black opry 1The Black Country Music Association—founded by performer Cleve Francis in 1995 and led by songwriter and performer Frankie Staton since 1996—built community, hosted showcases in Nashville, and educated fans about country music’s Black performers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Black Opry continues that work, spotlighting Black Americana, blues, country, and folk artists and connecting Black fans. Founded in April 2021 by Holly G, a country music fan from Virginia, the organization has grown into a national performance series, the Black Opry Revue, and is now run by Holly and her co-director, Tanner Davenport. During this program, Davenport, Holly G, and Staton will discuss their organizations’ histories, their impact within the music industry, and their future goals. The program, hosted by the Museum’s Angela Stefano Zimmer, will also feature performances from Denitia, Valierie Ellis Hawkins, Staton, and Joe West. Denitia, originally from the Houston area, began playing piano at age five, then picked up saxophone, trumpet, and guitar. Her music combines elements of the music she learned in church as a child with traditional roots music and the alt-rock she grew up on. Described by the Nashville Scene as “a radiant, bell-toned singer à la Suzy Bogguss,” Ashland City, Tennessee, native Valierie Ellis Hawkins grew up singing in church. Her music celebrates her southern roots and is influenced by a range of artists including Country Music Hall of Fame members the Judds, Loretta Lynn, and Don Williams. Joe West, the son of country performers Sarge and Shirley West, was raised on blues, traditional country, folk, jazz, and rock music. He has performed with both the Black Country Music Association and the Black Opry, as well as at numerous Nashville listening rooms and honky-tonks. Offered in support of American Currents: State of the Music. Ford Theater. Included with Museum admission. Program ticket required. Free to Museum members.

CLICK HERE for more information & ticket purchases

Valierie had the honor of taking part in this collaboration set between The Black Opry and The Black Country Music Association will follow the opening of an exhibit in the country music hall of fame that honors both organizations and we are really excited to celebrate that milestone with this special show!

To be part of a movement that could change many artists lives is truly an honor. I was able to share my story with Nashville Music Equality (NME) on February 24th, 2021, and become part of a conversation to help recognize the issues of diversity. Our stories began with having the door cracked to country music, but never left wide open so we could step inside. As the development of the Black Country Music Association (BCMA) grew, we were able to connect with those with similar stories, which later developed into a support group and since then has transformed into a family. 

February 23, 2021 by Melinda Newman  Article Link

Black Country Artists From the '90s Share Their Stories: 'It Was a Very Lonely Journey

I want to thank Billboard Media and Melinda Newman for covering our story from the 90's looking back and invite you to read the article and support Billboard Media.  It was an honor to participate on the program and share my story. 

- Valierie Ellis Hawkins, Country Singer - Songwriter

If you want to hear the entire program itself, the #nashvillemusicequality zoom meeting recording link is here


Really proud of the press my friend Frankie Staton is getting.  The recent article on News 4 Nashville is simply fantastic covering her love of music and how she used it to bring change to country music becoming the force in 1997 behind the first Black Country Music Association.  Frankie is an amazing musician and you can catch her playing at gigs such as Bella Notte at City Cafe in Brentwood.  I want to thank Forrest Sanders at News 4 Nashville for doing such a superb job of writing:  The story of Frankie Staton and the Black Country Music Association | Read the entire article.  Link Here

For more on Frankie Staton:



Image of Frankie courtesy of Frankie :) - Valierie Ellis Hawkins, Country Singer & Songwriter


by Lorie Hollanbaugh, Music Row *LINK HERE

I want to thank Music Row for including information about our upcoming Nashville Music Equality in-depth Zoom discussion with the founders of the Black Country Music Association.  I am proud to be participating with Ms. Frankie Staton and Dr. Cleve Francis.  The event was hosteed by #nashvillemusicequality on February 23, 2021.  AR by Lorie Hollabaugh



I had the pleasure of meeting these sweet girls at a fan fair. I absolutely love getting to meet my fans. It is such an honor to know that you all listen to and enjoy my music from the smallest of fans to the eldest. If you get the chance to attend a fan fair, I highly encourage it. I would be so honored to get to know you and hear your favorite song!

- Valierie Ellis Hawkins, Country Singer & Songwriter


frankie staton and valierie ellis hawkins

One of my greatest moments in this path to where I am now is meeting and becoming so close to Frankie Staton who is the backbone of BCMA.  This woman is the epitome of strength, courage, vision, and Christian love.  I am grateful to have her in my life and now to be able to share some of her story in country music history!

The Nashville Scene article was an amazing example of her historic path titled Why Haven't We Had a Black Woman Country Star by Andrea Williams on August 6th, 2020.  

- Valierie Ellis Hawkins, Country Singer & Songwriter



A Good Year, African-Americans get more visibility Bill Friskics-Warren and Ron Wynn Feb 26, 1998

That Ain't My Song on the Jukebox Is Music Row ready for black country singers? Bill Friskics-Warren Aug 28, 1997

Remember the days when quality country ballads were a dime a dozen? Classic country artists of the late ‘90s and early 2000s spoiled us with a multitude of timeless gems. The modern-day country suffers from bland songs with the same wash, rinse and repeat the formula, which is evident in the genre’s desperation for a saving grace from crossover artists in the Americana, pop, indie folk, southern rock, and singer-songwriter genres such as Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Kacey Musgraves, Margo Price, Maren Morris, Caitlyn Smith, and Faye Webster. As country music receives a helping hand from alternative country artists, it is refreshing when the twang-soaked voice comes into the spotlight.

Enter country music’s new beacon, Valierie Ellis Hawkins, a purebred neotraditional country singer with a voice that is unparalleled in the realm of contemporary country. Drawing comparisons to a generational talent like Hawkins requires deep digging in the country music canon and name-dropping heavyweights such as Trisha Yearwood. When a new singer seamlessly delivers a sound that warrants nods to country pioneers, it comes as no surprise that a debut from a voice as distinct as Hawkins' can pierce listeners more deeply than most modern-day country singers’ magnum opus ever will. And what is a more profound introduction to Hawkins than “Colorblind,” a feel-good song about love transcending race sung by a female who subverts the country music archetype?

Written by Tom Botkin and Noel Bohannon, “Colorblind” is a the song that will restore lost hope in the hearts of country purists while simultaneously challenging the genre to protect the integrity of its music from the gatekeepers who devalued it. As the subtle acoustic guitar and hushed percussion drive “Colorblind”’s classic country sound, Hawkins' country roots resonate profoundly in her voice. Before she finishes singing the opening line in the first verse, anyone listening will feel a sudden urge to teleport to the rural area in Tennessee where Hawkins has lived her entire life, persuaded that a sound this comforting can only be found in a quaint neighborhood in the South. When a voice packed with this much undeniable southern charm is paired with the refreshing lyricism that a genre has longed to see more of since its creation, it is impossible to ignore the track’s appeal.

The most moving element of this song could be its message about unconditional love, or maybe the song’s potency lies in its chosen messenger as much as the message itself. Hawkins sings, “Soon he’s turning ninety. She’s pushing eighty-nine. I guess their friends were wrong. It’s been a wonderful life.” It’s lines like these – sung by someone who not only admires the song’s ideals but also exemplifies them – that have the power to restore anyone’s faith in humanity despite the world’s current state of civil unrest. With a country voice as authentic as the singer’s connection to the song’s love story, very few contemporary country songs strike a level of poignance as deep as “Colorblind” does.


Colorblind by Valierie Ellis Hawkins
Release Date:   October 18, 2020
Tom Botkin: songwriter
Noel Bohannon: songwriter
Mike Rogers: producer, guitar, percussion, backup vocals, piano
Botkin Music (BMI)

PHOTO:  John Manuel, Valierie Ellis Hawkins, Frankie Staton, and Chris Dominic (from left) at the Black Country Music Association booth during Fan Fair in 2002. Courtesy of Frankie Staton

It is was an absolute honor to talk with Rolling Stone about my journey in country music with their November 11, 2020 feature: Fighting to Be Heard: The Story of the Black Country Music Association. Written by Jonathan Bernstein, this article covers the inception and history of the BCMA which was instrumental in helping many great musicians join their voices in Nashville. There's no doubt that participating in that program helped shape who I am.


I encourage you to read the entire article from RollingStone and I want to thank them for including me in the feature.  Jonathan Bernstein did an amazing job capturing a time in our history and bringing it back to life.  My Thanks ~ Valierie Ellis Hawkins



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