Do I need to go any further, or was the title of this blog post enough for you?
As you probably know, Mississippi elected a very controversial figure into the Senate this week. For many, myself included, this was not a surprise, but that doesn't mean it isn't upsetting to know that 54% of the state's population doesn't have a problem with her willingness to be "front row" at a public hanging. When I woke up and saw the news, there was one artist, and one song, that immediately came to mind.
Before we get into that song, let's rewind about 55 years. A man from Mississippi named Medgar Evers was brutaly murdered, in front of his home, back in 1963 for his affiliations with the NAACP, and the work he'd been doing for Civil Rights. As a World War II veteran, he loved his country, and only hoped to make it better, but of course that wasn't enough for the citizens of Mississippi. No one was charged in the court trials that followed, and it wasn't until 1994 when his family finally saw justice.
This event really pissed off Nina Simone, and she responded the best way she knew how - with music. Her song, "Mississippi Goddam" was an anthem against the state of Mississippi and it's racism. As you could imagine, no one was willing to play it, but it didn't fall into obscurity! Today it's remembered as one of the most significant protest songs in American history.
So now it's 2018, and we're still having conversations about people in high power who are clearly influenced by racism. I'm not supposed to make political statements, but how could I possibly not speak out about something that threatens my existence as a black man? ((sigh))...
If you don't know the song, Mississippi Goddam, listen here. Below is a clip from an interview Nina Simone gave, in which she perfectly outlines WHY I don't use my art, and my proximity to others' art, as a reason to ignore these types of atrocities.
Between 2012 and 2014 I was on the road quite a lot. I had recently won a fellowship with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and I commuted there from Memphis every other week. In 2013 I won a job with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, so for a time, I was visiting all three of those cities on a weekly basis. Needless to say, I listened to a lot of music, and discovered the magic of Podcasts.
One Podcast I listened to regularly was Nerdist, and one episode I'll never forget featured Tom Bergeron (pictured below). If you don't know him by name, he's the Emmy-winning host behind "America's Funniest Home Videos", and "Dancing with the Stars". In the interview, he talked about how he got his start in radio, and during the day, he worked as a mime. Something he remembered was the fact that his daytime audiences saw him, but never heard him, and his evening audiences heard him, but never saw him.
This concept came up, separately, last week in my therapy session. (Let me say, as an aside, that I began going to therapy because of the attention I've seen shown toward mental health in the black community and through black media). As I was exploring my thoughts about having a tighter connection with black communities, the therapist told me that this may have to do with the way my career has been shaped. As an orchestral musician, I was seen and not heard (vocally), and as a radio personality, I'm heard and not seen.
Not sure what this means, but I wanted to share anyway. My therapist will surely help me unpack this the next time I see her. Maybe my ultimate goal should be being a TV host. Maybe something different. Regardless, I can only hope that my career takes me the places it took Tom Bergeron. Maybe even beyond those places!
If you've never tried therapy, I highly recommend. You never know what you can learn about yourself!
It's just about time to head to the polls and vote in the midterm elections! I've only been of voting age for the past decade or so, but even I feel the electricity around this election like I've never felt before. Why does it matter? Why should you take the time out of your day to vote in these midterms? I think the answer is simple - it's a display of personal values.
It seems like a long time ago when Obama was running for president the first time. What I'll never forget about this era in my life was the fact that prejudices started to appear in people I'd never expect to see them. Someone I even considered a friend posted to his Facebook account (after the votes had been counted), "Damn, I wish they'd re-instated the Three-Fifths Compromise". How could I continue to be a friend to someone who said something like that? How could I not do what I can to make sure his vision never comes to fruition? With our new president, even more of this sort of rhetoric has hit the scene, and despite your political affiliation, I hope you can understand that people like me have to fight against this in every way we can.
I bring that story up to make the point that voting is our time to put our values into play. I don't believe in voting to "cancel out" a vote on the other side, but rather to do what I can to create a country, and ultimately a world, that I want to live in. If someone whose values I disagree with wins an election, so be it, but I made my voice heard. I believe in justice for those wrongfully imprisoned in America. I believe in equity for people of color, like myself. I believe in promoting freedom for ALL Americans.
My position at APM prevents me from making any "out-right" political statements, so I won't, but as a young, black, homosexual in the arts I don't really need to announce what sides I'm on, right? **POPS GUM** Instead, I'm asking you to go vote. Do your research, read up on candidates and prospective bills, and HEAD TO THE POLLS! Even if you don't believe your vote matters, show those in power (and those not yet in power) that you are willing to put your values in action.
The importance of voting has hit the black community particularly well this cycle - shout-out to rapper Remy Ma for being one of the leaders in this charge to raise the black vote. Click her image below to get a closer look at what she's been doing in regards to promoting the vote.