Movements of Don’t Look Away
I. Don’t Look Away
The first movement of the piece is an invitation to this moment and an exhortation not to retreat while we examine this difficult topic. It recognizes that we all start somewhere, and everyone is welcome to this work.
II. Black Lives Matter
The second movement functions as the credo (Latin for “creed,” the thing we believe). It breaks down why Black Lives Matter is an important slogan, and why All Lives Matter is problematic, even when it is well intentioned.
The third movement highlights the power of peaceful protest to inspire positive change in a world where the voices of marginalized people go unheeded. It bears repeating that research shows the Black Lives Matter protests were overwhelmingly peaceful, with the rare disruptions often caused by outside agitators and overly aggressive policing (see below).
IV. Small Steps
This solo movement is from the perspective of a white person growing into anti-racism, who sees there is a problem they want to help solve, but is unsure what the next steps are.
V. Tear Gas
This movement is the dramatic center of the work, and contains the most tension and conflict. It uses part of the Dies Irae from the requiem mass, which translates as “Day of Judgment,” and portrays a peaceful, powerfully emotional protest that gets interrupted by counter-protestors and police aggression. The potential clash is interrupted by a gorgeous chorale which calls on us to Listen. This strong and steady voice cuts through the chaos, directing us toward specific, positive action.
Our second solo movement pairs with Small Steps, and shows the growth of our white character as they make a more informed, stronger commitment to justice.
Latin for weeping, this movement grieves the fact that so many white people grew up thinking we were in a world that in fact did not exist, were told to be colorblind, which erases the experience of people of color, and so much time was lost pretending there was no problem to solve. Racism costs everyone, including white people, who by accepting a system of oppression, accept disconnection and the dehumanization of ourselves. Feelings of guilt, shame, sadness and loss are part of awakening to the reality of our system that privileges whiteness, of realizing how all of us have been failed by those who passively allowed that system to continue and did not question it. White people must work through those feelings to come ready to help those who are doing the work to eradicate racism.
It moves into a celebration of the beauty and strength in diversity, which we gain when we start to recognize the different experiences of Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian-American and Pacific Islander people in this country.
Referencing the idea that “the bill has come due” and that we are overdue to rectify this problem, this movement recognizes how white people created and perpetuated the system that privileges themselves. All of us want to see the people who came before us—our family, our ancestors, the founders of the nation—as “good people,” but in this instance, if white people ignore the dark side of what their forbears created, allowed, sanctioned and ignored, we won’t ever be able to dismantle it. Once we start to see the injustice in society, the support system for our privilege, we have to acknowledge it, and use that power for change.
IX. On Peace
Our final movement is not an ending, but a send-off. It looks forward to the work we have yet to do to make a meaningful difference in our communities. Much like the end of the requiem, in which mourners pray for “the angels to lead you into paradise,” the work that we do to create the society every person deserves will be what affords us true peace and rest. Without justice, there cannot be peace.