This June, I’m Listening Now More Than Ever – A Personal Reflection
Typically June is a month that I will spend celebrating LGBTQ+ pride month. It's typically a month where I outwardly try to express myself. I buy the brightest outfits, I celebrate LGBTQ+ artists, I march in parades, and in general, I make a ton of noise, and typically use that as a jumping-off point for the rest of the year.
This June, everything is different. So I am vowing to listen to the stories of others whose struggles I cannot personally relate to because I have not walked a day in their shoes. But I know that I have an ear to listen to the stories from black friends, neighbors, colleagues, and fellow man/woman.
I fully understand that the fight for the LGBTQ community is NOT the same journey that a person of color experiences. So I am NOT comparing the two.
The senseless death of George Floyd outrages me. Just as the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and Breonna Taylor outrage me.
But I also know that my outrage isn't enough because I believe that I too must do better. It's difficult for us to acknowledge how we may feel about our white privilege so like many I have struggled to find the words to articulate my feelings in recent days, which is rare when you work in radio. We're supposed to be excellent communicators.
But I keep coming back to the belief that NOW IS A TIME FOR ME TO LISTEN.
I've spent a LOT of time this week reading notes and pieces from black artists, influencers, preachers, historians, and more.
But I think I have been most struck by the words the president of my alma mater (Emerson College), Lee Pelton, shared on Sunday evening.
I have looked to Mr. Pelton for comfort in times of crisis before. After the Boston Marathon bombing injured some of my classmates, it was his words that sent calm through the community. So I was struck when Pelton wrote,
As my wise friend reminded me, quoting James Baldwin, 'Any real change implies the breaking of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety.' So, I have no words of comfort today because they would be inauthentic. They would absolve so many from coming to terms with their own silent complicity in the world in which we live.
Pelton's words call all of us to action to begin to understand what everyone's role in this may be. To be honest, like so many, I have never confronted or even truly began to understand my role in this country's race problem.
And to be honest, the idea that I am a part of the problem upsets met. It makes me uncomfortable, and President's Pelton's words didn't bring me comfort... but instead, they too made me uncomfortable as I began to reflect inward. I know that is the first step:
As I wrote to someone today, 'This is not a black problem, but a structural issue built on white supremacy and centuries of racism. It’s your problem. And until you understand that, we are doomed to relive this week’s tragic events over and over again. What changes will you make in your own life? Begin with answering that question and maybe, just maybe we will get somewhere.
By the way, you can read Mr. Pelton's full letter to the community here.
So this June (and moving forward), I am making a commitment to listen. I am going to read more in the coming months to understand the struggles that my fellow man has faced. I am going to ask my friends and colleagues meaningful questions about their experiences, and I am going to listen because black voices matter.
I hope that I can bring some of that into my work every day because we must do better.
One of the core principles of 94.5 PST and Townsquare Media is "You Matter." This speaks to our commitment to our employees and our community. On Tuesday, June 2, we stopped regular programming to join with the music industry's #TheShowMustBePaused initiative on Blackout Tuesday. Our staff used the time to reflect upon our feelings and how we plan to be apart of a culture of change. Click here to read more. The above represents some of Joe's reflections from that day.