Kadeem France Mark Unthank 2020
Features

Loathe’s Kadeem France: It’s important for me to let black fans know they’re welcome… A show is a safe space where everyone is equal”

Loathe vocalist Kadeem France on the Black Lives Matter movement and his experiences of being a black musician in the metal scene

To see people discussing these issues in the media and on social media has been amazing. But at the same time it’s really draining because it’s so painful to see videos of black people being killed, and it brings up all kinds of emotions. I haven’t been subjected to violence when Loathe have been out on tour, but there have been remarks made by people we’ve come across. My bandmates have seen it and used their voices, and white privilege, to help me out by denouncing that behaviour. The truth is: I don’t really associate myself with people that aren’t aware of these issues, or stand up for me in these scenarios. 

I’ve been chased on my way to school and had to run to avoid people who want to hurt me purely because of how I look, which isn’t something many white people ever have to deal with. I’ve experienced more subtle racism, too. I’ve been to job interviews in which the person interviewing me has noted that I’m from Toxteth, a very black area in Liverpool, and said: You’re well spoken for someone from Toxteth.’ 

I’ve had experiences with police literally every time I’ve been to America. On our first tour, we were in Alabama, and our driver was Egyptian and I’m black. We went to a petrol station and the driver went in, and ended up being in there for about 40 minutes. I had to go and check what had happened, and the lady behind the counter was refusing to give him a refund after a mistake with some charges. He was refusing to leave and she threatened to call the police and saying, I’m going to tell them you’re harassing me.’ She knew exactly what she was doing. My heart was racing. It got sorted but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d been genuinely scared for my life during that period. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. And it’s not just in America; it’s a global problem.

Not many people where I lived growing up were listening to heavy music, so I was seen as a little bit of a weirdo. I remember playing Guitar Hero and discovering Cult Of Personality by Living Colour. I loved the song and wanted to find out more about the band that made it, which is when I found out they were all black. It blew my mind and made me feel more comfortable listening to alternative music, because I knew there were black artists making it. Howard Jones from Killswitch Engage was obviously a huge influence too, paving the way and showing that black artists were stepping up.

I’d go to a lot of gigs and would often find myself the only black person there. If you saw another black or brown person at a gig, you’d instantly make a connection, which you remember forever because you realise you’re not alone. I know Dani from Neck Deep has mentioned how he and I met, as strangers, in a mosh-pit at a Kerrang! Tour gig and gave each other the biggest hug.

I’m happy to be in a band now, because that means I’m in a position to be able to make black people who come to these shows feel comfortable – the way I was made to feel comfortable by seeing other people of colour at gigs. I went live on Instagram recently and connected with this black guy we met at a show on our first tour in America when we were opening. He told me he was really nervous about going to the show, as he never sees any other black people, and he walked in and the first person he saw was me up onstage. He said that made him feel at home, which was so overwhelming for me to hear. I will always ensure I make that connection with black fans at our shows. It’s not that I value them more highly than white fans, but it’s important for me to let black fans know they’re welcome, and that a show is a safe space where everyone is equal.

I had a long conversation with a friend recently about how there aren’t many black voices in the metal scene, and how I should use my voice and my platform. The band recently did a Black Lives Matter T‑shirt, with all proceeds going to the George Floyd Memorial Fund and the Black Lives Matter movement [currently raising over £6,000]. That’s the first time we’ve ever done anything like that, and it’s been hard to know where to start and where I can be useful, but I’m determined to help bring about change.

Wondering how you can make a difference?

• Donate to George Floyd’s memorial fund.
Fight for Breonna Taylor, a first responder who was killed in her bed by police searching for drugs that were never found.
Help the family of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was shot while jogging.
• Donate to the community bail funds of protestors.
• Head over to Movement For Black Lives.
Connect with leaders building grassroots campaigns.
• And check out these anti-racism resources.

Posted on June 22nd 2020, 12:00p.m.
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