The Black American Music Association (BAM) and the Georgia Entertainment Caucus (GEC) held the inaugural induction ceremony for the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame (BMEWOF), on Thursday, June 17. The unveiling of the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame was the first look at the new Downtown Atlanta attraction.
The BMEWOF Foundational Inductees were James Brown, Otis Redding, Quincy D. Jones, and Stevie Wonder, joined by Michael Jackson (Legacy Artists), Sean Love Combs (Mainstream Mogul), Shirley Caesar (Gospel Female), Kirk Franklin (Gospel Male), Missy Elliott (Hip Hop Female), Outkast (Hip Hop Male), Beyoncé (Mainstream Female), and Usher Raymond IV (Mainstream Male).
“I am so appreciative to the Black American Music Association and Georgia Entertainment Caucus for coming up with this idea,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms during the inaugural inductee ceremony.
“When you have ideas in government it often feels like it takes dog years, but when Phillana Williams, the head of our Office of Entertainment & Film, said that this was a meeting that I must take, and it must get done quickly, the fact that we are standing here today just a few months later. Thank you to Arthur Blank and the team at Mercedes Benz stadium for allowing this to be possible.”
A product of Black American Music, Bottoms is the daughter of Major Lance, an R&B singer in the 1960s and 70s, who achieved over 20 hit records in the United States and the United Kingdom, including “The Monkey Time” and “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um.”
Lance was able to continue touring and performing at concerts until his death at the age of 55 in 1994.
After Bottoms’ words, Atlanta City Council members Andre Dickens and Antonio Brown led a presentation on behalf of the Atlanta City Council in honor of the occasion.
“As a native of Atlanta from Southwest Atlanta it’s good to see all of my favorite artists and entertainers here today gathered and all that you’ve done to make Atlanta a beacon of excellence in the music and entertainment industry,” Dickens said.
Located outside of the stadium, the attraction will populate the sidewalks of Northside Dr. and Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. in Vine City as a marker of history, and acknowledgment of accomplishments.
Each inductee received a 2×2 foot bronze emblem, designed by notable Atlanta-based artist DL Warfield, embedded into a 5×5 foot sidewalk slab. The emblems will go east up Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. approximately 60 yard from the corner of Northside Drive and MLK Jr. Drive.
Additionally, a QR system is being developed for patrons to learn the history of each inductee just by pointing their phone at each emblem. This is similar to the way QR codes are now frequently used in restaurants for menus and various businesses use QR codes to showcase their products.
“Hopefully, this thing stretches from there all the way to the state capitol at some point,” said Micahel Mauldin, chair of BAM and a 45 year entertainment veteran who started his career in the 70s in Atlanta.
Mauldin, a record executive and a former manager, served as President of Black Music at Columbia Records and was instrumental in the success of artists including Nas, Maxwell, the Fugees, Lauryn Hill, Destiny’s Child, Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys, while leading the company to over 230 million dollars in revenue.
Maudlin is also known for helping his son, Jermaine Dupri, establish Atlanta-based record label So So Def and managing artists like the group Xscape.
Mauldin continued, “We know that there’s a Walk of Fame in front of the Apollo [theater] in New York. But this is the one and only Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame in the country, and in the world that we know of. There are others that people are doing that are state or city Walk of Fame.”
Black American Music Association and Georgia Entertainment Caucus made the announcement of the creation of Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame last October at Mercedes Benz Stadium.
BAM founders Mauldin and Demmette Guidry, and GEC founders State Representative Erica Thomas and Catherine Brewton, serve as the founding managers of this walk of fame and are managers of the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame LLC.
The four founders and their two organizations were brought together by Brewton, Vice President, Creative at Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). A member of both organizations, she recommended that the two work together on this common initiative.
“We have an organization called the Black American Music Association. It is a 501(c)(6) trade organization, a membership organization. Very much like the Country Music Association,” Mauldin said. “We actually started in 2017 and was working to pull together people of the [music] industry and outside of the industry to build on. And then Catherine Brewton, who is an associate of mine, was added onto our executive team.”
“As we were discussing our initiatives for BAM and some of the things that we wanted to do, I was giving her the overview of the Walk of Fame idea and the fact prior to that there have been other conversations in other cities. Catherine said, ‘I’m in an organization in Atlanta called the Georgia Entertainment Caucus and we’ve been talking about doing the same thing in Georgia, having a walk of fame. So we should join forces.’”
Created to bridge the gap between entertainment and politics in Georgia, GEC members include Dallas Austin (songwriter and record producer), Chaka Zulu (Head of Artist and Talent Relations at Spotify), Sean Garrett (producer), Ryan Wilson (co-founder of The Gathering Spot), J. Carter (co-founder of One Music Fest), Ray Daniels (SVP of A&R at Warner Records), Stephanie Jester (philanthropist), Georgia Rep. Miriam Paris (D-Macon), Georgia Rep. Derrick Jackson (D-Tyrone), Georgia Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia), Georgia Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point), Georgia Rep Park Cannon (D-Atlanta), Georgia Rep. David Dreyer (D-Atlanta), Georgia Rep. Beth Moore (D-Peachtree Corners) former Georgia Rep. Craig J. Gordon (D-Savannah), along with Brewton and Thomas.
“We came to the conclusion to make sure that we were preserving history on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive by putting it in front of the Mercedes Benz Stadium,” Thomas said. It’s a high-traffic area where people are walking to and from games. It’s up and down the strip so we wanted to make sure that people are able to have a tourist spot that’s outdoors.”
“Georgia and Atlanta are the Black Mecca. We couldn’t go anywhere else to start this Walk of Fame off. When they called Atlanta ‘Black Hollywood’, we really had to take that metaphor and really engage and indulge in it. What else better to do that with then to install something that was previewed for years before us with the Hollywood Walk of Fame and put it in the Black Hollywood and it is important that the public will be able to see this on display.”
“We found a strong partnership with Mercedes Benz Stadium, which has been great at helping us execute this, being that we’re on the sidewalks right next to them,” Mauldin said. “As well as a Georgia World Congress center which owns the ground that the Mercedes Benz sets on.”
According to Mauldin, BMEWOF aims to induct 24-36 people in music and entertainment every year.
“We have a selection committee of 15 people that vote and decide on who is inducted. We don’t disclose who is on that committee but they’re all prominent men and women in entertainment, business and media,” Mauldin said.
To become a nominee or induction, each person must have at least a 20 year career in entertainment, though 35 years would be preferred.
Nominees will not be determined by sales or hit records, but by the impact that they’ve made within the Black Community and Black entertainment.
While currently, nominees are all music influencers, the Walk of Fame plans to also add Black actors, dancers, and other entertainers.
The list of nominees for this year’s induction started out with 130 names before being narrowed down to 38 nominees, but only 12 of those names became inductees.
However, the Walk of Fame already started to decide on the next group of inductees, with talks being on Monday, June 21, days after the inaugural induction ceremony.
The plan to announce the next group of nominees within the next 2-3 months.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms shares, “As it’s already been said, Atlanta is so much a part of our culture. There’s this great saying that Atlanta influences everything. In the same way that Altanta has influenced the Civil Rights Movement in American and we continue to set the bar.”