Let’s connect jazz in American culture and education with Bryan Stevenson’s four steps toward healing systemic racism. And consider how this class hopes to contribute.
Proximity: The 2.3% statistic of Americans listening to jazz and the ignorance about jazz history that even school jazz band students display is another way of revealing the lack of proximity to the black experience most white Americans have. By getting to know key jazz musicians in this class and hearing their stories, we will begin to heal through proximity.
Narrative: By getting to hear a few of select jazz musicians’ hundreds of stories about enduring racism, we learn that despite their fame and fortune, no one was exempt from racist attacks— psychological and physical. In so doing, it becomes difficult to deny the ongoing presence of systemic racism in this country. By recognizing the indisputable narrative of white supremacy, we are equipped to change it.
Discomfort: The calm but passionate telling of the stories few people know does not avoid
discomfort, but makes it more palatable. Ending each story with discussion points
and leaving room for reflection and sharing in a safe and respectful atmosphere
without shame or blame helps to change the narrative collectively and affirm the
community’s value of the deep work of social justice far beyond celebrating Martin Luther
Hope: Hearing how each of these artists reacted to and endured the suffering of systemic racism can give hope to all of us struggling to figure out how we can endure and/or help out. Listening to their music at the end of each story reveals the joy and triumph of their lives and allows us to hear and appreciate the music deeper, to thank them for their efforts to wipe out ugliness with beauty.
And dear reader, if this entices you to take the class, it’s not too late! You can sign up for the next six (see link below) and get the recording for the first class you missed. Maybe see you on Monday!