The past few weeks have been a pivotal time. The Black Lives Matter movement has come to the forefront demanding change like never before. It’s time we all take a stand and speak up for positive change and to demand justice and equal rights for people of color across our country. I have thought meticulously about how to best write this post and which aspects to focus on most, but instead, I’ve decided it would be most powerful to relinquish my platform to my friend who is a person of color, musician, and teacher, and whose thoughts are poignant, informative and powerful. With each point he makes, he backs it up with a source for others to further inform themselves. (Thank you Zach.) I’m also first going to add some art pieces that speak volumes which will be seen below.
First, here are a few suggestions that we can all do to affect change. Our actions as individuals are valuable.
1.) Vote Trump OUT;
2.) Vote Mitch McConnell OUT to oust the backwards Republican majority leader and replace him with Senator Amy McGrath who is wonderfully close to beating McConnell in the upcoming Kentucky race. OR, as I just learned today, we can replace McConnell with a young Kentucky representative named Charles Booker. Both appear to be fantastic candidates.
3.) White people can use their platforms to elevate people of color’s voices;
4.) We can sign petitions and donate in support of BLM, participate in protests (only if you and you and your family feel safe to do so during COVID) inform ourselves and vote vote vote for progressive change at the local and federal levels. (If you live in Colorado, you can sign your name to support the Law Enforcement Integrity and Accountability Act which, if passed, will hold police offers accountable for their actions and could help bring justice and protect black lives from police brutality. If you live in a different state, see if similar bills are being introduced.)
5.) And lastly, if this revolutionary movement’s momentum carries into a a complete dismantling of the current political systems, (which could happen looking at trends in history) we would absolutely need to have ideas for what would take it’s place. Because in the presence of a political vacuum, something would take it’s place, and we want to make sure it would be a decent change. If something were to happen, we would need a progressive alternative to current political structures, and I don’t know what that would be. [Editors note: I was going to post this without thoughts of an alternative system but I DO know a rough outline of the political replacement we would need. We need something different than white patriarchy. We need NO patriarchy. Throughout history that is the one common theme that has persisted. If we want to avoid trajectories of violence and domination, we need to try something different than the pattern of the last hundreds of years. Therefore we need a BALANCE of power between men and women of all backgrounds. Notice I don’t say female domination. That would just send the pendulum swinging on the other side. We need a a true balance of power in which men and women of all backgrounds have an equal say, that benefits all.]
So, in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement, I would like to give you some art pieces that speak volumes. Then, below are poignant and powerful thoughts shared by Zach, a brass musician and teacher in Colorado.
Thank you. Be safe, be well and affect positive change in whatever ways you can.
I’ve been posting almost exclusively on my personal page for a while now, as this page has pretty much been shut down since COVID save the occasional Ad-Hoc jam we’ve been able to do amidst social distancing. While we thought that by limiting our posting amidst this chaos to only positive and substantive things such as those jams we would help cut down on unnecessary noise, I felt it necessary to post some personal thoughts to our followers regarding the tragic events we see transpiring now. I am speaking out now as a musician, and because this platform exists as a result of efforts from a history of Black musicians in this country. Our form of brass band was born in Louisiana by slaves in Congo Square . It is an African American art form and tradition that we have based our music upon as Guerrilla Fanfare, and we pay respect to that culture through performance in performing music, actions through volunteering with the No Enemies Brass Bands and through words such as the statement I have prepared today.
Tensions are running high. The state of affairs in this country was already a breaking point for millions who have lost their livelihoods , their life’s work  and incomes  from this deadly virus, not to mention the staggering loss of life with over 100,000 Americans and counting dead . It is an unmitigated disaster. People are mourning. People are scrambling to get by. While the wealth inequity in this country was already an unacceptable issue , it is made now even more grave. People are afraid, and people are getting fed up with the same tired excuses and empty rhetoric from politicians we have heard time and time again.
Similarly, the ever growing divide in our country has been made very clear by our “leadership” from the oval office. Racial inequity in this country is nothing new . Our nation’s history is rife with racism, and our society is undoubtably built on the backs of the groups deemed lesser by those in charge. The First Nation indigenous populations whose cultures we destroyed , the Africans brought from the slave trade who were  and still are subjected to some of the worst atrocities known to human history , the Japanese who were incarcerated during world war II , the ongoing situation at the southern boarder where Central and South American refugees are put in cages , separated from their families  and subjected to subhuman living conditions and sexual abuse , those of Muslim and Jewish faiths who are unfairly and viciously targeted , and now the Asian population at large  for spreading the “Chinese Virus” to the United States all make up a non-exhaustive list that immediately comes to mind when we get on this subject, a list that is sadly far from complete.
Now we are all seeing shocking images of police brutality in response to peaceful protests of the wrongful police murder yet another black man, George Floyd, effectively sentenced to death by the judge, jury and executioners we call “law enforcement” . While, for once, we are seeing the particular culprits charged , the work of dismantling our nation’s systemic white supremacy and actively undoing its harms needs to continue. George Floyd was the latest unacceptable travesty in an ongoing history of police violence and brutality that disproportionately targets people of color especially those of the Black community . Look no further than a few days prior (or since) his wrongful killing and you will find more. David McAtee a pit master in Kentucky who regularly gave cops free meals gunned down by cops and left to rot on the street for nearly twelve hours , or Breonna Taylor, who was a victim of extrajudicial murder by an inept police force incapable of even finding the right house or checking to see if the suspect was already apprehended. She was my age . White supremacy is not limited to cops either. Ahmaud Arbery was murdered while jogging by white supremacists . Those are just a three names, three lives, three loved ones who will never come home again out of the countless lives lost at the hands of the police and through systemic racism .
Just this week, we have seen images of police pepper-spraying peaceful protestors including black Senators , using their cars as weapons , destroying water bottles and medical equipment that was not theirs , arresting and attacking bystanders with physical force and less lethal rounds used improperly to inflict maiming and sometimes lethal damage , openly attacking reporters violating several amendments of the constitution—for which they are being sued by the ACLU —and firing on people with less-lethal projectiles for being on their own property . Yet again, this is an incomplete list. While that does not excuse the behavior of opportunists who are looking to steal some surfboards at the expense of public favor of Black Lives Matter , the authoritarian actions undertaken by these paramilitaries we call “law enforcement” have gone too far and should create an outlook of shock and shame, and serve as a sobering look into the police state of “the land of the free.”
The national disgrace who occupies the White House, and occasionally the underground bunker near the White House , continues to stoke the fires of racism in his base, and sow seeds of division with our neighbors and fellow countrymen, calling himself the “Law and Order” president as others have done more effectively before him,  and telling local governors to “dominate the streets” through force and mobilizing the military against US citizens . We must not allow him to continue to damage our country, and ensure a decisive victory against hi, in November to ensure the continuation of our Democracy .
While it feels inadequate, I find solace in putting outrage to action. These are a few actions that can benefit the Black Lives Matter movement.
1. Register to vote, and vote Trump out in November . Research your local representatives in local government, and make informed decisions.
2. Give money to organizations who help combat systemic racism. I have specifically given to the ACLU , and NAACP legal fund , and the Colorado Freedom Fund (to help protestors post pail)  but there are many more.
3. Write our lawmakers supporting this legislation called the Law Enforcement and Integrity Act . While you are at it, sign this petition for Breonna Taylor, whose murderers have still not been charged .
4. Get involved in the movement either through active peaceful demonstration if you are physically able and comfortable to do so amidst a pandemic, or otherwise continue to share stories of outrage highlighting the injustices you see. This week, there were peaceful demonstrations in all 50 states. Here is a list where you can support this movement all across the country .
5. Have conversations, especially with those who don’t agree with you. Simply declaring moral supremacy and shutting out those who don’t agree by labeling them as “racist,” or as Hilary Clinton put it a “basket of deplorables“ , does not help. This is not easy, but we need to do better at making it safe to be an advocate – especially because people who are new to this will not be perfect at the beginning.
6. If time allows in your busy schedule, self-education and self-reflection makes a difference. I am by no means perfect. In fact, looking back on my past I now clearly see plenty of instances where I was wrong and wished I would have acted differently. Self-education and self-reflection helps spare the future of the same injustices of the past. Resources linked  .
7. As you are able, please take a minute to support to a Black Artist or Locally Owned Business .
Our success and support as a band has no doubt been impacted by our privilege, and for that we are grateful for your continued support and recognize that we are very fortunate to have the privileges that we do. Law enforcement personnel are undoubtedly in a predicament , and there is an ongoing national conversation about what role police should play in our lives as this relationship they have as an institution with the general public is clearly untenable. Should these words put you in a situation where you no longer feel included in our community, I encourage you to examine why your reaction to a plea for black equality makes you uncomfortable and read the resources mentioned on action point #6. We want to have the conversation, and we strive to make our music fun for people of all walks and backgrounds, but not at the expense of being tolerant of overt and flagrant racism.
Know that each of you are loved. Take care out there, and we can’t wait to see you all again in person when the time comes.
40. Driscoll, M.T. (2012) New Orleans brass band traditions and popular music : elements of style in the music of mama digdown’s brass band and young blood brass band. DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) thesis, University of Iowa. https://doi.org/10.17077/etd.4uq7e4ro
One thought on “The Black Lives Matter Protests, BLM Art, and Poignant Thoughts from a Colorado Musician and Teacher”
I appreciate you for using and sharing your platform. You are doing all you can!