada for the month of February and will also be available to customers on Spotify (visit Starbucks Spotify profile and click on the playlist titled “BPN/Say It Loud Canada/BBPA”).

Canadian reggae artist Jah Beng, whose song “Pray” is featured on the playlist, shared the importance of music within Black culture.

“As Black artists, we see the wielding of this influence as a great responsibility and are, thus, quite intentional with the words, sounds and messages we create and send out into the world,” Beng says. “We use our songs to shape the emotional, social, political, economic and moral attitudes within our societies, fully grasping the powerful ways in which we can affect our listeners.

“We, therefore, purpose our art toward educating, enlightening, encouraging and empowering our audiences and, thereby, create overwhelmingly positive impacts among our people and all people in local and global communities. Thank you, Starbucks Canada, for your awareness and action.”

Co-founders of SAY IT LOUD, Farley Flex and Roderick Brereton, emphasized Black music as a seminal part of Black history and Black culture and the importance of providing young, emerging Canadian artists with mainstream exposure.

“From the beginning of time Black music has captured the essence of Africa and its people,” said Flex and Brereton in an email to Starbucks Canada. “It has been a mechanism for expression in the face of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, colonization and overall oppression. Out of struggle, Black music’s social commentary has given birth to rock and roll, rhythm and blues, jazz, reggae, calypso, hip hop and their derivative.

“Say It LOUD! Canada is thrilled to partner with Starbucks Canada to provide mainstream exposure to emerging Black artists. This collaboration will lead to business and professional opportunities in the broader music industry.”

Emerging Black Canadian artists featured on Starbucks playlist include “C’est Beau” by KNLO, “Tell Me Something” by Tanika Charles, and “Don’t Wanna Pretend” by Shantel May.

It’s powerful to hear an artist from your home country playing in Starbucks, says Nadine Spencer, the President and CEO of the BBPA. Recalling the time she heard Jamaican artist Yellowman playing at her favourite Starbucks store in Don Mills, Ont., she said, “I stopped in my tracks with a big smile on my face the moment I heard the song ‘Zungguzungguguzungguzeng.’ How is this happening? At my Starbucks? I felt like I was home in Jamaica for a moment. I felt recognized and represented. The inspiration from my Caribbean roots filled me and left me elated throughout my day.”

In addition to up-and-coming Black artists, the playlist also features established artists and mainstream songs, including Beyoncé’s “Brown Skin Girl,” written to empower young Black girls facing cultural identity issues due to colourism within the Black community. Starbucks intentionally included a wide range of songs and genres to showcase artists of various cultural backgrounds and to highlight the Black community’s diverse voices, identities, and artistic expression.

Black History Month

And, as an extension of its celebration of Black artistry, Starbucks Canada’s Spotify playlist also proudly features artwork by Toronto-born artist Amika Cooper, a.k.a. blackpowerbarbie.

Throughout February, Starbucks Canada will continue celebrating Black History Month by sharing the unique stories and experiences of its Black partners (employees) each week. The first story is from two Brampton, Ont. store partners, Zoe Clarke-Singh and Cristyn Gilpin-Payne, who deep dive into what Starbucks playlist means to them and how they found empowerment through songs about Black hair.

As the month unfolds, we’ll also hear from Starbucks BPN co-founders Chelsea Gayle and Kimberly Robin, as well as the co-lead of our Quebec BPN chapter, Virginia Medford Brayton and Carine Doufodji. They’ll explore themes such as reconnecting with their culture, workplace challenges and unique experiences as a Black Canadian in Quebec.

Addressing racial inequity

Starbucks Canada is committed to celebrating and supporting its Black partners, customers, and communities throughout Black History Month and beyond. Last June, the company pledged to do more in its commitment to stand and take action against anti-black racism.

Since then, the company has taken several actions to continue learning and confronting racial bias and racism, including launching a new mentorship program focused on addressing the specific needs of Canadian Black youth between the ages of 14 and 29. The program, MentorME, was developed in partnership with the BBPA, SAY IT LOUD, MentorCanada.

Click here to learn more about how Starbucks Canada is taking a stand against anti-Black racism.

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