(Reuters) - Civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Friday urged Grammy organizers to reinstate 31 ethnic and minority musical categories that have been cut from the music industry's top awards.
In a letter to Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, sent three weeks before the February 12 Grammy Awards show, Jackson said the elimination of awards for Native American and Hawaiian musicians, and cuts in Latin Jazz, R&B and other categories were ill-considered and unfair.
Jackson said some of the categories dropped by the Recording Academy in a major overhaul last year "constitute the very heart of the music that nourishes and inspires minority communities."
Writing on behalf of the Rainbow Push Coalition of U.S. civil rights groups, Jackson called for an urgent meeting with Portnow to try and resolve the conflict that has spurred months of protests and a lawsuit by leading musicians.
Portnow said on Friday he was "receptive to meeting with the Rev. Jackson to explain how our nomination process works and to show the resulting diverse group of nominees it produced" for this year's Grammy Awards.
Paul Simon, Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt and Bobby Sanabria are among dozens of musicians who have protested the decision, announced last April, to slash the number of Grammy categories to 78 from 109 for the 2012 Grammy Awards.
Some categories, such as Hawaiian and Native American albums were dropped completely, while others including Latin music and R&B saw the number of award categories halved.
Portnow said at the time the changes were necessary to maintain "the prestige of the highest and only peer-recognized award in music."
Sanabria and three other Latin Jazz musicians filed a lawsuit in New York in August saying the cuts would harm their careers financially. They have also called for a boycott of the CBS network, which broadcasts the annual Grammy Awards show in Los Angeles.
The 2012 Grammy Awards take place on February12. Rapper Kanye West leads the field of contenders with seven nominations followed by British singer Adele, Bruno Mars and alternative rock band Foo Fighters.
(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)
Corrects Jackson name in paragraph 1.