Out In Harmony supports Black Lives Matter and the movements to end anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism and police violence.
As an LGBTQ2IA+ choir, we remember that the history of queer liberation is inextricably entwined with the history of the Black Civil Rights movement. We recognise that the intersections of racism and homophobia and transphobia mean that Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour face the majority of anti-queer/anti-trans violence, with Black trans women the most frequently targeted. We also recognise the less dramatic, everyday ways these systems of oppression shape our lives.
We acknowledge that racism exist within queer community as well, and we need to work to combat it. We must resist the tendancy to always think of communities of colour as external communities that we have to reach out to, and remember that Black and Indigenous queer people are integral members of our community.
In the past few months we have been having discussions, both among the board of directors and with the choir membership as a whole, about what we, as a majority-white choir, can do to address systematic racism within our organization and in the ways the choir interfaces with the wider community. After reflection on these conversations, the board has committed to the following actions as first steps:
Firstly, to help accelerate our collective learning about racism, the board will arrange for a facilitated anti-racism workshop for the choir, to be paid for out of choir funds.
Secondly, we will change how we select and engage with the music we sing, while keeping in mind the differences between how the intersection of music and racism impacts different communities. The way Indigenous artists are erased and under-represented in commercial music is different from how Black music has been stolen, appropriated, and white-washed while under-girding most of the popular music of the last century. As such, we must take multiple tacks in our approach to anti-racist musicianship.
One issue we need to address is the way the choir has not always known or acknowledged when we were performing the work of Black artists, or work derivative of Black culture. We aim to do better on this front by engaging more with the historical and cultural context of the songs we sing as we are learning the music, and in order to meet this goal we will ask choir members to do a bit of research on each song and bring that information to the rest of the choir for discussion early in the season.
We also want to sing more Indigenous music in respectful ways and support the Indigenous peoples whose unceded land we sing on. To facilitate this we will endeavour to create a program to enable the choir to regularly commission Indigenous composers, with a particular focus on engaging local Two-Spirit musicians.
Finally, we have agreed that a report on our anti-racism efforts will be made to the membership annually, at all future AGMs, to ensure that we continue to address these issues and are accountable for our commitments.