Goldenvoice Launches New Inclusion Initiatives for Coachella

Goldenvoice Launches New Inclusion Initiatives for Coachella

After a two-year absence, Coachella is back with a renewed focus on making the top-tier festival an inclusive space. This year’s festival will feature two new initiatives for queer and disabled BIPOC folk spearheaded by the Goldenvoice Black employee collective GV Black. In addition, the festival is expanding its “everyone” space launched in 2019 that provides solitude and shelter for those looking for calm out in the Empire Polo Club in Southern California.

GV Black is a group of Goldenvoice employees organically founded in 2017 that now serves as a resource at the Southern California-based promoter to guide the venues, festivals and company forward in the mission to expand on racial justice work. Since its inception, GV Black has implemented ways to incorporate more Black vendors, employee formerly incarcerated people of color and develop career pipelines at HBCUs, trade schools and other BIPOC career-preparatory organizations.

The collective’s mission this April is to begin addressing the lack of diversity and disabled BIPOC representation, in addition to providing financial and career opportunities for participants. This March, Goldenvoice announced a series of initiatives to help elevate the festival experience and futures of LGBTQ+, disabled and BIPOC individuals under the GV Black umbrella with Queer+ and Accessible+, as well as amplifying Black creatives by bringing them into the festival’s merchandising ecosystem.

“With COVID and the pandemic, we haven’t been able to implement our initiatives at our festivals and at our venues,” says Goldenvoice vp of ticketing and GV Black member Rhea Roberts-Johnson. “The focus in 2022 is implementation. One of the initiatives we are really focused on is lifting Black designers.”

This year’s Coachella — happening from April 15-17 and 22-24 in Indio, California — will feature The Boutique powered by GV Black with six Black designers and brands from Southern California. Each designer has been commissioned to create an exclusive capsule collection or limited/exclusive selection for Coachella that will be available in the boutique and have been commissioned to create this year’s merchandise. Designers include South Central’s Brick & Wood, family-owned luxury brand BWNSTNE, Southern California brand Nicholas Mayfield Over Everything, Downtown LA’s Skid Row Fashion Week, LA collective Supervsn, and Diana Boardley – the first Black woman collaborating with the major music festival.

Another first for the festival is Q+ — the LGBTQ+ initiative for BIPOC community — which includes an exclusive space on the festival grounds called HeadQ+arters curated by designer Juice Huskey, who, along with her sibling sent a letter to the festival in 2019 via the American Civil Liberties Union about discrimination they faced entering bathrooms due to their gender identity at the festival. In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Coachella producers called the Huskeys’ experience “unacceptable” and said the festival is “taking deliberate steps to ensure that this does not happen to anyone else.” Goldenvoice employees have received training on issues – including affirming gender identity – on an ongoing basis to alleviate uncomfortable or hostile interactions like those the Huskey siblings faced.

HeadQ+arters will be a social space within the festival grounds for queer BIPOC individuals. Folks will have the ability to step away from the broader festival to provide or view photo and testimonial opportunities, as well as take part in interactive, inspirational, and archival art projects.

Q+amp will also see its debut in 2022. The onsite empowerment camp selected 20 individuals out of more than 180 who applied to have camping and boarding accommodations, as well as VIP access across the festival and direct opportunities to connect with queer and BIPOC leaders of the festival.

“The Q+amp program is this radical feminist queer experiment of doing an inclusion but empowerment camp, providing some people an opportunity to use the festival in order to uplift their own creative endeavors,” says Donavion “Navi” Huskey, who, along with their sibling Juice, were asked to partner with Goldenvioce on the Q+ space so no LGBTQ+ folks faced the same difficulties with bathrooms or other issues that they did in 2018.

The first cohort of Q+ampers include BIPOC folks with political aspirations, writers, musicians and those wanting to get involved in live events. According to Navi, those chosen “exuded queer joy” and have “hyper visibility” that inspires others to showcase their authentic selves while having a good time in the desert.

“I was looking for bad bitches,” says Juice. “I was looking for people I thought would be great ambassadors for the future of the BIPOC queer space. When you look at that person you’re like, ‘dang, I need to step my p*ssy up.’”

Inclusivity at this year’s festival also features Accessible+ or A+, an initiative created in partnership with GV Black and the California non-profit Accessible Festivals, dedicated to making live music and recreational events fully accessible for people of all abilities. The program is designed for BIPOC folks with disabilities who have never been to Coachella before and providing them with the complete VIP experience along with job seminars for employment in the music industry, artist engagement including exclusive conversations and more.

“It is specifically geared to make sure BIPOC folks with disabilities can leave the festival and have something tangible” and “see where you fit in the music industry, especially the live music and festival industry,” says Accessible+ program producer and disabled DJ Sabeerah Najee. Najee, as a Black female DJ, has worked on issues around race and disability in the music industry including teaming up with nonprofit Accessible Festivals. “The opportunities that I have been given, I want to be able to provide that for somebody else.”

Accessible+ includes job shadowing at the festival, collaboration on A+ programming and provides opportunities for careers in live music. Spearheaded by Najee and Coachella’s ADA compliance director Austin Whitney of Accessible Festivals and will welcome 20 BIPOC individuals (130 people applied) who have mobility, auditory, visual, cognitive, neurological, dietary or developmental disabilities.

“Over at Coachella, we actually have probably the largest ADA compliance operation of any event in the United States,” says Whitney, who adds that the festival welcomes more than 1,000 guests with disabilities over the two weekends.

Whitney says he attended his first Coachella at the age of 19, shortly after getting into a car accident that put him in a wheelchair. At that moment, he says, the festival was something to look forward to, but adds that the goal for A+ is “to build a program where the effects aren’t limited to the weekend and would have long-term impacts.”

Whitney adds that Coachella is essentially a “blank canvas” every year since it’s a giant field that holds only a few permanent structures, which allows Goldenvoice learn how to best improve the festival experience for disabled people every year. All three of the new initiatives this year will not only serve those who attend 2022, but provide valuable firsthand information from participants on how to continue creating the most inclusive festival.

Coachella brings 250,000 attendees plus staff out to the desert over two weekends and Whitney believes there is someone on site in industry fields who can provide career advice. The same program was run at Goldenvoice’s Las Vegas festival Day’N’Vegas for the first time last year, where employees broke down what they wish they had known when entering the live music industry and more.

An additional goal of these initiatives, according to GV Black member and Goldenvoice marketing manager Chrystal Anderson, is to hire more people from the BIPOC, queer and disabled communities at Goldenvoice.

“We need more BIPOC individuals with disabilities working in [live entertainment] and this is a pathway to that,” Whitney adds.

In 2019, Coachella also implemented its first “every one” space to support mental health and prevent harassment at the festival and in 2022 the space will expand to provide a place to recharge, rest and find a quiet moment. The enclosed every one tent will be staffed with trained counselors for those seeking safety, shelter or someone to talk to and trained staff will be deployed throughout the festival grounds to facilitate access to care services for anyone in distress.

After two years of the collective trauma of a global pandemic, Veline Mojarro and Paula Helu-Brown, who run every one, know that people are headed to the festival to let go and have a good time.

“Some of us are going to be out there surrounded by people for the very first time and we expect a lot of things to come up for everyone,” says Helu-Brown. “Knowing that there’s a place where they can come and rest and seek that space of calm, that’s one of the reasons that we are out there this year.”

For many years, Coachella has been a top-tier festival known for its surprise special guests and epic performances, and GV Black hopes to once again set the standard.

“We recognize that this work is ever evolving and it might look different in two years,” says Anderson. It is about staying “tapped into what the needs are, what we don’t see, what we’d like to see, what worked, what didn’t work – keeping our thumb on the pulse of how do we make this industry, this company, this festival more inclusive.”

Goldenvoice Launches New Inclusion Initiatives for Coachella After a two-year absence, Coachella is back with a renewed focus on making the top-tier festival an inclusive space. This year’s festival will feature two new initiatives for queer and disabled BIPOC folk spearheaded by the Goldenvoice Black employee collective GV Black. In addition, the festival is expanding its…