When I was in second grade, my mom enrolled me in piano lessons. After a couple of years, I quit the lessons, but my love of music continued. So, in fifth grade when band classes started, I joined. At age 10, I started to play the clarinet; practicing was not fun but playing music was. However, every year after 8th grade I would tell my mom that I was quitting because as diverse as my school was, my band was not. Additionally, the music that we played was mostly composed by old, white dudes. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bach’s complex chords and Mozart’s crazy arpeggios, but I could not fully feel their music in my bones.
In my senior year of high school, we played a song by Omar Thomas called Of Our New Day Begun and we played that song with intention. For the first time in band, I felt seen. Seen in the way where I did not stand-out but instead, my existence was both acknowledged and accepted. I was represented in band music!
But that sense of acknowledgment and acceptance doesn’t exist in many spaces. For example, many executive offices lack black talent, not because the talent doesn’t exist, but rather because those spaces are not accepting of them, causing them to leave. Big banks and business have come under fire in the last few years for this.
In 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president, little black boys and girls like me were able to see a world where anything was possible and where our dreams would not be limited. But as I grew up, I saw fewer people who looked like me in prominent positions. Workspaces, school spaces, elected offices, need to be more inclusive if we hope to move towards a better society.
Question: How do you make others feel comfortable and included?
Contributor: Nayher Futsum, YWCA communications intern