MFE’s Statement on Racial Justice
MFE believes that justice, equal opportunity and Black Lives matter.
If the combination of the pandemic and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery has revealed anything, it is just how inequitable, in virtually every sense, our society remains.
MFE also believes that when we witness injustice and inequity we all have a responsibility and indeed, the right, to speak out forcefully and when necessary, to march peacefully, but most important to commit to doing the hard work of bringing about necessary change. This is that time.
We will continue to do that hard work using the three pillars of our fundamental mission as our guide. That mission is to cultivate the power of music as an educational, community building and public health tool in Lancaster County.
Meaningful change requires access to educational opportunity. MFE has invested heavily and been actively involved in enhancing music education opportunities for students throughout the county, most of whom are from communities of color. The lessons in cooperation, tolerance, empathy, personal responsibility, creativity and communication and listening skills that are learned through music participation are precisely the type of skills necessary to develop the empathy and understanding required to bridge cultural differences. It is in that way that music teaches the empathy and acceptance that is vital in creating a society of culturally literate, understanding and tolerant people.
And music unites us in unique and uplifting ways. It is the universal language. And that universality is why its power and potential to break down barriers, increase understanding and build bridges is what makes it so effective as a tool to build community. In these days of mistrust, unrest and division we need to utilize this powerful tool to rebuild and unite our communities.
Music also heals. Issues surrounding isolation, hopelessness, injustice, and inequality are excruciatingly difficult and painful. Music can soothe our soul and can provide a sense of connection and commonality in a world of anguish and uncertainty. Music can and will contribute to our efforts to find common ground and, ultimately, peace.
Finally, while we all have a responsibility to “bear witness” to the events of the world around us, for musicians and artists, that responsibility is far more fundamental. It is the essence of what they do. Legendary musician and activist Nina Simone articulated this well. “You can’t help it. An artist’s duty is to reflect the times.”
To that end, we pledge to encourage and provide a platform, through our events and programs, for musicians and artists to continue to “bear witness” to racism, injustice and inequality.
There is no better song to sharpen that point than, “Strange Fruit”. Written as a protest to the inhumanity of racism, it was penned and arranged by Abel Meeropol, a white Jewish man from the Bronx after seeing a picture of a lynching. It was recorded in 1939 by Billie Holiday.
Southern trees bear a strange fruit.
Blood on the leaves and blood on the root.
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze.
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South.
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth.
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh.
And the sudden smell of burning flesh.
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck.
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck.
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop.
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
The power and truth of that song still applies today. And it is the reason why we need artists and musicians to continue to reflect the times.
To learn more about the history of this song, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZUoYgPe1Y4
MFE has been consistently working to cultivate the power of music as an educational, community building and public health tool for fifteen years. But we must do more. And we will, including efforts to diversify our board and teaching staff. Because in times like these cultivating music’s power as a tool to educate, build community, heal and yes, to “bear witness” to racism, injustice and inequality is more important than ever.
Please join us as we all must do more. The future of our community depends upon it.
Let’s keep singing…in harmony….together.