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  • Listening to Black Voices

    We challenge Smithsonian Folkways listeners to do just that: listen. Educate yourself and begin dismantling the white supremacist narrative which has deferred justice in our country for over 400 years. The Smithsonian Folkways catalog is abundant with recordings from groundbreaking Black thinkers, poets, musicians, storytellers, and activists, past and present, who have much to teach us. Listen to them. Listen to iconic anthems of the Civil Rights movement of the '60s; listen to anti-fascists who struggled, and are still struggling, for equality.

    Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch III remarked last week:

    "We hope that this moment becomes the impetus for our nation to address racism and social inequities in earnest. Although it will be a monumental task, the past is replete with examples of ordinary people working together to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. History is a guide to a better future and demonstrates that we can become a better society—but only if we collectively demand it from each other and from the institutions responsible for administering justice."

    We also follow the lead of our colleagues at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, who have provided incredible resources on how imperative it is do the hard work of anti-racism: "No one is born racist or antiracist; these result from the choices we make. Being antiracist results from a conscious decision to make frequent, consistent, equitable choices daily. These choices require ongoing self-awareness and self-reflection as we move through life. In the absence of making antiracist choices, we (un)consciously uphold aspects of white supremacy, white-dominant culture, and unequal institutions and society. Being racist or antiracist is not about who you are; it is about what you do."

    Reflect. Read. Listen. These are the first steps of a journey that ultimately ends in action.

    The Freedom Singers performing "We Are Soldiers in the Army" at the 1996 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
    Bernice Johnson Reagon in conversation at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in 2003
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