A Message to our Community
Peggy Senter, President, Concord Community Music School
At the Music School, our hearts have been heavy and full as we witness
protests here in New Hampshire and around the world — demanding action against injustice, oppression, and violence toward people of color. Our hearts have been lifted
by the tremendous leadership shown by our young people, who are passionately seeking the deep, structural change that is needed to make our society and nation fairer and better for everyone.
With roots in the Settlement House movement, the Music School’s mission has inclusion at its very core. We work hard to remove barriers to participation of income, background, and ability, and to live this mission every day. We have talked, and written, and welcomed all, but have we asked if it’s working, and have we really listened?
Who are the voices we must listen to, to lead us to a deeper adherence to our mission of inclusion and equity?
“I’ve lived in New Hampshire my entire life. I love New Hampshire with all my heart and my soul, but as a state we are not innocent. I was born here and I’ve grown up loving the culture. And I have been part of a very loving and accepting community. I had the luxury to grow up feeling safe. But that feeling has left me.”
These words from our student Keisha Johnson, who with her Concord High School classmates inspired more than 2,000 people to take action at the June 6 Concord rally, compel us to listen, not talk. To learn, not teach. And to do everything in our power to ensure that each and every person feels safe, supported, and heard in our musical family.
We pledge today to listen more deeply in order to learn
especially from our black and brown students, faculty, and performers. We will ask these questions as a starting point: What has their experience at the Music School really been? What unexamined organizational behaviors prevent more people of color from seeking us out? How can we help break down the larger separations in our community that have historically discouraged people of color from fully participating in arts institution like ours? Learning from these conversations, in the coming months we will develop action steps to ensure that we are “walking the walk” of equity and inclusion.
As a young musician growing up in North Carolina, I was inspired by the music of Mahalia Jackson, Paul Robeson, James Brown, Billie Holliday, Marvin Gaye, and Sam Cooke. These groundbreaking Black musicians created a truly American music that defined and energized the civil rights movement shaping my teenage years. In those years, I watched the streets of my hometown burn after Dr. King was assassinated. Two weeks ago I watched those same streets in my hometown burn again. People are saying, “
is this time any different
Will anything change
More than 50 years ago, the legendary Sam Cooke sang, “
It’s been a long, a long time comin’, but I know a change gon’ come. Oh, yes it will.”
Yes, it will.
Let music inspire us to come together and truly listen to the voices of our young people, and let their words be our compass leading us into sustained action. Only then, in the words of Taina Asili’s anthem for this critical moment in history, will we be able to say as a united community, “
We are rising