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Home » Officer Columns » Executive Board Members » In Troubled Times, Stand Up and Fight Back

In Troubled Times, Stand Up and Fight Back


by Tina Morrison, AFM International Executive Board Member and
Vice President of Local 105 (Spokane, WA)

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

—Leonard Bernstein’s response to the assassination of John F. Kennedy

We’re in a pivotal time in the history of the United States. We can agree to disagree on many things, but as musicians, we have to acknowledge the great wealth that immigrants brought to our country. The music we make and listen to every day carries the voices of many cultures intertwined to create beauty in the moment. The idea of closing our borders and shutting out the artists of our future is simply not acceptable to me. Families being separated has undertones of ideas and behavior that cannot be allowed. We have to maintain a legal, ethical program allowing for immigration. Compassion should have a place in such decisions.

Leonard Bernstein was the son of Russian immigrants, Yo-Yo Ma of Local 802 (New York City) was born in France, Eddie Van Halen of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) emigrated with his family from the Netherlands, Wyclef Jean is from Haiti, Local 6 (San Francisco, CA) member Carlos Santana’s family emigrated from Mexico. This is just a tiny cross-section of people who have shaped our art form since JFK was assassinated. The blending of cultures influenced classical composers and created jazz. Something that I have always loved about the music community is our diversity. A great drummer is a great drummer!

Current events encompass everything from school shootings to families being torn apart at our southern border. The Supreme Court decision regarding Janus v. AFSCME, which is a direct attack on unions (our members), as well as each state’s rights not to choose “right to work” laws, is looming. Tension has been building with the G-7 Summit and North Korea. Good grief!

I had the opportunity to take a couple of hours on Friday night to listen to one of my favorite local music groups: the Brent Edstrom Trio. (Shout out to AFM Local 105 members: Brent Edstrom, Eugene Jablonsky, and Rick Westrick.) They lived up to the Bernstein quote above and helped me get past the daily awfulness and renew my focus on what’s important. Right now, for me, it’s stand up, fight back!

In the US we have an opportunity to make a change in every election cycle. Participate. Make sure you’re registered to vote (especially in Ohio—check the Supreme Court ruling announced June 11) and help others register to vote. Get to know the candidates running in your region, from precinct committee officers to school board members to senators. Make informed choices. Reach across, around, over, and through borders and boundaries.

Finally, with the suicides that have been in the news, celebrities, veterans, and friends, please remember our country has been through hard times before. For a 10-year period, the US struggled through the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy; the Vietnam War; and the struggle for civil rights.

Make music to tell the stories of our times, to lift our hearts, to strengthen us in our resolve, and give us moments of peace and beauty. Thank you all for your work.

“Above all, we are coming to understand that the arts
incarnate the creativity of a free people … When the creative
impulse cannot flourish, when it cannot freely select
its methods and objects, when it is deprived of spontaneity,
then society severs the root of art.”

— John F. Kennedy

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