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As I make preparations to attend what will surely be another dynamic SMT conference in St. Louis, I am also thoughtful.
I'm a relatively new transplant to the US, and I’ve been watching the ongoing events and 'national conversations' on race and racism in America with a bit of an outsider’s eye. My own institution has been engaging in many conversations around these topics, as events and activities on campus have forced us and our students to struggle with them in different ways. Increasingly, I’ve come to feel that it’s important for me to speak up, where I can and when I can, to help support those who are confronted with these issues in a very real (and often life-threatening, or life-ending) way in their lives.
Given our meeting’s proximity to Ferguson, one of the flash points for the current debate, and a place of ongoing challenges despite its current absence from headlines, I wondered if other members of the Society might be interested in taking some kind of action (while still conforming to the SMT's bylaws on politically neutral activities). I frankly don’t know what sort of action that might be. Some ideas:
some sort of pre-conference activity: an organized volunteering trip, a focused discussion or workshop on race/racism from a historical/contemporary lens. This might be too ambitious to organize at this late stage.
a discussion during the conference: perhaps an informal meeting time, either during sessions or during the breakfast, lunch, or dinner hours. A moderated discussion, workshop, or simply a place to voice opinions and ideas.
an ‘installation’ during the conference: Inspired by the “Clothesline Project” (http://www.clotheslineproject.org/), have a space for conference attendees to anonymously share their stories of race and racism. This would require some space and materials (either string, clothes pegs, paper and markers like the Clothesline Project; or simply paper, tape and markers to put stories on a wall)
a booth during the conference: set up in the publications room. I’m not sure what it would contain—it seems to me that providing information on the events in Ferguson would be difficult to keep politically neutral. But perhaps something could work.
Scholars for Social Responsibility IG: either reviving the group, or soliciting participation from its former members on this particular topic.
I thought I’d take the first step toward action by asking. I’d be happy to help brainstorm possible ‘actions’, and also assist with their implementation, if others want to consider. And of course, if you think this is entirely inappropriate for a music theory society to be discussing, that is also a valid response.