The Department of Music stands firmly with those who are calling out police brutality and violence towards the Black community and people of color. It is our hope that by highlighting our society’s systemic inequalities a permanent and positive transformation will occur in our nation’s justice systems, economic systems, and healthcare systems. This will require a major shift in our general psyche. We totally concur with the statement issued by our department’s Jazz Program, which can be viewed below, and we will continue to strive to do better in recruiting and supporting Black students, faculty, and staff as well as promote and celebrate African American Music which plays a singular role in defining our American culture.
In Response to This Difficult Moment
In the midst of the global pandemic of COVID, when people in our nation have had the biggest need to come together and support each other, and where African Americans have been disproportionally impacted by the virus, the shocking and wrongful murder of George Floyd by racist police officers has been too much to bear.
This is a time of national trauma. The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Antwon Rose, Amadou Diallo and many others continue to demonstrate the horrors of racism and white supremacy that Black people continue to endure. We grieve the loss of their precious lives.
The police killings of Black men and women in the United States and worldwide must stop now.
We recognize that the wealth of this country was stolen from Indigenous Americans and built by the forced labor of African Americans. It is certain that all Americans and many around the globe continually benefit from the exceptional innovations that Black artists bring to American culture, including jazz music.
The Pitt Jazz Program stands in solidarity with Black communities and communities of color. We stand against racial injustice and oppression of all kinds. We realize that now is not the time to be silent, but to speak loudly and to do more to educate, raise awareness, support and celebrate the brilliance that Black people and culture provide to all of us. Many jazz legends lit the path and opened the way for us to get to where we are today. In this post we make space for a limited list that points towards the living work of Archie Shepp, Wadada Leo Smith, William Parker and Patricia Nicholson Parker, Matana Roberts, Anthony Davis, Amina Claudine Meyers, Tyshawn Sorey, Courtney Bryan, Etienne Charles, Samora Pinderhughes, Irreversable Entanglements, Amirtha Kidambi, Amir ElSaffar, Brandee Younger, Fay Victor, Terri Lyne Carrington and Imani Uzuri. These artists, among many others, are here with us right now, continually showing us how jazz can be a vehicle to open minds and hearts towards social justice. Please support their work.
This is a time of deep despair but it is also a moment for possible transformation. It has been a glimmer of hope to see young, non-Black people protesting peacefully throughout the country, in support of Black lives. Many of them are students, and some may even be Pitt students. Yet, the challenge of institutionalized racism that we face, has infested our country for over four hundred years. The work is steep and depends on each one of us to re-educate and re-design our minds. Floyd’s murder is not an isolated case, but one example of a multitude of violent acts that Black people experience everywhere, everyday. Please try to be a true ally to the Black community. To start, make a friend. Learn to care, trust, share. Ask her/him for a list of books and films to study. Be willing to have real conversations (which will at times be painful or difficult). Have conversations with friends and family in your churches, your social circles and your classrooms when you see friends treating others wrongly.
The Jazz Program recognizes that there is much for us to do. We recognize that as a program of the University of Pittsburgh, we need to continue collaborating with our Department of Music and the university to increase the recruitment and support of Black students, staff and faculty. We want our students to gain humility and cherish the expansion of their minds through empathizing with the experiences of others. With that aim, we continue to offer and develop curriculum that challenges our students to increase their intercultural understanding and to celebrate local and international jazz artists who share with us the genius of Black music.
The Pitt Jazz Program