Two music-industry leaders on Tuesday called for a Day of Silence amid vociferous public outrage and violence over the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a Minneapolis white police officer in front of horrified witnesses and three other police officers.
Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas floated the call for #TheShowMustBePaused in response to other Blackout Tuesday vigils, noted the San Francisco Classical Voice (SFCV).
“The music industry has profited predominantly from Black art,” said the marketing executives in their Instagram post. “Our mission is to hold the industry at large, including major corporations and their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles, and successes of Black people accountable.
“To that end, it is the obligation of these entities to protect and empower the Black communities who have made them wealthy in ways that are disproportionately measurable and transparent,” they added.
SFCV said that though the day of action “seemed to leave classical organizations to the side, many of them across the nation were expressing sorrow and commiseration.”
“Perhaps most striking was the statement from the League of American Orchestras, penned by its president, Jesse Rosen,” SFCV said.
“In the face of ceaseless intolerance, hatred, and violence against African Americans in our country, historically and currently, we are impelled to reaffirm that we value all Black lives,” the League said. “Our colleagues of color — and many communities served by the orchestras we represent — are living with deep pain and fear, subjected to the threat of police violence, to the risks inherent in serving as essential workers in a time of crisis, and to ongoing oppression in a society scarred by racism.
“There is an urgent need for White people and predominantly White organizations to do the work of uprooting this racism,” the League added. “We recognize that for decades, in our role as a national association and voice for orchestras, we have tolerated and perpetuated systemic discrimination against Black people, discrimination mirrored in the practices of orchestras and throughout our country.
“And while we have called the field’s attention to the need for change and provided resources to support that work, we struggle to move as quickly as we should to align practices with our stated beliefs,” the League continued.
SFCV said that all over the classical community, “there is much more work to be done to confront the historical legacy that leads to and perpetuates these tragedies,” adding that the League’s statement was “a heartening promise to lead by example.”
Michael Morgan, music director of the Oakland Symphony, told SFCV that the symphony “has always supported the social justice movement. And we continue to in these times.”
SFCV said the San Francisco Symphony hit the pause button on its online activities on Tuesday, saying, “Even as we mourn apart from one another, we are united in standing against injustice and racism.”
SFCV said events across America this last week “have laid bare the systemic acts of hatred and violence perpetrated against Black people in our communities, leaving us in the Opera family feeling outrage, anger, hurt and sorrow.
“We want to express our grief and sympathy for the family of George Floyd, and all those families directly and indirectly impacted by these all-too-frequent tragic events, and we acknowledge the fear that so many people in our communities, and in our Company, are feeling,” it said.
“As a company we lift our voices in solidarity with those working to create a more just and equitable society, and we too must do our part,” it added. “We acknowledge that, as an art form, we have been historically aligned with privilege.
“We have much to learn about how to combat institutionalized racial injustice, and we are on a conscientious learning path to better understand how we can move past systems that undermine opportunities for people of color in our art form,” SFCV continued.
“We must find better ways to include and empower diverse perspectives on our stage and throughout the company,” it said. “We are learning from our past, and we are committed to doing better.”