An act of civil disobedience frames justice, race relations in the context of the St. Louis Symphony audience
The video of this protest made me sad for a number of reasons:
1. The horrified look of the one woman in the strapless gown; but, also, the dispassionate looks on the faces of many of the other attendees.
2. The reminder that Mike Brown’s killing, and the massive protests that ensued in response to his death, were treated by the news media like one big wave of violent riots in Ferguson, making moments of creative civil disobedience like this one appear almost like ‘old news’, or not as meaningful a protest to report to the public
3. That the concert appears to be poorly attended in general, but especially by blacks and other minorities, an image that doesn’t speak well to the state of the Arts right now, especially not of its ability to speak for social justice.
Art is a reflection of our culture; it is a means of voicing emotions through techniques that have evolved from the beginning of civilization. But, as artists, have we chosen to avoid rather than try to find a way to be part of the healing process? Does it really take a flash mob of protestors singing from the rows of a concert hall, chanting “Black Lives Matter,” to get people to wake up and see the injustice sweltering all around them?
It is so easy for me to sit here in my kitchen in judgment… But would I have been proactive enough to develop a project for the St. Louis community to try and find a way of helping to heal our community’s wounds? Or, would I have waited for someone else to do something that makes a difference to the problem? Is St. Louis a microcosm of what is clearly ‘those who have’ and ‘those who have not’? Can the Arts be a glue that brings all sentient beings together? I like this moment of protest, the idea of a “Requiem for Mike Brown” in a setting like this. But I’m not sure I like the way it was received by this gathering of people, a people who sit in those seats out of love for the spirit of the Arts.