Statement of Solidarity
June 1, 2020 - Walnut Creek, CA
Zachary Gordin and the Festival Opera Board of Directors and staff are deeply saddened by the murder of George Floyd. We express our wholehearted solidarity with the Black community of the East Bay, and across our nation, in our struggle for racial equity.
Since the earliest days of opera in our country, Black artists have made immense contributions to the advancement of the art and industry. Their strength, perseverance and talent has given the American opera stage some of its highest achievements. At this solemn moment, we recognize and honor Black excellence on the stage of Festival Opera, including Michael Morgan, Lynne Morrow, Hope Briggs, Shana Blake Hill, Noah Stewart, Shawnette Sulker, Kevin Thompson, and Othalie Graham, who have forever left their mark on the company and in our hearts.
Festival Opera has begun discussions to memorialize the victims of racial injustice in our upcoming season. Meanwhile, we grieve the tragic loss of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many other Black Americans whose lives were ended senselessly, and express our heartfelt condolences to their families. There is no room for racism among us. We will listen, and use our voice to amplify the voices of our Black artists and community members. We stand with you. #BlackLivesMatter
Friends of Festival Opera,
I am grateful to the many who have chimed-in with support for our recent statements on the grave racial injustices we are witnessing in the US. Racism, injustice, and prejudice have been an ugly part of society for far too long. Opera, both culturally, and as an industry has not been immune to this disease. Indeed, our own statement from earlier this week was met with (albeit limited) dissent; a clear indicator that our work as a community-based arts organization is far from over.
How do we move forward?
I’m deeply moved by efforts from OPERA America and several of our colleague companies toward creating spaces, education, and initiatives for racial diversity, equity, and inclusion. The call-to-action is clear: if our art is for, and about the people - it must be for all the people. At this moment in history, this means advocating for those who are not heard with open minds, not seen with open hearts, and not safe to move about society as protected citizens.
I recognize the privilege my skin affords me, and while I grew up in a family that is racially diverse, I also acknowledge that I don’t have the answers needed to bring about change. So, I look to my community for advice, education, and connection in the hopes that we can begin healing. I commit to listening to your stories - even if they’re uncomfortable. I will continue to engage Black artists and maintain a safe and nurturing venue for Black representation in the arts. I will work toward dismantling overt and covert methods of oppression, and keep our doors open to all who want to experience the art form.
I have witnessed the power and transformation that art, and specifically opera, has on people. As an art form, the collaborative and multidisciplinary nature of opera is a microcosm of human connectivity, understanding, and love. I hope our efforts lead us to a better place as a people in future days, and I honor the struggle of Black American artists throughout history. Sharing their glorious gifts and complete commitment, shining against the backdrop of so much resistance, has given us countless treasures of artistic achievement.
In solidarity and love,