What can I say? Our present is just like our past. Will we decide to make it our future? We do have control over these things. Sometimes it feels like we don't but the smallest actions can turn out big if we nurture them to grow. Relationships are at the core of who I am. As a teacher and musician, building a rapport is essential to me. So, how do I do it? Empathy and honesty.
"Artists can have a greater access to reality; they can see patterns and details and connections that other people, distracted by the blur of life might miss. Just sharing the truth can be a very powerful thing." ~Jay Z from his memoir Decoded
Why is Jay Z correct? What can be learned from artists? Why do artists have this ability? Artists tend to reflect. Reflection is needed to make sense out of information. Creating involves consuming and the more you consume, the more you need to reflect. To be a good writer, you need to be a good reader. To be a good speaker, you need to be a good listener. These things are known by successful artists but they are not exclusive. Everyone can benefit from reading more, from listening more.
"…Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced." ~James Baldwin, Remember This House, unpublished, from the documentary film: I Am Not Your Negro
What information are you consuming? Does it challenge you? Does it make you think? I've told some of my friends that I don't go to museums for agreement, I go to be challenged. I want to look at a piece of art and be confused. I find joy in the confusion; that's how I know something's working. I'm the same way with music and film. I suspend using "like" and "dislike" until I've reflected on it. Maybe I'll conclude that I don't need to watch the film again but that's ok. I allowed myself to be open; I was honest and empathetic.
“That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this. That’s why they’re so involved in politics. We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So, I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?” ~Nina Simone from the documentary film "What Happened, Miss Simone?"
How do you get involved? What can I do? You can do get involved by doing anything; begin by fighting off the apathy. Apathy can best be addressed by Martin Niemöller's famous words that are in the last room of the Holocaust Museum:
"First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
I can't say it better than that. We're in this together. To make sense of it, reflect. To apply it, be empathetic. And during reflection and application, be honest.
"History is not the past, it is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history. If we pretend otherwise, we literally are criminals. I attest to this. The world is not white. It never was white, cannot be white. White is a metaphor for power and that is simply a way to describing Chase Manhattan Bank." ~James Baldwin from Remember This House, unpublished, from the documentary film: I Am Not Your Negro
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources courtesy of A Conversation with Snarky Puppy and Dr. Kimani Nehusi.