Lady Antebellum Sues Singer Anita White Over the Name ‘Lady A’
Your commitment to the BLM movement is suspect when you're suing a Black artist to steal her name.
As the George Floyd protests swept the country, white people have been forced to reckon with their complicity in systemic racism. This inspired a variety of actions ranging from sincere to performative: the removal of Confederate monuments, the redesign of Splash Mountain, white actors no longer voicing certain minority characters in animation.
Amidst these changes, country band Lady Antebellum announced that they would be changing their name to Lady A, since the word Antebellum is used to romanticize the pro-slavery South before the Civil War. The Dixie Chicks also announced that they would be changing their name to simply, The Chicks.
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Dear Fans, As a band, we have strived for our music to be a refuge…inclusive of all. We’ve watched and listened more than ever these last few weeks, and our hearts have been stirred with conviction, our eyes opened wide to the injustices, inequality and biases Black women and men have always faced and continue to face everyday. Now, blindspots we didn’t even know existed have been revealed. After much personal reflection, band discussion, prayer and many honest conversations with some of our closest Black friends and colleagues, we have decided to drop the word “antebellum” from our name and move forward as Lady A, the nickname our fans gave us almost from the start. When we set out together almost 14 years ago, we named our band after the southern “antebellum” style home where we took our first photos. As musicians, it reminded us of all the music born in the south that influenced us…Southern Rock, Blues, R&B, Gospel and of course Country. But we are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before The Civil War, which includes slavery. We are deeply sorry for the hurt this has caused and for anyone who has felt unsafe, unseen or unvalued. Causing pain was never our hearts’ intention, but it doesn’t change the fact that indeed, it did just that. So today, we speak up and make a change. We hope you will dig in and join us. We feel like we have been Awakened, but this is just one step. There are countless more that need to be taken. We want to do better. We are committed to examining our individual and collective impact and making the necessary changes to practice antiracism. We will continue to educate ourselves, have hard conversations and search the parts of our hearts that need pruning—to grow into better humans, better neighbors. Our next outward step will be a donation to the Equal Justice Initiative through LadyAID. Our prayer is that if we lead by example…with humility, love, empathy and action…we can be better allies to those suffering from spoken and unspoken injustices, while influencing our children & generations to come.
It turns out that there already is a performer who goes by the name Lady A: Anita White, a Black blues singer who resides in the Pacific Northwest. White has been performing under the moniker Lady A for over twenty years. In an interview with Rolling Stone, White said,
“This is my life. Lady A is my brand, I’ve used it for over 20 years, and I’m proud of what I’ve done, … This is too much right now. They’re using the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time. If it mattered, it would have mattered to them before. It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize that their name had a slave reference to it.”
She added that the band never reached out to her before making their announcement, adding “It’s an opportunity for them to pretend they’re not racist or pretend this means something to them, … If it did, they would’ve done some research. And I’m not happy about that. You found me on Spotify easily — why couldn’t they?”
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Today, we connected privately with the artist Lady A. Transparent, honest, and authentic conversations were had. We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground. The hurt is turning into hope. More to come. #LadyABluesSoulFunkGospelArtist #TheTruthIsLoud @ladya_bluesdiva @dexter_allen_entertainment @oliveriiijohn
The band shared a screenshot of a conversation with White and claimed that they were engaged in “Transparent, honest, and authentic conversations” over the name rights. But clearly those negotiations fell apart, as the band is now suing White for the trademark to the name Lady A.
The group released a statement saying, “Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended, … She and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years.”
The band is asking a Nashville court to grant them the right to the trademark of the name so they can use it for promotional purposes and merchandise. They aren’t asking for money and they aren’t trying to ban White from performing under the name. Still, it is reprehensible of the band to pretend to support the Black Lives Matter movement by stealing the name of a Black artist who doesn’t have access to the wealth (or legal representation) that the Grammy-winning band does.
Also, what does the ‘A’ stand for now? It’s still just a shortened reference to ‘antebellum.’ You’ve solved nothing, band formerly known as Lady Antebellum.
The group added, “We’re still committed to educating ourselves, our children and doing our part to fight for the racial justice so desperately needed in our country and around the world.”
White said of the situation, “For them to not even reach out is pure privilege. I’m not going to lay down and let this happen to me. But now the burden of proof is on me to prove that my name is in fact mine, and I don’t even know how much I’ll have to spend to keep it.”
(via Pitchfork, image: Jason Kempin/Getty Images/Dawn Lucrisia-Johnson)
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