Update (July 10, 2020): Anita White, a Seattle blues singer who has gone by the stage name Lady A for decades, is now facing a lawsuit from the chart-topping country band formerly known as Lady Antebellum.
As Blavity previously reported, the dispute kicked off last month after White, who is Black, criticized the white band members for changing their name to Lady A despite her longtime use of the moniker.
In multiple lengthy social media posts and magazine profiles at the height of Black Lives Matter protests, band members Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and David Haywood said they wanted to address the problematic nature of their band name by changing it to Lady A, according to Vulture.
White immediately took to social media to share her thoughts on the name change and its irony.
Initially, a spokesperson for the band said they would contact White to work out the potential legal issues around sharing her name. The two sides held Zoom meetings that the band shared on Twitter.
Today, we connected privately with the artist Lady A. Transparent, honest, and authentic conversations were had. We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground. The hurt is turning into hope. More to come.#LadyABluesSoulFunkGospelArtist
— Lady A (@ladya) June 15, 2020
But on Wednesday, the band released a statement that said it was suing White for the name, according to Pitchfork. They filed the lawsuit in Nashville, Tennessee, writing that the band has had a trademark on the name “Lady A” since 2010. According to Vulture, the lawsuit states White is trying to “enforce purported trademarks rights in a mark that Plaintiffs have held for more than a decade.”
White has been performing as Lady A since 1987 but never trademarked the name, according to Cosmopolitan.
“Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended. She and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years. It was a stirring in our hearts and reflection on our own blindspots that led us to announce a few weeks ago that we were dropping the word ‘Antebellum’ from our name and moving forward using only the name so many of our fans already knew us by,” the group said in a statement to Pitchfork.
“When we learned that Ms. White had also been performing under the name Lady A, we had heartfelt discussions with her about how we can all come together and make something special and beautiful out of this moment. We never even entertained the idea that she shouldn’t also be able to use the name Lady A, and never will—today’s action doesn’t change that,” the band added.
The statement went on to say the band members “hope Anita and the advisers she is now listening to will change their minds about their approach. We can do so much more together than in this dispute.”
By Thursday, White responded to the lawsuit herself, telling Vulture that the band was being disingenuous.
“I think they always knew what they were gonna do,” she said in a phone call.
White went on to explain that she quickly realized in speaking with the band members that they only viewed the situation as a public relations stunt and were not actually interested in meeting her halfway. She said they suggested recording a song with her and repeatedly asked to take a photo they could post to social media. They also wanted to record a documentary of them working with her.
But when it came time to discuss the actual issues over the name, the band would not budge.
“The first contract they sent [on June 30] had no substance. It said that we would coexist and that they would use their best efforts to assist me on social media platforms, Amazon, iTunes, all that. But what does that mean? I had suggested on the Zoom call that they go by the Band Lady A, or Lady A the Band, and I could be Lady A the Artist, but they didn’t want to do that,” she told Vulture.
As the two sides continued negotiating, White said the band was already changing all of its branding and music over to the Lady A name, knocking White out of the Google rankings and pushing her even further into obscurity.
“I attempted to upload my single [on independent distribution service DistroKid] and couldn’t verify my name, Lady A. It finally went through and now I’m just waiting until my July release to see if my single will be buried,” White said.
White explained that she wanted the $10 million so that she would be able to rebrand herself, considering the band was already knee-deep in using the name. She planned to use $5 million for herself and donate the other half to Black charities and causes.
“I was quiet for two weeks because I was trying to believe that it was going to be okay and that they would realize that it would be easier to just change their name, or pay me for my name. Five million dollars is nothing, and I’m actually worth more than that, regardless of what they think. But here we go again with another white person trying to take something from a Black person, even though they say they’re trying to help. If you want to be an advocate or an ally, you help those who you’re oppressing. And that might require you to give up something because I am not going to be erased,” White told Vulture.
On Friday, White shared an op-ed on Rolling Stone where she explained her stance further and said she was enraged that the band was trying to portray her as an “angry Black woman.”
“They claim to be allies and that they wanted to change their name out of the racist connotation, and then they sue a black woman for the new name. Hillary kept calling my producer in Jackson, Mississippi wanting to talk to me. When I talked to her, she immediately went into tears. She was apologizing saying she didn’t mean to cause any harm. I asked about changing the name to Lady A and told her it still has the same racist connotation since it’s just an abbreviation. How do you change that, I’d asked, and she never answered,” White said.
“I’m not going to stop doing what I’m doing, but I’m not going to allow you to take something from me. I didn’t ask them to pay for it, but if you’re going to go that far and just disregard me altogether, then yes, I want to be compensated for it because I think they’re wrong. They do this to make me look bad, like I’m just out for the money. I didn’t need their money before. I have a job that I’m retiring from, and I have music that I do. My life was happy before I met them,” she added.
Original (June 23, 2020): Anita White, also known as Lady A, has been a blues singer in Seattle for almost two decades. But since southern white band Lady Antebellum changed their name to Lady A as well, White has spoken out about the problems it has caused her.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, White was not happy when asked about the band, who wrote on Instagram last week they were changing their name because they were not aware of how the word "antebellum" had "associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before The Civil War, which includes slavery."
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Dear Fans, As a band, we have strived for our music to be a refuge…inclusive of all. We’ve watched and listened more than ever these last few weeks, and our hearts have been stirred with conviction, our eyes opened wide to the injustices, inequality and biases Black women and men have always faced and continue to face everyday. Now, blindspots we didn’t even know existed have been revealed. After much personal reflection, band discussion, prayer and many honest conversations with some of our closest Black friends and colleagues, we have decided to drop the word “antebellum” from our name and move forward as Lady A, the nickname our fans gave us almost from the start. When we set out together almost 14 years ago, we named our band after the southern “antebellum” style home where we took our first photos. As musicians, it reminded us of all the music born in the south that influenced us…Southern Rock, Blues, R&B, Gospel and of course Country. But we are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before The Civil War, which includes slavery. We are deeply sorry for the hurt this has caused and for anyone who has felt unsafe, unseen or unvalued. Causing pain was never our hearts’ intention, but it doesn’t change the fact that indeed, it did just that. So today, we speak up and make a change. We hope you will dig in and join us. We feel like we have been Awakened, but this is just one step. There are countless more that need to be taken. We want to do better. We are committed to examining our individual and collective impact and making the necessary changes to practice antiracism. We will continue to educate ourselves, have hard conversations and search the parts of our hearts that need pruning—to grow into better humans, better neighbors. Our next outward step will be a donation to the Equal Justice Initiative through LadyAID. Our prayer is that if we lead by example…with humility, love, empathy and action…we can be better allies to those suffering from spoken and unspoken injustices, while influencing our children & generations to come.
"After much personal reflection, band discussion, prayer and many honest conversations with some of our closest Black friends and colleagues, we have decided to drop the word 'antebellum' from our name and move forward as Lady A, the nickname our fans gave us almost from the start," the band wrote on Instagram.
"When we set out together almost 14 years ago, we named our band after the southern 'antebellum' style home where we took our first photos. As musicians, it reminded us of all the music born in the south that influenced us…Southern Rock, Blues, R&B, Gospel and of course Country," the captioned continued.
They have already changed their name on most platforms to Lady A, including their website, social media accounts and streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.
While fans lauded them for the change, others criticized the move. Some called it pandering, while others questioned how it could have taken them so long to realize that the word "antebellum" was permanently connected to southern nostalgia of the Civil War.
But most people highlighted what the change would mean for White.
So… Lady Antebellum changes their name to Lady A, and in so doing completely ignores and overshadows a Black performer who has gone by that name for 2 decades.
You literally could not find a more perfect example of "performative wokeness" if you tried. https://t.co/vLnEIzg2N0
— Brian Gray (@urbanbohemian) June 12, 2020
White and her fans have criticized the move because it essentially amounts to the theft of a name she has been performing under for decades.
She has released multiple albums under the name and continues to perform, with a new album scheduled for release on July 18.
"This is my life. Lady A is my brand, I’ve used it for over 20 years, and I’m proud of what I’ve done. This is too much right now. They’re using the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time. If it mattered, it would have mattered to them before," she told Rolling Stone.
"It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize that their name had a slave reference to it. It’s an opportunity for them to pretend they’re not racist or pretend this means something to them. If it did, they would’ve done some research. And I’m not happy about that. You found me on Spotify easily — why couldn’t they?” White added.
It is unclear what happens now, and White said she was worried she would be hit with a cease-and-desist order. But she told Rolling Stone she would not stop using her name and that it was offensive for the band to not even reach out before making the switch.
Rolling Stone contacted the band, who said they would reach out to White now that they know she exists.
That did not stop White from slamming the band.
On Instagram, she shared the Rolling Stone article and captioned the post with, "How can you say Black Lives Matter and put your knee on the neck of another Black artist? I'm not mad..I am however not giving up my name, my brand I worked hard for."
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@ladyantebellumofficial How can you say Black Lives Matter and put your knee on the neck of another Black artist? I'm not mad..I am however not giving up my name, my brand I worked hard for. #GodWillFightMyBattle #TheRealLadyA #LadyABluesSoulFunkGospelArtist #TheTruthIsLoud
"I’m not going to lay down and let this happen to me. But now the burden of proof is on me to prove that my name is in fact mine, and I don’t even know how much I’ll have to spend to keep it,” White said.