There’s strumming, there’s singing, and then, there is truth telling. Singer-songwriter Autumn Nicholas is used to weaving a beautiful tapestry of all three, using what Billboard Magazine calls ‘stellar pop/R&B sound’ to “tackle the issues that are important to her head-on.” For Autumn, songwriting is far deeper than a cerebral endeavor, however. She creates art with her whole heart, and that includes her new “Who We Are” music video, launching today in collaboration with The Diversity Movement (TDM).
The Diversity Movement learned about Autumn after her 2020 release, “Side by Side,” which she produced for the local non-profit, Band Together. A queer, biracial, award-winning artist and performer, Autumn writes and sings about diverse causes. Many of her messages center around belonging, acceptance, and equal rights, so she felt like a natural partner to help communicate TDM’s vision of a diverse and inclusive society — one where every person feels safe to be their authentic self and to fully contribute at work, at play, in their communities, and in their families.
“I wanted to be a part of this project because I’m already about that in my songwriting style and in the way that I want to carry my career forward. We can connect people uniquely in diversity,” she says.
The current cultural climate has been a catalyst for Autumn, who feels inspired by recent LGBTQ+ marches, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the AudioFemme music project. What Autumn says she saw in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic was people’s natural propensity to succumb to fear but also their resolve, resilience, and humanity.
She uses her songwriting to leverage — and inspire — our collective capacity for change. In “Who We Are,” she inspires listeners to embrace the natural spectrum of human difference and “put the work in” to create a more inclusive culture.
It takes some courage and a little bit of unknown.
“I love the line that says ‘it takes some courage and a little bit of unknown’ because I think that’s what we lack,” says Autumn. “It’s usually fear that acts as our own personal bully. It keeps us in a space where we just don’t say anything. Even if we really want to speak up, the fear stops us. But I feel like this song takes people to that next level, helping them create courage.”
The layers of Autumn’s own identity have informed her understanding of human capacities for kindness, growth, and change. She says it was her blended upbringing that helped her understand “difference is perfectly normal.” Indeed, this lyrical tribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is an acknowledgement of everyone’s right to be who they are.
Beyond race and gender: highlighting multiple dimensions of diversity
In the “Who We Are” music video, Autumn’s words set the stage for a beautiful, human kaleidoscope of multicultural, multigenerational people, most of whom are friends, family, or colleagues of The Diversity Movement’s internal team. The video also includes cameos from the NC Courage soccer team, local artist King Nobuyoshi Godwin, and Durham’s own paralympian Desmond Jackson.
The video’s director, Melanie Sanders of Walk West, saw to it that Autumn’s words were reflected through the faces and experiences of the people showcased. She sourced talent through personal community networks to highlight the fact that — although different in age, ability, ethnicity, religion, race, appearance, gender, and more — each person in the video is connected to the others through just a few degrees.
This process was deeply intentional. Proximity breeds empathy after all, so inclusion and personal connection are intricately linked.
Throughout the process of interviewing and selecting people who would be featured in the video, Melanie said she kept multiple dimensions of diversity always at the center of her mind. “Oftentimes, people think diversity ends at race, gender, and the LGBTQ+ community. We wanted to go beyond what is expected and highlight more dimensions of diversity: the joy of aging, a brilliant artist who has autism, even one beautiful child who has Heterochromia,” she says. “ There are so many amazing people featured in this video because diversity comes in so many forms, each of which should be celebrated and embraced.”
By choosing to connect and align with organizations that reflect their shared values, Autumn, Melanie, and The Diversity Movement are modeling what they teach: collaboration, creativity, and mutual respect.
As The Diversity Movement’s CEO Donald Thompson explains, “the biggest key to inclusion is understanding and believing that every person deserves to feel welcome, accepted, and encouraged to grow. After all, it’s our differences that make us interesting.”
In Autumn’s words, “we are seeing that people as humans should be treated equally. Diversity makes people beautiful.” And in this case, it certainly made for one beautiful music video.