"It’s a New Decade, It’s time for Newness and we refuse the negative energy, we refuse the old systems... We went to be respected and safe in our diversity. We want to be shifting to realness and inclusivity... We are Unstoppable.... Music is that on language we can all speak, it don't matter where we're from, we all understand it. " - Alicia Keys, The Grammys This week I have had some very moving experiences singing Jewish songs with my choirs to mark #HolocaustMemorialDay. One member of my Carers Choir shared the immensely courageous, moving story of their grandparents and parents perilous escape from Austria to England where they had to Anglicise their surname to avoid Anti-Semitism. All divisive, destructive forms of extreme identity politics, such as fascism & Nazism, fabricate and manipulate people's sense of their cultural, religious or national identity and induce fear that they are under threat from the 'other' - eg immigrants are stealing 'our' jobs. The dominant identity is given voice through the megaphones of media, whilst the voices of the 'other' are violently excluded, oppressed, smothered and silenced. Whilst we face a frightening rise in fascism, there is I believe, an unstoppable movement towards an Inclusive Voice which celebrates our differences and shared humanity, enriching our understanding and connection with each other. It is to this global symphony that I wish to lend my voice in this month's blog.
Understanding The Human Family Tree At the deepest level, all living things that have ever been looked at have the same DNA code. And many of the same genes. - Richard Dawkin To eliminate genocide, holocausts, persecution, war, tribal violence - we need to fully understand and embody our interconnectedness. Tracking both our personal and collective genealogy, DNA and ancestry demonstrates that we are all from everywhere. The origin in Africa and subsequent movement of people around the globe makes us all immigrants. As such we are all part of one big tree of humanity with global roots. Not only are we intimately related to people of all cultures, tribes and creeds - but also to all life itself, sharing masses of genetic material with other species aswell as our precious life and environment on this planet.
Reclaiming Hidden Voices Moving from silence into speech is for the oppressed, the colonized, the exploited, and those who stand and struggle side by side a gesture of defiance that heals, that makes new life and new growth possible. It is that act of speech, of 'talking back,' that is no mere gesture of empty words, that is the expression of our movement from object to subject—the liberated voice - Bell Hooks Reclaiming, liberating, including and celebrating the stories and voices who have been oppressed by the dominant white patriarchal history, dogma and identity is an essential part of restoring social justice and creating an inclusive society. If we have any kind of social privilege, we need to be both investigating and dismantling our own conditioning in order to be a good ally to those who have experienced oppression. (White readers - do check out Me And White Supremacy by Layla F Saad.) The arts can be a powerful medium for giving voice and visibility to those who have been unheard and unseen - to give just one example, Amie's Freedom Choir, is a safe space for women who have been trafficked to find and explore their voices together.
The Love of Humanity That idea of peace and love toward humanity shouldn't be nationalistic or denominational. It should be a chief concern for all mankind. - Mos Def The wisdom of the love of humanity - as taught throughout the ages by artists, sages, educators and wise ones such as MLK and Mandela - teaches us that we are all one family. This is embodied through cultivating empathy, compassion, warmth, friendship, connection and love. Reconciliation, dialogue and creative encounter through the arts can help bring people of differing views and backgrounds together. I was recently inspired by the leadership of Hilke Wagner who in response to far right hate, created a series of dialogue events called We Need to Talk at the the Dresden Albertinum Museum: 'I found it important to establish this feeling of personal relationship. We had participants from across the social and political spectrum, with a range of attitudes. And we learned a lot from each other.' Stories such as these give me hope that we can and are building bridges across perceived divisions of identity and sing the songs that help us remember our shared humanity.