Black LIVES Matter
To our Music con Brio community,
In June 2020, as we were working to pivot toward covid-safe summer programming, our hearts were broken by the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, just the latest in an extremely long series of lethal incidents of police brutality against Black people in our country. We have been wrestling with the role that existing systems of oppression in our own community play in the lives our Black students and their families, trying to identify how we are complicit in those systems or silent against them, and working toward a plan of action to become actively anti-racist as an organization and a community.
One of our Board members, Kimberly Gilmore, has written the following statement on Black Lives Matter that we’d like to share here. We are very grateful to have Kimberly as a member of our Board of Directors as we begin the long process of decolonizing our curriculum, and addressing the inherent racial bias and oppression in our organization and community. Our heartfelt appreciation is extended to her for her words and call to action.
Black LIVES Matter
It’s a shame that it needs to be said, it’s even worse that it has to be shouted and chanted repeatedly.
Yet we must.
We have to shout Black Lives Matter until it’s ingrained into the minds of the people who have been conditioned to think property over people is a way of life.
This idea of property over people started in the USA when European colonists massacred Native Americans over property, which the Natives urged was land that no one owned.
It then evolved into slavery when people were stolen from their lands, demeaned in every imaginable and unimaginable way, and dehumanized in the eyes of the USA to be used and owned as property.
It took an ENTIRE civil war in order to free people from their tags of property because Black LIVES Matter.
However, that “freedom” came with a stipulation. One couldn’t be used as property as long as they weren’t breaking the law. This progressed the job of slave overseer to police officer, originally created to protect the property of former slave owners.
Police Officers were equipped with unjust laws and military weapons created to recapture freed people and thus remarketing slavery as the Prison Industrial Complex, making “criminals” into property of the State. Police Officers have misused and abused their oversight power relentlessly and tiresomely creating an unjust justice system and a culture of police brutality that is still rampant and evident to this day.
There is plenty of historic and current testimony, statistics, and evidence that police forces across the USA disproportionally target and commit police brutality in POC communities without consequence. Police brutality that includes not only excessive force, but also hyper-policing, inappropriate use of “officer discretion”, victim blaming, blackmail/bribery, unequal enforcement, refusal to identify, “police brotherhood loyalty”, planting evidence, falsifying police reports, use of deadly force, and of course wrongful MURDER.
There is even proof using social media that tens of thousands of police officers are members of groups with hateful ideologies like the KKK, “White Lives Matter”,” Ban the NAACP”, and “Death to Islam Undercover.” It has been the Policer Officers’ leadership in systemic injustice that has allowed wide spread racism, prejudice, and racial biases to continue to permeate throughout the USA. This leadership affected how the medical field treated us, how the educational systems taught us, how professional systems viewed us, what housing opportunities were offered to us, and what business opportunities were afforded to us. It also greatly affected how the media portrayed us, how the government classified us, and how funding is distributed to our communities.
Now here we are today, police are still brutalizing and unjustly killing POCs at evil rates, with no justice being served.
Every year, an average of 1000 people are shot and killed by the police. According to Police Integrity Research Group, since 2005 there have been 98 arrested in the connection with fatal, on-duty shootings. Only 35 of these officers have been convicted of a crime, often with a lesser offense such as manslaughter or negligent homicide rather than murder. Of the 35, only three officers have been convicted of murder during this period; yet the media still wants to ignore the blatant racist systems that are in place, and instead focus on property damage.
Broken windows and some looted goods (food, shoes and clothing,) in the middle of a pandemic, while 38 million people file for unemployment, during a recession – this is portrayed by the media as more important than the message that BLACK LIVES ARE BEING MURDERED BY GOVERNMENT OFFICALS, once again placing property over people.
So, we protest, and chant, and riot until it’s ingrained into the minds of those honor-less people whom been conditioned to think property over people’s lives is a way of life.
Black LIVES Matter.
At Music con Brio, we know that silence can be deafening, so we want to place our voice firmly on the side of anti-police brutality and anti-racism. We know we have a lot of work to do to educate ourselves about the systemic racism built into our society at large, and our community right here in Madison. We know we have a lot of work to do to check our privilege and our implicit biases as educators and musicians. We know we have a lot of work to do to listen to our Black students and families within Music con Brio and in the wider community, in order to meaningfully provide opportunities for their musical education.
We are starting to do this work by revamping our curriculum to include far more works by Black composers. We are looking to include more diversity in our educators and guest artists because we understand that representation matters. We are also thoroughly researching the background of the music we teach to our students to make sure we eliminate any music containing inherent or underlying racism from the artist, composer, or lyrics. Finally, we will be instituting regular, mandatory bias training for our board and staff members. We commit to engaging in this work now and moving forward.
In August 2020, we held our first board and staff training on the topic of Decolonizing the Music Room, facilitated by Hillary Harder. While this was merely the first in what will be an ongoing series of trainings, it was a good way to begin grappling with the issues of representation vs. appropriation in curriculum, among other topics. Since then, the entire Music con Brio staff has committed to a reimagining of our curriculum starting now and continuing on indefinitely. In lieu of our annual Community Concert Series this year, we will be doing a recording project of three new-to-Music con Brio pieces of music by Black composers. As a staff, we will identify these works, arrange them for our students, and teach them to our entire student body. We will then work with guest artists to make professional recordings of these pieces, which will be featured on our website and YouTube channel. Finally, these three pieces will enter our permanent curriculum, meaning we will continue to teach and perform them as part of our core repertoire from now on. We plan to continue this project every year. As we add these new pieces, we will also remove any music that has a racist history, and conscientiously make space for a more inclusive body of work. Over time, this project will enable us to transform our curriculum into something much more diverse and inclusive than the one we currently use.
At Music con Brio, we pledge to serve all the members of our community. We recognize that we serve students who identify as white, students who identify as Black, students who identify as Latinx, students who identify as Asian, students who identify as multi-racial, and students who identify in ways not specifically described here. To all our students and families who do not identify as either Black or white: we do not want anyone to feel ignored or unseen. We value all of you, and we want to nurture and educate all our students equally.
That being said, we feel a specific obligation to reiterate that BLACK LIVES MATTER. To our Black students and families, and to all the Black members of our community, we see you, we hear you, we stand with you, and we pledge to listen to your experiences and to respond to your needs.
We also feel a specific obligation to call our white students and families to action in combatting the anti-Black racism that is alive and constantly present in our community. We also invite you to check out the many resources available for discussing race, racism, and privilege with your children. We promise to help be a voice of change, so keep a look out for further actions from our organization in the coming months.
Black LIVES Matter.
Carol (and the Music con Brio team)