Oberlin Blogs

In Solidarity (a musical perspective)

March 5, 2013

Dale Rothenberg ’13

So yesterday was a pretty big deal. After a few weeks of increased anonymous racism and homophobia on our campus, someone was spotted around midnight - and no more than a few hundred feet from where I live - wearing clothing resembling a KKK outfit. Overnight, all of our classes were cancelled by the administration, and plans were laid out to hold rallies and discussions that would both unite us as a student body, and answer at least some of the many questions we had.

It's really hard to talk about this issue without angering anyone. A lot of criticism has been focused on our "overreaction" of these events in our little utopian bubble. I agree to an extent: in comparison to other evils happening in this world, this problem we have is pretty mild...and reacting so explosively only encourages whoever's doing this. However, there needs to be a line. If we don't act now, how many hate crimes (hate-related incidents, hate graffiti, I don't care what you call it) need to be committed before it's appropriate? When my peers and I don't feel safe walking around campus, something must be done.

Historically, the jazz department (and jazz music in general) has always been involved in this issue. After forty years of separation from the rest of the conservatory, our new building was thoughtfully integrated into the hub of the classical department. As we thought of how to respond today, one of my peers suggested a brass band. There was a bit of discussion as to the reception of music like "When the Saints Go Marching In" at a rally like this one. Ultimately, we were reminded that our music is, in fact, a celebration of African-American culture and acceptance in a mixed-race community. So we marched. I was playing percussion instruments but I brought my camera with me and occasionally took some photos.

Students hold trumpets

Students hold drums

A student drums on a drum hanging around his neck

A student takes his trumpet out of the case

We marched to Wilder Bowl, where Dance Diaspora was performing. We traded off songs with them before the rally started.

A large crowd of students gather in Wilder Bowl

A gathering involving posters

The gathering makes space for a circle

Two people embrace in the circle

We then followed the members of Dance Diaspora in the back of a pickup truck around Tappan Square. The police stopped traffic for us, which was really nice because I'm sure you can't just throw a parade on a public street and tell the town on that day. I'm not sure anyone even knew we were going to march around the block on Main Street before we got out onto the street. Our line of protesters stretched all the way around to the other side of Tappan Square; I'm sure over a thousand people marched with us. The best part is that the music we were playing is just stuff we picked up by ear. It isn't rehearsed, and we have never played together as a group. It was just a bunch of musicians gathered together, playing music with each other.

Drummers sit in the back of a pick up truck

The march concluded in front of Finney Chapel, where we kept performing. Soon after, the convocation was started and a lot of valid points and insightful questions were brought up. This isn't the kind of problem that can be dealt with in one day, but I feel like we made significant progress towards a happier and safer future.

A filled Finney Chapel

Similar Blog Entries