By Neecole Cockerham
Rhea Roberts-Johnson is the first Black woman to be promoted to a VP position at Goldenvoice, an AEG subsidiary. The new executive is also a new mother to an energetic toddler named Story, with her husband industry impresario Marcus Johnson.
As if having a career and being a full-time mom doesn’t take up enough time in the day, Goldenvoice staff and vendors have been forced to postpone Coachella, one of the world’s leading music festivals, due to the COVID-19. The coronavirus disease has created an unprecedented pandemic.
In the midst of the quarantine, the abnormally shut in citizens of the United States, witnessed via a cell phone recording, the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, who pressed his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty six seconds. At that moment Black people in the United States were forced into a position that challenged our civil liberties and stripped away our dignity as if we were inhumane. People of all races, from all walks of life took to the streets – men, women and children. The coordinated, mostly peaceful marches were organized by activists and the Black Lives Matter Movement. The protesters began to mobilize and protests began across the U.S and and on every continent around the world. People banded together for an unprecedented globalization of civil unrest and demanded change for the rights of Black people in America against the country’s systemic oppressed law enforcement agencies, and the society that inadvertently supported their actions.
The times are somewhat changing – as universal corporate offices have taken a short but hard look at themselves and the systemic racism that they have promoted through the years. Corporations are challenged with how they hire, retain and promote people of color within their organizations. They are being held to task to begin to fill openings with qualified Blacks and other people of color instead of continually engaging in white employment nepotism, frat boys and a Becky in tow.
The round table at Goldenvoice was a diverse group of people who acknowledged the repugnant feeling of what their eyes had seen and everyone’s heart had felt.
I sat down with Roberts-Johnson, to ask the down to earth, prestigious executive a few questions over a Zoom conference. I’ve known Rhea for a number of years, so it was easy to dive into a conversation that was just as she is – honest and candid.
Can you explain GV Black?
“Goldenvoice Black was birthed from round table discussions of Black employees, who for some time, have exchanged views of working as Blacks in a predominantly white environment – it is the voice of the people. GV Black has become a source of comfort to communicate what being Black means in today’s climate. Our social responsibility is to have acknowledgment from the corporation in which we work, the need to bring equality and more diversity to our workforce and to outline and monitor productive steps to insure that this equality is met.”
Do you have any fear in being a part of a revolutionary entity within the internal confines of a corporate environment?
“As a woman we are already marginalized in this environment. As a Black woman and a mother of a Black male child, I am more interested in social equity not just for now but for the future of those who come after me. I had no mirror to show me insight into how to maneuver in the world of behind the scenes entertainment. The conversations we were having at Goldenvoice were more than just about talking. We were all hurting just like many people and it was important for us to say something and even more important to agree on the actions that we would take to support diversity, elevate youth and develop community under the Goldenvoice umbrella.”
The music festival Coachella released its first statement ever about their position on injustice. The declaration issued by Coachella would be the words of Rhea Roberts-Johnson.
The poetic rhyme scheme is just 5 lines shy of a Sonnet and reads like a mission statement of hope:
We do not stand for injustice.
We do not stand for racism.
We do not stand for bigotry.
We stand for music.
We stand for celebration.
We stand for love.
We stand for unity.
We stand for Black Lives.
Now that the protesting has come to a halt, the pandemic is at an all time high; Goldenvoice employees are working from home or either furloughed… Goldenvoice recently posted on social media and received backlash from a few public critics, because of the word “bodies”..Can you comment on it?
“I’m actually glad that you asked this question. Before I go into what it means, I have to mention that the statement was written by Black employees, and had the public known that, it may have been received differently. Surprise! There are Black people that work at Goldenvoice (I’m sure that’s shocking to some since in its early days the company booked a lot of punk rock bands). We used the word “bodies” as a metaphor to draw attention to the objectification of Black people. Many types of Black and brown people in this country are dehumanized and not allowed the luxury of full humanity as so many others are. We also used it to emphasize the history of physical violence against Black people in our country whether it be through slavery, lynching, police brutality, etc. It’s a common term used by social justice activists, and having come from one of them, there probably wouldn’t have been a peep. Coming from a festival, some people were taken aback.”
Rhea I think to be silent nowadays is to be in agreement. Maybe those taken “aback” will be propelled into recognizing the truth and understanding the ladder is merely semantics.
What is next for GV Black?
“Without giving up too much too soon, we along with our non-Black allies at the company, are working diligently to create an even more inclusive environment for our employees, fans, artists, vendors, etc.”
Rhea Roberts-Johnson is a rare breed. She has a silent strength that exists when you can only imagine the amount of pressure that is being experienced to incite change. As we wait to see what’s next to come you can feel a glimmer of hope. Goldenvoice, GV Black and Coachella are consciously pioneering trailblazers for utilizing their platform to be all inclusive and unite people as one just as music does.