2019 Retreat Community Discussion Notes
Please note that these are imperfect. I tried my very best to get the names right and make sure I was accurately writing down what people were saying. Please let me know if you have any corrections for me: email@example.com.
Maxine: Something was missing, what’s missing is many times we talk about folks behind their backs and the person isn’t there to tell his her side of the story and that keeps negative going and going, need to hear both sides of the story
Art explains some conflicts and splits in the history of the project (2013-2016 choir was directed by Daryl Walker), Benny now has her own choir
A few words about the Kathleen Battle concert
- Had been preparing for a year to perform with Battle, rehearsed all summer
- She did 1990 concert of spirituals with Jessye Norman, enormous thing to have done
- Kendra, director of the Newman Center, proposed bringing Battle to work with the choir
- Experiences with Battle were unpredictable, one day praising, one day berating people, in the concert itself there was one point when she pushed Roger out of the way and started conducting herself
- Difficult experience
- Ed wanted us to respect her because she laid important pathways, has experienced trauma ,we should recognize and respect what she did for us
- Someone asked: How did Roger feel about this? Roger: Trauma is layered, the respect we have for an artist like that and the trauma we have experienced -- dealing with both at the same time --we often deal with pain using laughter
Rosa: my experience watching the concert is that there was tension, and what came through that it was Kathleen's stuff, doing her thing, exquisite music
Aimee: in addition to her talent, have to remember that she was a black woman trying to gain respect, a lot of this demanding may come from there--doesn't condone it, but recognition that the journey towards trying to reclaim control is that you have a notion of what is safe and what she wants
Complicated. All these things at once.
Sherri: We are very quick to react and judge
Everyone has a story, and when you don't know someone's story you invent things, then when you learn it, things can completely change
Chris: where are my ancestors in this story? My white side not my Chinese side--how do we get to each other's stories?
Deb: was born in Haiti, sometimes I've felt a disconnect here in the USA. the picture in Ghana (in the film)--that's where we all started from. I was just on a different boat----trying to integrate so many things.
Eva: my ancestry is from the Netherlands…people burned at the stake -- I still have that in my ancestry, we all have suffering and therefore should be more cognizant of what has happened to the African Americans
Arlen Hirchberger's main motivation for being connected to this are his roots in the Mennonite community, tradition of singing
Abe: agree that some of us at all level have a history of persecution, but I'm thinking about the very direct connection between my privilege and slavery--no one ever taught us that. A piece of our collective history that was taken from us. Sometimes we skip over, what is it that we're healing from? I don't have any responsibility for this pain and sorrow. That is so completely separated from what my life has been . We need to understand what the pain is. Before we start saying that we don't see color.
Rufina: I was pondering healing the whole night and it hit me that we are the manifestation of the balm. Especially as people remember where the songs came from--the meeting places, in the fields, etc. Every one of us, our ancestors have left somewhere to go somewhere else. We are the balm.
Roger: We will need to be the balm, the music we sing will need to be the balm
Rufina: When I came to the choir, I had so little time in my schedule, and now I feel like if we're going to be the balm, we have to put ourselves out there
Aimee the elder: We tend to focus more on symptom management than on healing. Emphasis since the civil war has been calming things down and maintaining social order. Healing is messy, it involves risk, it isn't always pretty.
Michael: Parallels between what is happening to Chicanos in this country. I was weaned on the Chicano movement. It took a long time for me to realize, wait a minute. I had a lot of anger toward white people. Took me a long time to realize that there are a lot of good white people out there who are allies. I've gone through some healing. Another thing that comes to mind is what's going on with immigrants in this country. So many correlations there. A lot of healing has to be done.
Jackie: I fell down yesterday. I have been thinking about healing. It's not pretty, blood, scab, it falls off, scar. Metaphor. I'm thinking about how when Jim spoke about the people at the county jail that he serves. I've been working on changing the name of Stapleton.
Maybe we should take this balm to the county jail and not just the concert halls--public singing?
Randy: the white privilege thing is driving these issues. I'm a white man. What do I do about it? How do we heal the white bigots? They don't understand what they're doing.
Anne: I'm interested in stories. Starting a PhD program at DU. In my work as a teacher who like to help people find their stories. Witness.
Balm to heal the sin-sick soul
Kathryn: Dealing with the fact that I am white--healing for me
Aimee the younger: I was thinking, even going this summer without this choir had created a void in my own body--and I think that is what is so important about music--at the intersection between body and intellectual. Racialized trauma has left scars in the bodies of people of color and people who are white. How singing releases energy that has gotten stuck by trauma. I am grateful for how music is a human language to the brain and to the body
Alice: When watching the movie, it came back to me, I was attached to Jenny [sp?]--she told me, "I wanted to be a singer like Shermita, they wouldn't let me in the Lamont school of music because I was black." And I wanted to say Jenny [sp?] we made it
Denise? [I didn't catch the name] My parents had degrees but they couldn't get hired in Colorado anywhere so my father joined the Airforce. Covert racism is in Colorado--don't expect it and when it comes it hits hard. Whereas in the south you're ready for it. I've experienced some of the worst racism in Colorado. Because it's covert. My family was successful in this state but it wasn't easy.
Mercedes: We need a healing committee to promote healing within the city and the state because first we have to heal within here. I am from the south. I have scrubbed floors and I have walked picket lines. You can say you know how I feel but you have never walked in my shoes. I will say that you will never know how I feel because I'm still processing. They didn't think enough to think of us as a human. We all have to heal and healing comes from knowing. Knowing that the music we sing, called spirituals was medicine for the people who were singing. It's very hard to maintain African Americans in the choir. And I don't understand why because my home is NOLA and we had a spirituals choir and it wasn't hard to maintain African Americans in that choir. This is a different breed for me. A lot of the things I've experienced, my brothers and sisters here haven't experienced. I'm not going to tell you that that every time that I walked into the spirituals, I've felt comfortable.
Randy: I'm all about the healing process. If we wait until we're healed, we won't do anything.
Art: when we made the film, we had hopes that we would continue to process things within ourselves. But we've gotten caught up with preparing for concerts. It would be helpful to think periodically and remind ourselves of our own internal process. Feel authenticity within ourselves.
Chris: I count the room. The first people who started talking were not the African American members of the choir. What does that say?
Mercedes: I heard I lot. I heard what you were saying what you weren't saying
Eva: Adopted son from the Philippines. The looks that I would get when we would walk around town.
Daryl pops in: At a thank you lunch about how we mentor and build leaders. Just wanted to say hello. When I took over, it was a broken group. Healing theme. Divine timing. Give applause to the ancestors. Let us be the vessel that we are each called to be.
Need a little oral history of the choir video -- there are no secrets, but hard to communicate everything to everyone [is there a student filmmaking class that might be interested in this project?]