On June 1, as demonstrations protesting the death of George Floyd and racial injustice took place in dozens of U.S. cities and around the globe, the League of American Orchestras issued a statement of solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter. Floyd, a Black man, was killed while under arrest on May 25 by a white Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes; a video documenting the tragedy went viral and sparked mourning, protests, marches, and nationwide re-examinations of racial injustice. On June 2, the League suspended all public events, including that day’s sessions of its virtual National Conference, to honor #BlackoutTuesday in solidarity with those responding to racial injustice and to provide the League’s staff and community of stakeholders an opportunity for reflection and personal action.
The text of the League’s statement is below. Read the statement on the League’s website at americanorchestras.org/racialinjustice and learn more about the League’s equity, diversity, and inclusion work at americanorchestras.org/EDI2020.
In the face of ceaseless intolerance, hatred, and violence against African Americans in our country, historically and currently, we are impelled to reaffirm that we value all Black lives. Our colleagues of color—and many communities served by the orchestras we represent—are living with deep pain and fear, subjected to the threat of police violence, to the risks inherent in serving as essential workers in a time of crisis, and to ongoing oppression in a society scarred by racism. There is an urgent need for White people and predominantly White organizations to do the work of uprooting this racism. We recognize that for decades, in our role as a national association and voice for orchestras, we have tolerated and perpetuated systemic discrimination against Black people, discrimination mirrored in the practices of orchestras and throughout our country. And while we have called the field’s attention to the need for change and provided resources to support that work, we struggle to move as quickly as we should to align practices with our stated beliefs.
There is a gap between our espoused desire to serve communities and our readiness to confront racism. Closing that gap must be our work going forward. And as such, we are committed to dismantling our own racism and our role in perpetuating the systems of inequity that continue to oppress Black people. We stand ready to listen, learn, take action, and support you, the network of orchestras, as you continue to advance this work through your actions and artistry. We salute the many musicians who have raised their voices, including New York Philharmonic Principal Clarinet and League Board Member Anthony McGill, for his musical demonstration, #TakeTwoKnees.
Jesse Rosen, President and CEO
Douglas Hagerman, Board Chair
Aaron Flagg, Chair, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee of the Board
League of American Orchestras, June 1, 2020