When I look back at the Civil Rights icons of the past, I often wonder how they were able to fight through such harsh and unyielding conditions. How were they able to successfully propel movements beyond the barrier of injustice?
Before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his now-famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the 1963 March on Washington, the legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson performed the song "How I Got Over," inspiring the millions watching to persevere through difficult times. Hopefully, at tonight's concert, BCC’s performance of this song – in addition to the rest of the program – can do the same.
In 1946 Viola Desmond, a Canadian businesswoman, was arrested and fined after she refused to leave the Whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theater. How was Desmond able to persist through the legal battles that were emblematic of Canada's civil rights movement nearly a decade before Rosa Parks? How was Nelson Mandela able to endure 27 years of imprisonment and ultimately lead South Africa out of Apartheid?
How were they able to get over? Today, protests and conflict have erupted around the globe as more communities strive for equal rights and inclusion. Having grown up in North Dakota, I know all too well the harsh conditions the protesters are enduring at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, yet they stand resolute in the face of sub-zero temperatures and impossible pressure. Nearly 100 years after Suffrage, women still have not obtained equal status. Syrian refugees, fleeing the horrors of war, just want a safe place for their families.
How can they get over? Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable...Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Without persistent effort, time itself becomes an ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social destruction. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At tonight's concert, our young singers and their voices will inspire hope. At BCC, we believe that the foundation to a great society starts with discussing and understanding our differences. We believe that creating a safe space, where all voices are heard, is vital to having productive conversations. Today, more than ever, we need to be understanding of those who are different from ourselves. In rehearsals each week, we sing and discuss songs that push us to acknowledge the varied perspectives and life experiences represented within the rehearsal space and beyond. At BCC, we strive not just to see and tolerate difference, but to appreciate and even crave it. In opening ourselves up to the experiences of others, and in sharing their vulnerabilities, their joys, and their pains, we open ourselves up to the possibility of a more just and equitable future.
We invite you to join us in this journey. Have a conversation with your neighbor – the person next to you tonight, and those with whom you walk through life, friends and strangers alike – and share the content of this program. Like those who have fought for civil rights, we hope you, too, will find a way to persevere, to help us all get over.
Anthony Trecek-King President and Artistic Director