Anita White has been performing as Lady A for more than a decade. She grew up in Seattle singing in her church’s youth choir. Today, Lady A is a worldwide performer, singing what she calls her “partyable” neo-blues for audiences from Seattle to Sweden.

In June, the country band Lady Antebellum announced that it would drop the “Antebellum” in its name and from now on call itself Lady A.

After initial discussions between White and the band broke down, the band filed a lawsuit in federal court in Tennessee against White, asking a court to define and affirm its right to use the Lady A name. The group believes that they both can exist and succeed as Lady A: one, a Grammy award-winning, all-White country band; and the other, a Black woman who has spent years developing her brand as Lady A.

The band announced it had decided to change its name after its members’ eyes were “opened wide to the injustices, inequality and biases black women and men have always faced.”

But the band members’ suit suggests they still don’t get it.

In the meantime, the suit has left Lady A — who describes herself as “the hardest-working woman in blues, soul, funk and gospel” — in a difficult spot. We spoke by phone late last month.

Initial thoughts on the band

I had heard of them because whenever I Google myself, Lady Antebellum was first and [I] was right under them, so I knew they were there. But, they had not released one song as Lady A so there was no reason for me to reach out to them.

I have followers just like they have followers. I tour just like they tour. Just because I don't have 40,000 followers doesn't make my work experience, my artistry, my music or my musical family any less relevant than theirs. It just means that I didn't get the break that they got.

On the importance of standing up

Black people, indigenous people of this land especially, and people of color have always had our culture, our names, our lives, our language, our experiences taken from us, appropriated by Whites. It’s always been that way. Sometimes all we have is our name.

On being a better ally

Stop taking from us just because you can. Sometimes being an ally requires that you give up something. Because we’ve given up a lot in this country. And sometimes it requires that you give up something in order to be an ally. It requires you to help those who have been oppressed.

On why this matters

I think it’s important that I not disappoint my ancestors. It is important that we pass down empowerment and not being afraid. I’m not afraid of Lady Antebellum or their lawyers. I will stand strong in what I believe, and I believe they need to change their name. Because I stand on broad shoulders of beautiful, amazing Black women and men.

On changing “Antebellum” to “A”

You can't be halfway woke.

If you’re going to be an ally, be an ally. Put action behind your words. They made this public statement, and so I think I need to hold their feet to the fire on this. Because shortening it to Lady A does not make it less racist.

I’ve lived through racism. I still encounter racism to this day. I would rather they be honest. Come out and say “Black lives really don’t matter to you,” and you can keep the name.

On coexistence as a compromise

No, there is no coexistence. My whole thing from the beginning was: How do we coexist? You can’t have two Lady A’s. I asked them explain it to me three times. They didn’t respond. ...

I said, “You’re going to bury me on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.” And that’s exactly what they’ve done. The only way to get my music is to go to my website.

It’s my brand. People know me by Lady A. I worked hard to get where I am. So, if you think that I’m going to allow you to come in and just disrespect Black, indigenous people of this land and people of color, I’m not going to do that. You don’t get to disrespect us that way.

On how the experience has affected her spiritually and mentally

Thank you so much for asking that question. I don't think anybody's asked me that. For one thing spiritually, I believe that I'm in this position for a reason. So, I believe that God has placed me in this position because it's my season. It is my season to help somebody else. I believe that I'm here to stand up.

Is the situation easy? No. It has been a roller coaster.

On what’s next

It’s time that White people step up and start talking about race. They need to talk to little children about race, the way Black people get talked to about race. I believe the conversations and communication are important in order to combat any difficulty that you might run into it. But racism needs to be handled by White people and we need them to start being allies, which is why I have this passion around the fact that Lady Antebellum needs to completely change their name.

I’m also working on some new music for my CD for next year. These last three weeks? I haven’t been able to do anything like that. I’m anxious to get back to my music. They’ve interrupted my life a little bit. But, like I said, I believe God has placed me here for a reason, and I will be victorious. I’m letting my lawyers handle everything from here. I got stuff to do right now.

Read more: