Published on April 4, 2023
Alive’s Legacy series is a series of conversations between Alive President/CEO Kimberly Goessele and local leaders on how we can live the legacy we want to leave.
Kimberly recently spoke with Holly G, the founder and Co-director of Black Opry, “home for Black artists, fans and industry professionals working in country, Americana, blues, and folk music.” Black Opry began as a COVID project for former flight attendant Holly G. when she created a site to help others find Black artists in country and roots music. A community rapidly coalesced around her concept, and today she is the full time Co-director of Black Opry which includes a touring revue and artist residency with local radio station WXNP. Black Opry artists performed in Alive & The Bluebird 2023, bringing the first round of all Black artists to the series. Learn more at Black Opry.
When you started, did you have any idea of how this would grow?
It’s all come together organically and naturally. It’s been beautiful to watch. I began with the website and social media, and then I let the needs of the community that was building lead where it went. When I started, it was during quarantine, and I was off work for 9 months. I never anticipated it would be this big. It was just a hobby on the side, and then it took up so much time I had to quit flying. I had never seen a future doing work I enjoyed full-time. It has been a beautifully strange journey.
What was the biggest surprise?
The biggest surprise was how many connect with our story, not just Black people but all backgrounds…but everyone has been an outsider and wants to be part of something. A lot of people are outside country music.
The community is beautiful and intersectional, and the space lets everyone come together.
What is the biggest barrier you are facing?
The barrier right now is not having enough of myself to do all that is needed. I want to do it all, but the need is so great that it’s bigger than what I can do. That part is really hard… to not help everyone that needs it. We are moving with more intention in our next step. Everything came so organically, I’ve been chasing behind it. Now we want to be very intentional, with a careful plan, so we can pivot to moving forward with a purpose to make it last and be around a long time.
There are two people who work with me part-time. Our community gets together on their own to create shows, and that is a testament to the camaraderie. They share opportunities. This community has become like family.
Holly Sorenson is creating a documentary. She has been filming for a year. This allows us to be present while someone else is capturing the moments.
Black Opry provided the first all African American round at Alive & The Bluebird this year. It was incredible.
What you felt in the room is what we feel at all our shows. There’s magic that happens when you put these people together. It’s a glowing example of how community should operate.
Do you think about it as a legacy?
It’s hard to think that big when you are in the trenches in the day to day. When I do, it’s in terms of the legacies of I am stepping into. All of us are walking in footsteps and we should be honoring and respecting those people who came before us. When you operate that way, it will trickle down to those coming after you.
We will be launching an official membership soon. We have a tour; ninety-five artists have played with us throughout the country in a year and a half. The volume of interested people was a surprise and challenge. We have more people than we have space to highlight right now.
How can we support Black Opry?
The hardest part for people to face is acknowledging a problem. Once you do that, then you can help by spreading the word and having the hard conversations. It’s easier to accept when it comes from a friend or someone who looks like you. The struggles we talk about in Black Opry are the same struggles Black Americans face every day in every industry. These are people who just want to participate in something and are very good at it!
At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge that we are different. If you don’t, you can’t see what is difficult for them. It’s not about seeing everyone the same but acknowledging differences respectfully. Our shows are a place to come together and take a breath in a safe space. When you support Black people, we ask you to support across the spectrum of what that looks like. Our community is intersectional, and all the struggles are one and the same.