Siege Diaries 6/2/2020

In the midst of incredible turmoil in the US, somehow today I found hope. I attended a virtual vigil organized by the Democrats Abroad Black Caucus in memory of Black lives lost to police brutality. For 2 1/2 hours I listened to Black men and women (and a few white, Asian, and Latinx allies) all over the world tell their stories, which ranged from sobering and sad to incredibly passionate and empowering.

But it was one story in particular that made my heart sing. The vigil opened with a performance by a violinist named Kelly Hall-Tompkins of the theme from Schindler’s List. Later Ms. Hall-Tompkins spoke about the power of music to change lives, and I learned about her foundation, Music Kitchen. For over 15 years, she’s been working with professional classical musicians in New York to bring music to the lives of the disenfranchised in homeless shelters. She’d planned to celebrate the group’s 15th anniversary last month with a concert of songs—all of which were originally premiered at concerts in shelters—at Carnegie Hall. This obviously had to be postponed due to the pandemic, but I’m sure it will happen in due time.

Why was this so inspiring to me? Because I believe the arts are a human right, and this is precisely the kind of organization I want to be involved in. Music, in particular, has changed my own life, and as a classical music fan, it bothers me most is the idea that this type of music is for rich old white people only. Black people in particular are underrepresented in orchestras, as well as in the ranks of conductors and composers and soloists, but they are there, often having faced considerable obstacles along the way. And as Ms. Hall-Tompkins has proved, they are doing great things.

Today was dubbed Blackout Tuesday in social media—the original intent being to amplify Black voices in music and dance. This is my chance to do that—to amplify a woman and an organization that has brought the best of humanity to the world. Her life matters.

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