Tag Archives: human rights

Yep, I’m a church musician

I don’t normally write about religion, but I do specialize in music and ritual in my research. I definitely don’t blog about my personal beliefs either (that’s why they call them personal), so let’s just say it took a couple weeks’ worth of contemplation before I finally decided to put this post out there. Here goes…

I’m a church musician; I’m a staff singer in a local Episcopal church, to be precise. Say what you will about organized religion, but generally Episcopalians are amiable and they make it a priority not to hate anyone. Considering the atrocities that have been carried out in the name of many branches of Christianity, as well as the recent schism between these amiable non-haters and their gay-bashing theological nemeses, I’d say Episcopals are doing okay. But I digress…

I sang at the funeral of a recently retired Army engineer the other day. He was a graduate of West Point and a pillar in his community, where he worked to ensure that state policies kept good standards of environmental stewardship in Florida (boy, could they use him now). More importantly, he was a gentle and vocally well-endowed member of our bass section. One of the lines that touched me in the eulogy was something about how we as a community of faith share common suffering with his family, that we stand in solidarity with them in this difficult time. Although the deceased had planned his funeral, including the money it would take to pay staff singers like me to be there, this was true for me as well.

That same week, I had been working with images and stories of xenophobia and persecution in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Some of the blogren have taken recent opportunities to blog for human rights. I have been shocked by the horror of South African violence and the barbarity of Zimbabwe’s current policies on foreign aid. I stand in solidarity with the bewildered and displaced of Zimbabwe, but I cannot possibly share their suffering. Blogging for human rights, however, is only one way of raising awareness.

Tomorrow night at the Maggie Allessee National Center for Choreography, I’m going to see a developing piece called “Zambezi/Limpopo: Anatomy of a Revolution and the Spirit of Zimbabwean Resistance and Survival.” I have had the privilege of getting to know dancer/choreographer Nora Chipaumire through some research that I’ve done for this piece with several other FSU students. Nora’s powerful performances lend a voice to the thousands of voiceless displaced in and around Zimbabwe. The sketch I saw a few days ago had her dancing the image of a person on fire to the accompaniment of the Muslim call to prayer. I grew up surrounded by rather diverse ecumenical Christian church music, and I have since adopted an even more open stance on world religions and musical ritual. This piece spoke to me from inside a burning person inside a state in crisis. It was truly amazing on both spiritual and aesthetic levels.

Tomorrow’s piece draws from this and other sketches, but Nora will be joined by Zimbabwean revolutionary and world music icon Thomas Mapfumo and his band, Blacks Unlimited. Stay tuned for a full feature of Nora (hopefully with some pix) in a few days. Until then, I’m curious what other folks are doing to reflect upon and raise awareness about this and other conflicts affecting human rights? Give me a holler in the comments if you’ve come across something cool…

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