Allyship Recommendations: Ah-Mer-Ah-Su
Ah-Mer-Ah-Su is a Black trans woman from Oakland, California. She first gained recognition for her electronic-indie-pop music in 2016 following the release of her debut EP ‘Eclipsing’. Also included in her discography is critically acclaimed sophomore EP, ‘Rebecca’, and two full length albums, ‘Star’ and ‘Incandescent Body’. In 2018, 'Star’ was voted into that year’s Top 20 LGBT albums by Billboard Music. Her latest single, ‘Carry (I Don’t Wanna)' was released on all popular streaming services on 21st August, 2020.
I was at a Pride Festival in 2019, looking to fill some time before my friend’s favourite drag queen took to stage. We didn’t know many of the performers that day, but it was a rather delightful 30°C so we decided to sit on the grass by the main stage and watch the next artist perform. I did not anticipate those next twenty-five minutes to play host to the most powerful, moving set of the weekend.
Ah-Mer-Ah-Su’s performances were captivating from the offset, packed with emotion and visible passion, but they eloquently conveyed one clear message: Black Trans Women’s Lives Matter. Between songs, she spoke bluntly about the brutal reality of the unique hardships experienced by Black transgender women in America, paying tribute to each of the nine Black transgender women who had already been killed in the States in the first half of that year alone.
In celebration of 50 years since the Stonewall Rebellion, she also discussed and praised the frequently belittled roles of trailblazers, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. Truthfully, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I learnt more about queer history and the reality of the struggles experienced by LGBTQIA+ people who sit on particular intersections with other protected characteristics (specifically race and gender) during her short set than I had from either the education system or my own LGBTQIA+ community. ‘Powerful’ is actually an understatement.
I don’t believe for one second that most of us could conceive of a world without music, never-mind contemplate living in it. Music has always been an essential component of human existence. It’s like some sort of emotional oxygen; for many, it’s a source of hope and optimism, creating a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s no far-fetched exaggeration to assert that being able to relate to an artist’s experience that they portray through lyrics or a melody can, and does, save lives. It follows, therefore, that the explicit lack of transgender representation in the music industry is problematic and appalling.
Ah-Mer-Ah-Su’s musical success is contributing to the much-needed change in the industry. In particular, her debut LP, ‘STAR’, speaks candidly of her experience as a Black transgender woman. While tracks such as ‘Powerful’ and ‘Be Free’ echo sentiments of empowerment and celebration, in an interview with Billboard, Ah-Mer-Ah-Su went onto explain: ‘…my album isn’t just for transgender Black people. I want everyone to listen to this album and listen to a trans woman sing about her experience.’ The balance struck between inspiration and education enables Ah-Mer-Ah-Su to use her platform and her space in the industry not only to share her art and talent with the world, but also, to pave the way for a new generation of transgender artists in a traditionally cis-normative industry, and society.
Although Ah-Mer-Ah-Su’s live performances often seek to raise the profile of the trailblazers before her, I believe that she should be recognised as a trailblazer in her own right. I'd definitely recommend getting to a show once live music is back in action, but in the meantime, by clicking on the icons at the bottom you'll be taken to some Ah-Mer-Ah-Su tracks that you should absolutely check out.
Finally, I have kept this piece to a brief, descriptive overview to avoid the inclusion of any content that some readers may find distressing. That said, I've found Ah-Mer-Ah-Su to be a truly inspiring woman and would certainly encourage anybody who is interested in learning more about her to read her interview in i-D. You can reach this by clicking on the icon below. Trigger warning: transphobia, prescription drugs, suicide.
For a song to bop to:
Need You, Need Me
For an empowering anthem:
For a tongue-in-cheek nod at white female privilege:
For something brand new:
Carry (I Don’t Wanna)