Watch: Black country music artist describes performing in front of confederate flags 

Country singer Rissi Palmer is no stranger to playing in front of white crowds. Here, she tells Panama Jackson about a particularly precarious situation on stage.

Since debuting in the country music business more than 15 years ago, singer Rissi Palmer has been subject to countless racially-motivated situations. While joining theGrio Black Podcast Network original podcast, “Dear Culture,” Palmer told host Panama Jackson that performing on stage while a confederate flag flew overhead was nothing new.

She also described a situation that stunned her as she was stopped from taking a performance stage by a security guard, who asked her “What are you doing here?” Despite her name being prominently displayed on the concert signage, and her song being played while the crowd waited for her, it took a concert promoter stepping in and confronting the security guard in order for her to take her place on stage.

Palmer says she is often the only Black person in the room while she performs, and despite her career being plagued by racist incidents, they haven’t stopped her from creating and performing the music she loves. The mother of two says she’ll continue to endure the hardships in the hopes that the Black artists that follow her won’t have to. 

The following is a transcript of that conversation

Since debuting in the country music business more than 15 years ago, singer Rissi Palmer has been subject to countless racially-motivated situations. (Photo: Jimmy Bruch)

Rissi Palmer: [00:00:00] Sometimes I would be the only Black person in the venue besides people that were working there. And, you know, I have played to all-white audiences before. I have played having to sing in front of a confederate flag waving right in front of me. I was refused once to walk on a stage that literally had my name on the banner that was hanging above a security guard, didn’t want to let me onstage because he was just like, ‘What are you doing here?’ And I was like, ‘I’m Rissi Palmer. They’re playing my song. I need to go out on the stage.’ The promoter had to come and have them let me on stage. So, just, you know, I have tons of stories like that. So, it was just, like, again, balancing what you love with balancing being true to who you are. 

Panama Jackson: [00:00:46] So, does that feel like you’re just like you’re fighting the good fight, so to speak, having to do stuff like that? Because I can’t imagine having to play in front of a big confederate flag. That’s like the, the, the most flashiness red light of all time. Right? I went to high school in Alabama; like, I grew up around those things, right? People had them on their cars, everything. And it’s always annoying. Whether they wanted to be or not, the whole heritage, not hate thing, whatever, nonsense. It’s a symbol of hate as far as I’m concerned. It’s like pushing through that too, it’s like a small step. It’s always one further step. Like, how frustrating is that? But do you always feel like there’s a bigger purpose to what you’re doing and and what you’re providing to the masses? 

Palmer:[00:01:37] So, yes and no. I will say in the very beginning, I don’t know that I was like hyper aware of. Like I knew it. I knew the historical ramifications of everything. And, you know, being the first Black woman in 20 years at that time to be on the charts, like I understood the gravity of that, but I was just trying to make it as an artist. Like, I was still kind of thinking of myself as, like, I’m trying to be Taylor Swift. I’m trying to be Carrie Underwood. I’m trying to be like all my contemporaries. I was trying to be those people. And so, I was like, you know, this is kind of par for the course. But now, I look at it more so as, ‘No, you do this because you want to make sure that the next line of people coming behind you don’t have to worry about this. Don’t have to think about these things.’ Like, they really can be Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift because they don’t have to worry about all these other, you know, all this other bull. 

EPISODE DESCRIPTION 

As Dear Culture continues to celebrate Black Music Month, host Panama Jackson has an enlightening conversation with country music artist Rissi Palmer. The pair talk about the repeated racist incidents Palmer has been forced to endure and discuss what’s needed to bridge the racial gap in country music. Palmer also shares the stories of Black musicians who helped the pioneers of country music find their sound and gives historical detail about the efforts to erase their contributions from the genre.

Listen to the full episode of Dear Culture on theGrio app, website or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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