To Remember To Rise

The credit for the image is screenshot.

May 21, 2023—This coming week—May 25, 2023—marks the third anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, which opened the most recent frontier of the movement for racial, social, and environmental justice throughout America.

For those of us working in the arts and culture sectors, Mr. Floyd’s brutal murder became the catalyst for dialogues; the creation of new positions; the formation of new programs, the production of Broadway plays, and the opening of previously sealed doors across the cultural landscape. Many corporations also began addressing issues related to systemic racism, and some boards of directors added people of color for the first time.

Flash forward three years, and the backlash against Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs continues at full throttle. As I wrote in February, DEI is being relentlessly attacked and used to further polarize communities; confuse human resource departments; ban books; legislatively assault LGBTQ+ people, as well as throttle access to higher education by people of color.

The writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, several years ago shared in her TED talk that we must refuse to dispossess, malign and dehumanize people based on stereotypes, misinformation, ignorance and prejudice. Her message continues to resonate deeply and, in my opinion, remains the vital mission of the arts—to shine the spotlight of equity, inclusion and belonging on all people.

I also believe it is important for the readers of Arts & Culture Connections to be aware of cultural and arts events marking the third anniversary of the crossroad Mr. Floyd’s murder created in American history:

The book, His Name is George Floyd, which was written by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, who are both reporters for the Washington Post, recently won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. The judges referred to it as “an intimate, riveting portrait of an ordinary man whose fatal encounter with police officers in 2020 sparked an international movement for social change, but whose humanity and complicated personal story were unknown.”

This past week, the Minnesota Orchestra premiered a new work it commissioned from Kennedy Center composer in residence and Grammy-nominated artist Carlos Simon. Featuring a libretto and performance by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, the head of the Kennedy Center’s Social Impact initiatives, the work is titled “brea(d)th.” It was conducted by African-American conductor Jonathan Taylor Rush. Mr. Simon and Mr. Joseph travelled to Minnesota on several occasions over a three year period to engage in dialogues with community residents in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s murder, which became the foundation for the work.

The George Floyd Global Memorial will hold its third annual Rise and Remember conference, May 25-27, 2023, in remembrance of Mr. Floyd and those who have lost their lives due to the pervasive impacts of systemic racism. The three-day event will focus on education, empowerment, healing, celebration, as well as the continued pursuit for racial justice and equity.

Artists in Mr. Floyd’s hometown of Houston will be Making Some Noise for George Floyd, sponsored by the Houston Center for Peace and Justice.

The play, Dissonance, will have its premiere at the Essential Theatre in Washington, D.C. The play, written by Marci J. Duncan in collaboration with Kerry Sandell, and directed by James Webb, explores how Mr. Floyd’s death impacts the friendship between a Black and a white woman when they have a candid discussion about race.

Thank you, Champions for the Arts, for remaining undaunted by the backlash and continuing to pursue the essential work of forging an antiracist arts and culture community.

As the third anniversary of America’s current racial reckoning arrives, how will you remember? How will you rise?

As always, I invite you to share your comments below.

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