Oct. 21, 2020

Questioning and Answering about Diversity

Questioning and Answering about Diversity
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In this episode, Ciyadh asks some questions and gives some answers about diversity. 

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Musically Cogitating Questioning and Answering about Diversity 

[00:00:00] Hello, everyone. Welcome to this episode of musically cogitating, a podcast about the relevance and importance of living and contemporary music of all kinds and how that music impacts our everyday lives. I am your host Ciyadh Wells.  And once again, thank you so much for joining me here. Today. I am recording this episode shortly after finding out that the police officers who killed Breonna, Taylor will not be held responsible for her death and any way shape or form.

[00:00:51] And before I go on to the topic today, I wanted to just make space for her [00:01:00] and for all of the other black lives that have been lost at the hands of state sanctioned violence. In my opinion, we have to be better. Black women, black people deserve to live in a world and to envision a future free of literally anything that we are currently dealing with right now.

[00:01:24] And so how does this relate to music? I'm going to really talk about that today and it matters because. You know, we must continue to say her name and not to allow the time that has passed since her death. We don't want that energy to waiver in any way. Today. I wanted to do a pseudo Q and a, or question and answer episode about diversity and of course, how it relates back to music [00:02:00] and the arts.

[00:02:01] But I wanted to ask myself, some of these questions about diversity, ones that I'm often asked and a few others that I haven't really been asked publicly, but I really wanted to think through and share. And ever since June. And if you need it June, 2020, and if you need a refresher of what happened in June, and I guess in late May, there will be an article linked in the show notes, but lots of arts organizations and especially music organizations have suddenly decided to care about diversity and in the ways of diverse programming.

[00:02:49] And also, uh, musicians, my organization, uh, Sphinx, Castle of our Skins, Street Symphony, and Challenge the Stats, and so many others [00:03:00] have already been doing the work of diversity and inclusion before it became trendy. And in an effort not to go on and on about that, I'll just say again, that diversity and inclusion is not new.

[00:03:21] And people have been asking organizations to support their communities through actionable change for many years. But in spite, of how we came to this place where we are right now, I am glad that we're here and I am seeing some change. And they also wanted to address that here. I would also like to preface my upcoming Q and a with the idea that diversity and equity and inclusion are going to be continual themes that I address in [00:04:00] conversations that I have with you all that I have with guests that we have in book club episodes. And there will be just more individual episodes about diversity as well. It's a part of the work that I do is a part that I see as most important. And so I'm going to, it's always just going to be at the forefront. So with that in mind, here are some questions and perhaps a few answers. Okay.

[00:04:29] So my first question that I often get in that I want to ask you in the answer for you is what is diversity?  Diversity for me and for the dictionary is the makeup of a group of people. It's literally the makeup of people at any one place or space or a particular situation.

[00:04:56] For example, let's keep it musical here. [00:05:00] You go into a bar or somewhere where someone's playing music and you look at the musicians on stage and upon first glance, everyone seems to be of a different race. Okay. We would call that probably diverse.  If you go to perhaps an orchestra concert and all the musicians on stage are primarily of one race or ethnicity.

[00:05:35] Again, based on your assumptions, you would say that that is probably not really diverse. Now the inclusion of a person with an identity that differs from yours, doesn't automatically make that space diverse. My existence as a black person living in Austin, Texas, again, doesn't [00:06:00] automatically make this city diverse just because I live here.

[00:06:04] One person doesn't make your board of directors diverse. A space that is diverse, it means that there are a lot of people with a variety of lived experiences and identities in that space or in that particular situation. Right? People have thoughts, beliefs, and identities. They are different. They love different things, who they are, what they love. And being in that space, being in that place that amalgamation of those lived experiences is what's important.

[00:06:39] And that is what can make a space truly diverse. Now they're in that space. But diversity doesn't do anything to really acknowledge how those people are welcomed into that space. And if those people are heard, understood, and listened to, [00:07:00] how they're treated, if they're compensated fairly, if they are subjected to daily microaggressions that they have at the office water jug.

[00:07:12]It doesn't addressed if they feel safe to be themselves in that space, that's inclusion, which is something different and as important, if not more important. So again, there will be more episodes going into diversity and inclusion, but that's what I believe diversity is.

[00:07:37] Now another question is who is diversity for? And I think that this is a tough one because none of us really want to admit that diversity is for everyone, but,  [00:08:00] it's also not, it's really complicated. And that's why I'm kind of thinking through the question that I've, that I've thought through and answered many times to myself because it is difficult.

[00:08:14] I think though diversity is for everyone, it makes our world better. And it's up to us to understand what better means and who better serves. You know,

[00:08:34]one time recently someone asked me, well, if things were diverse, what would be the results of that? What does a diverse future look like ? In unapologetic, which is a book? So the name of the book is Unapologetic, A Black Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements the [00:09:00] author, Charlene Carruthers, talks about this. And in my opinion, she does this really, really  well, but in a kind of round about way.

[00:09:10] So there's a chapter in the book called , "Revising the Black Radical Imagination, and I'll have the book linked below and it's a 10 out of 10 read for anyone. And any way in it, she talks about  how anti-blackness has killed the Black imagination. And I'll have something about anti-blackness linked below, but this is your again, friendly reminder that anti-blackness is global.

[00:09:38] It's not unique to what is currently happening in the United States, but, you know, imagination is the ability to dream, to see, to create, to have visions about the future. And I read this book like five months ago, and I've really been stuck on this idea [00:10:00] of the Black radical imagination, because in some ways, for me, the result of a diverse future and a diverse world is that Black people are allowed to have their imaginations back.

[00:10:17] And I'm not saying that, you know, again, I only can speak to my Black experience. I can't speak to every Black experience, but I think that maybe in some ways, and for a lot of people too, a lot of people who experience marginalization because of their identities, they have been unable to live in a world that allows them to 

[00:10:43] imagine a future that is better. And to make that future that they have imagined happen. I mean think about living a life where after the age of four or five, your imagination is taken away from [00:11:00] you. It's killed because of the realities of a world that doesn't want you to succeed. And it barely wants you to be here in the first place. And I think ultimately that's what I want for the world. I think that is justice. And I want to see that be given back to, to, Black people, to people of color, to, again, those who in any way might have experienced marginalization. It's such a part of who we are as people, right? The ability to dream and to imagine, and I think we all have that, but we don't all get to express that.

[00:11:47] And that's what I want for the world. I want a diverse future . A society where there is equity in. [00:12:00] This imagination, you know, like where it's required, where there is collective liberation for, for everyone. And I think a diverse future allows people to have that it allows for that belief, that love, that dreaming.

[00:12:22] Another question that I wanted to answer is why haven't things, especially in  music been diverse until now. And we're using now kind of with a little asterisk because you know, again, there have been organization to have been doing this work for many, many years, but simply put to me, it's racist ideas and policies. Notice, I didn't say racist people.

[00:12:51] I said racist ideas and policies, and in How to Be an Anti-Racist by [00:13:00] Ibram X. Kendi, he talks about kind of being able to separate or differentiate people from policies and ideas. And I think that's really important for me to reiterate is I'm not saying that any one person is, is racist or says these types of things.

[00:13:20] I am just simply saying that there are ideas and policies that are set up in our society that do bleed over into the structure of  all genres of music and especially classical music.I and not saying that racism is the only reason why the music field hasn't been diverse or welcoming, but I think it is a large part of it. Uh, sexism and all of those things are part of it as well. And again, going back to their structure of classical music, the way [00:14:00] that you succeed in classical music, the way you start, uh, in and out of how you go about it, it favors people with privilege and access and it's structural and is, is systemic. And it is ultimately set up to oppress a lot of people in a lot of different ways.

[00:14:22] So again, racism is not the only reason the classical music hasn't been diverse in the past, but it's a large part of it. And I feel as though ,yes, it is a, a complicated answer, which I will continually be trying to, uh,unpack or unravel. But I think we are finally getting to a place where more people are able to say that and where they're [00:15:00] able to understand what you mean.

[00:15:03] And they're able to say, Hey. I think I'm ready to acknowledge this and to make some change, of course, you know, racist ideas and policies or other types of policies that oppress people, don't always prohibit every single person from that one identity from succeeding in that particular field. Uh, but it is part of it.

[00:15:35] And again, people will always succeed. People love classical music, and it's not that the 12 tones in Western classical music. So to say, are used to your press people. It's really the way that the system operates. And I [00:16:00] think that we have an opportunity, like I said to work now, do you change that?

[00:16:05] And my last question that I often get, and then I want to talk about is why is diversity important? And diversity is important because it is the right thing to do. It's really for me anyway, um, it's the right thing to do. It's the only thing to do to include people of all races, ethnicities, gender identities, in all aspects, and in all of the decisions that we make in our society. Time and time again, we see what happens when organizations and companies that are made up of groups of non-diverse people are left to make decisions about everything else. It is not good. It never turns out well. And I think again, if we want to go back to thinking about a future, [00:17:00] imagining a future that is diverse, that allows everyone to be there that is why this is important.

[00:17:09]So those are kind of my thoughts on diversity so far. Those are my few questions that I often get. Those are the few answers that I often give. And again, there'll be many, many more episodes dedicated to this topic because it is important. And because it is  something that I want to, so thank you so much for listening.

[00:17:42] Don't forget to you follow the podcast on social media, including Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, visit the podcast at musicallycogitating.com. And we also have a newsletter, which you can subscribe to you where you will [00:18:00] receive some cool stuff from the show .And if you're listening to this on Apple podcasts, please give the show a like, a rating, and review as it helps me to know how to make this show better.

[00:18:16] So that is all for today. Folks, I will see you, or I guess you can expect you hear me back in your ears with our next episode in two weeks .Until then.