June 12, 2020
An Open Letter from The Music Center of South Central Michigan:
To the Community of Battle Creek and Calhoun County; to our friends in music; to all those who are suffering from the ugliness of racism throughout America, this letter is for you.
Our hearts are breaking for all of us at this time. While some of us think about racism only in times when it’s in the news, many of our brothers and sisters of color face it every hour of every day. You are forced to constantly be on guard with what you say, where you are, what you are wearing, and every aspect of your professional and personal lives. You change your language and how you present yourself in order to secure a livelihood or to be heard in many cases. As one of our musician friends shared, “It’s like putting on my white suit.”
Diversity, equity, and inclusion is one of our five strategic pillars. We are learning to view our work through this lens and have made programming changes to showcase black artists and music. We work to provide performance opportunities to people of color and have collaborated with other organizations to help us do so. We recognize the changes we are implementing are too slow and too little. While we confess we do not have the answers at this time (we don’t even have the right questions), we stand with you. The pace of change for us will increase and we will do what we can to use music as a platform for change.
Internally, we have criticized ourselves for being slow to make a statement of support and externally, maybe you have thought this as well. Our Board of Directors and our senior management is almost all white. We felt offering platitudes and a cliché statement on our website and social media would be a mistake. How can we, people who have never walked in your shoes, possibly add any words to help? So we have taken these last two weeks to talk to dozens of people from all walks of life before making our statement. Here’s what we can tell you for now:
Attention to diversity, inclusion, and equity will be elevated to the highest level in our organization.
Our pace to implement change will increase.
We will become educated and will not use ignorance as an excuse.
We will make mistakes and will have the humility to learn from our mistakes.
While you may think we aren’t going far enough in this statement, we refuse to make promises beyond this until we know what we are doing will have impact. The Right Impact. We are working hard to make change and will continue this transparent dialog with you. We welcome your feedback, either publically or privately. If you’d like to become part of the dialog, in whatever form that takes, please call us at 269-963-1911. You may need to leave a message as our office is only partially staffed at this time. Starting Monday, June 15, you can contact our Executive Director, Susan Balbaugh, directly at the above number, ext. 2523.
Penny DeGarmo, President
Dawn-Zande-Brady, Vice-President and President Elect
Shawn Westbrook, Treasurer
Bunny Hosking, Secretary
The Music Center Board of Directors
Anne Harrigan, Artistic Director
Susan Balbaugh, Executive Director