Are you interested to learn more about anti-racism and how you can contribute to positive change in this area with your choir? Are you interested to be part of a process with other choir leaders who are ongoingly reflecting on how to make sure we are culturally honouring songs that we teach in the best possible way? Well, stay tuned next week for an announcement on how you can become one of ‘The Archers’ (do you see what we did there?). For now if you haven’t seen these two wonderful resources to get you thinking and maybe even educate you, then please do listen and join the conversation.
Thank you, Fran André (on behalf of the NVN Trustee Board)
An interview with Melissa James (NVN member)
Please engage with this conversation to learn about the lived experience of a black woman song leader and singer in our Network. Hear Melissa speak about what it’s like to be one of the few people of colour in the Network, her passion and sense of urgency for change in healing racism, and her opinion on what the issues are and what we are facing collectively and personally in these times.
There is a great discussion on the video posted to the NVN Facebook page. Please do engage on there if you’re a Facebook user – it’s wonderful to hear all of our voices coming together on this issue. Here is the same interview on YouTube.
Below is a list of links to all the resources mentioned in the above interview. The first two include some additional details that Melissa James has kindly provided:
“I was paraphrasing the quote from Chris Rock (comedian). Here is a link to the video in which he speaks about America’s progress in relation to race relations. Here are his words:
- (Interviewer) How do you feel like the country [America] has changed? How do you feel like things have changed over the last couple of decades?
- (Chris Rock) Well, white people have gotten less crazy.
- (Interviewer) What does that mean?
- (Chris) I mean, it means that…. I mean when you say there’s progress and all this… but when you say it’s progress you’re acting like what happened before wasn’t crazy, you know what I mean? “Oh segregation, we made a lot of progress and there’s no more segregation.” Segregation’s retarded! It’s crazy to think you’re better than somebody and they can’t eat with you and… it’s crazy. That’s insane behaviour. Just to think – on any level that’s like, kinda insane. So you can say Black people have made progress but to say Black people have made progress would mean we deserved to be segregated. The reality is white people got less crazy. See what I’m sayin’? Does that make sense? My father didn’t suddenly deserve to eat with people because he earned it. The people that were denying him his rights got less crazy. And that’s what has happened throughout the years. People are now getting less crazy about gay people. It’s like: people are crazy, man.”
Lilla Watson (Indigenous artist): “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
I also mentioned a podcast in which a Nepalese woman talks about her experience of modern-day slavery in Nepal. This is inspiring, if painful, and can be heard on the Future is Beautiful podcast.
Other resources from this interview:
- Dr. Yaba Blay interview with Brene Brown
- Encyclopaedia Britannica article – The History of the Idea of Race
- One Night In Miami film
- “My Grandmother’s Hands” – book by Resmaa Menakem
- “Me And White Supremacy” – book by Layla F. Saad
Here’s what some of our NVN members had to say about it:
This video is brilliant. It is rich in deep wisdom and powerful reflections, all shared freely with such generosity of spirit. If you are a white person in the network, please do watch. The learning here is of great value, wherever you may be in your journey. We are so very fortunate that these two wonderful women have taken the time and energy to record this interview. The least we can do is spend a little of our time and energy… and listen.
– Victoria Casey
Fran and Melissa, thank you so much for recording this interview for us. I have been grappling with how to unpick the unconscious systemic racism that is bound to infect the spaces where I offer song as well as how to participate in creating ripples that lead to change within the organisation that is our beloved NVN. At times, the question ‘what can I do?’ can feel overwhelming but your insightful thoughts during the interview really help me to move away from that almost paralysing feeling of ‘where do I start?’ and back into the understanding that every small act, every conversation, every bit of education through reading and podcasts counts as part of the journey towards change.
– Pauline Down
Cultural Mis-appropriation Discussion with Singing Mamas Choir – Vera Hall (Trouble So Hard) Discussion
Kate Valentine, Rachel Waite and Fran André
THIS IS AN APOLOGY! and in it, an important lesson in cultural appropriation in choir work.
When a grassroots choir network (us! – Singing Mamas) largely made up of white British women, strive to be anti-racist – there’s a chance some of us will make a mess. We did make a mess. We created and published a film intended to celebrate and honour the life of Vera Hall. Between Rachel Hilton and I, we got things wrong and I am here to say we are sorry. We are sincerely sorry.
Now though, through the mess, the shame, the vulnerability and through the stories that have been uncovered, we have some extremely important learning to share.
Here’s what some NVN members had to say about this conversation:
Wow. So, so inspired and impressed by this. I am particularly touched by Rachel’s vulnerability and courage to share her process with it. I was wincing imagining how that would have been for me, and recognising myself and my own versions of these oversights. Thank you. – Sophia Efthimiou
Great discussion, and it’s lovely that your sharing of it will mean that this thinking will now ripple through the network and beyond. – Maggie Newlands
“What a fantastic conversation. Thank you so much for sharing it. My heart feels filled with hope.” – Teresa Verney