This guest blog comes from Nathan Holder.
Just a few days ago, yet another unarmed black man was killed by the police in the USA. Despite repeatedly telling police officers and passers-by that he was struggling to breathe, George Floyd’s last breaths were caught on camera, and have circulated the globe, serving as a reminder that all humans are equal, but some are more equal than others.
Tens of thousands of children across the globe have either seen the footage of George’s death, or are aware of not just the tragedy that occurred on the 25th May, but the many other black lives which have been extinguished at the hands of the police. It seems like only yesterday we were confronted with images of Ahmaud Arbery being ambushed and murdered.
The truth is, that after watching this latest video, reading comments on Twitter and reposting stories on Instagram, there will be some children who won’t know what to think. There will be some children who will be scared when their older brother, father or uncle leaves the house to go to work. There will even be some children who will hear their parents or other family members say, ‘He deserved it’.
The question is, what are we, as educators going to do about it? If we are serious about dismantling the systems of oppression that manifest themselves in many areas of society, how can we address these balances in our lessons?
Specifically, as a music educator, there have been many songs written in the last few years which have highlighted police brutality in the US. As with any song, we can analyse anything from harmony, melody, rhythm, and of course, lyrical content. By doing this, we not only address the injustice that we are all painfully aware of, but we subconsciously let children know that this music is just as worthy to study as a Beethoven Sonata or a theme written by John Williams.
Here are a few easily accessible examples which can help us to start to understand what the lived experiences are for black people in America, and how people of the global south see themselves in relation to these tragedies.
Over to you, teacher.
Hell You Talmbout – Janelle Monae ft. Wondaland Records
‘Hands Up’ – Daye Jack ft. Killer Mike
Freedom – Beyoncé ft. Kendrick Lamar
Nathan Holder is a musician, author and consultant based in London. He received his Bachelors from Anglia Ruskin University, and his Masters in Music Performance from Kingston University, while winning the MMus Prize for Outstanding Achievement. As a musician, he has performed with artists such as Ed Sheeran, The Arkells and Zoe Birkett, and performed in locations in Dubai, Bali, USA and across Europe.