Lyor's Letter: If a race has no history ...

Feb 26, 2021 - Lyor's Letter

“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
— Dr. Carter G. Woodson
Founder of “Negro History Week,” the precursor to Black History Month

I’m not the type of person who relies on public holidays to celebrate what matters. I celebrate Black history 365 days a year. But in my efforts to understand the origins of Black History Month, I was reminded of the importance of preserving tradition. The importance of celebrating and creating history. As a Jewish American, I recognize these practices are absolutely essential for all cultures. As a music executive, I recognize that Black music has always accompanied the movement for Black liberation, expression, and fulfillment.

In researching Black History Month, I couldn’t help but wonder what Dr. Carter G. Woodson — the historian, activist, and writer who chose February to celebrate Black History because it’s the birth month of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass — would think about the accomplishments of today’s Black music leaders. Leaders like Carletta Higginson, YouTube’s Global Head of Music Publishing and Executive Sponsor of “Black @ YouTube,” who I’m so honored to work alongside every day.

Carletta’s creating real change for the Black community through her influence on the industry and the development of our products. I was so moved by a recent op-ed she wrote about her sense of duty in mentoring people in the Black community. An excerpt from the op-ed and a link to the full piece are below — I encourage you all to read it.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge that our social justice work will never be complete if our efforts don’t materialize in our products. We have so much work to do, but are committed to ensuring our platform is more inclusive and representative. It’s not possible for us to do this without a deep understanding of our creators’ ethnicities and backgrounds, which is why I look forward to YouTube making more progress in this space.

With love and respect,

Lyor Cohen
Global Head of YouTube Music


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— Carletta Higginson
Global Head of Music Publishing, YouTube Music
“I arrived at NYU with plans to become a doctor. Like so many eager undergraduates, a charismatic figure made me reconsider my entire trajectory. Her name was Claire Huxtable. This fictional character, played by Phylicia Rashad, was the first Black woman I had ever seen practice law. She was successful and owned a brownstone and looked just like me. My decision was made.”