I'm no stranger to social media drama - I actually think I'm pretty good at it, but lately I've been trying to keep my nose a little cleaner, considering my job and all. Sometimes though, I can't help but to "get with the shits", as they say.
For the past couple weeks, I've been seeing a drawing of a lunch room, with different composers at each table, with the caption, "Who are you sitting with?". The London Symphony Orchestra decided to throw a hat into the ring by creating their own version, and they posted it to Twitter. When I saw that ALL of the composers in that make-believe lunchroom were white, I had to interject. I did so by retweeting it, with my own caption that got LOTS of attention:
Tens of thousands of impressions, and about 60 retweets later, the London Symphony Orchestra responded by tweeting a special dedication to Florence Price. While this doesn't erase their high levels of cultural incompetency, I did think it was a nice gesture.
At this point, I was really fired up, and when I read an ad from another orchestra that didn't include any black composers, I tweeted them, saying it was a shame that they decided to only include white men composers in the announcement. Their reaction was a little different. Instead of doing something equitable, or even reaching out to me, they reached out to folks at my job. What was their goal in doing that? To get me punished, or worse, FIRED??
Me and my boss are fine, but the fact that they would do something like that has had me bothered all week. When I told my colleague, Steve Seel about it, he said I had "stepped off the plantation", and that was their way of reeling me in. I really appreciated hearing that from Steve, because it's a story I'd heard before.
While waiting in the green room to play with the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra one year, the harpist told me a story about her husband going golfing, and meeting some Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians on the green. She said that they were awe struck by his presence, and kept asking, "What are you doing here? You must have a good job to go golfing in the middle of the day". After telling me this story, Lydia used the same phrase Steve did - they were surprised to see a black man who had "stepped off the plantation".
I'm feeling better now, but there's so much work to do in the world of classical music. It all boils down to racism, and whether I'm behind the mic, on the stage, or elsewhere, I'm never going to stop fighting for equity, equality, and cultural competency in this industry I've dedicated my life to. I can't do it alone though - CALL OUT CULTURAL RACISM IN CLASSICAL MUSIC EVERY TIME YOU SEE IT! It's the only way real change will ever come.
By the way, I fixed the lunchroom meme. Who you sittin' with?