Violinist Noah Bendix-Blagley is the latest among classical musicians around the globe to use music to join the protests over the death of George Floyd, spurred by a powerful statement and video by clarinetist Anthony McGill, the first African-American principal player in the New York Philharmonic.
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#TakeTwoKnees My contribution to Anthony McGill’s (@mcgillclarinet) challenge. A Kaddish for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner and so many others. We know the names of some, but not of countless others, whose stories never made the news because there wasn’t cell phone footage or because our ‘justice’ system failed to deliver for them. I pray we can see the holiness and humanity in everyone- the holiness of the ability of every one of us to breathe. We have a literal virus attacking us that takes away this ability- and our leaders have failed to protect us from it- especially our most vulnerable fellow citizens: lower-income and minority communities. But we all also have to recognize and grapple with the virus that has been here all this time: overt and tacit racism and discrimination that dehumanizes African-Americans on a daily basis. Please free to join and post a personal statement- artistic or otherwise. #TakeTwoKnees #BlackLivesMatter #GeorgeFloyd #JusticeforFloyd #BreathingIsHoly #Kaddish
“We know the name of some, but not of countless others, whose stories never made the news because there wasn’t cell phone footage or because our ‘justice’ system failed to deliver for them,” said Bendix-Blagley, who is concermaster of the Berlin Philharmonic. “I pray we can see the humanity in everyone - the holiness of the ability of every one of us to breathe. We have a literal virus attacking us that takes away that ability, and our leaders have failed to protect us from it, especially our most vulnerable fellow citizens: lower income and minority communities. But we also have to recognize and grapple with the virus that has been here all this time: overt and tacit racism and discrimination they dehumanizes African-Americans on a regular basis.”
Clarinetist McGill posted his #taketwoknees challenge and video on Wednesday, including a personal and passionate post (full text here) encouraging people to #TakeTwoKnees in support of the struggle for justice and decency.
“Earlier this year, before the pandemic, I performed in Birmingham, Alabama and Tulsa, Oklahoma. The challenging history of those places speaks for itself, but in those two trips, I met some of the nicest people that you’ll ever meet in this country,” McGill said. “I also pondered how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go in terms of treating everyone with respect and decency. We live alongside that reality all across America. What the news this week and most weeks of my life demonstrates, however, is that Black lives didn’t matter in our glorified past, and still don’t matter that much today….”
Besides Bendix-Balgley, numerous others have responded with music videos and statements of their own, including opera star Lawrence Brownlee, flutist Demarre McGill, composer and flutist Allison Loggins-Hull, trombonist Weston Sprott, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater dancer Alicia Graf Mack, and trumpeter Billy Hunter.
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