Statement on Racial Injustice

Racial injustice, particularly with regard to the Black American community, is nothing new. Practices to deny growth and prosperity in the Black community have been happening since the birth of our nation. Responses to such practices have often come in the form of music innovation; while the obvious developments are in idioms such as jazz, rock, R&B, soul, funk, hip hop, and country, there are significant operas, choral music pieces, and orchestral works from innovative Black composers. These contributions often speak of, and certainly thrive in spite of, said injustice. American musical and social culture, simply put, would not exist without the contributions of Black music innovation.

Ignorance of, or unwillingness to acknowledge, the perverse injustice that continues to plague this country is unacceptable. Our society must accept that there is inherent racial injustice. However, that’s not enough. Our society, especially white people, must also do the difficult work of breaking down our individual biases and prejudices, fighting for and contributing to systemic change, and ensuring that this society accepts nothing less than justice and equity for our Black community members. We must consciously and actively fight for Black lives.

Musically speaking, here are four simple items we can do to participate in the conversation:

  1. Engage with Black artists. Who are those artists in your community? Do you know them? Do you see them? Create with them, collaborate with them, be open to their unique experiences. Learn from them.
  2. Perform music from and highlight Black composers. The music of Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Mary Lou Williams, William Grant Still, Max Roach, Ice Cube, Florence Price, Prince Rogers Nelson, George Walker, Chuck D, Anthony Davis, Nina Simone, Meshell Ndegeocello, Anthony Braxton, Abbey Lincoln, and Jimi Hendrix is just beginning to scratch the surface of the important music from Black composers.
  3. Teach about Black composers. Make the list above part of your history, musicology, pedagogy, theory, and composition curriculum. Then, add to it. If you’re a student, simply substitute learn for teach.
  4. Make sure that the people/organizations with whom you are associated do the same.

The Music Department at Cal Poly supports our Black students, colleagues, community members and allies. We believe that Black lives do matter, and we will do the work with our students and community to affect global change on our local level.