In June 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, two recent Luther College alumni created an online petition, calling for sustained efforts to make the Luther College Music Department a more inclusive and diverse learning environment. Within a few weeks, the petition gained over 500 signatures.
The response to this petition resonated with few individual faculty members’ interest in broadening the curriculum of the music department. During the summer of 2020, fifteen music faculty members participated in a book group to read and discuss Ibram X. Kendi’s memoir How to Be an Antiracist. That work resulted in a proposal to address systemic racism within the music theory curriculum, as well as the realization that a task force should be created to study racism and bias within our department as a whole.
On Thursday, October 1, 2020, the music department faculty voted unanimously to create an antiracism task force. That group was formed on October 12, consisting of four faculty, one staff member and two students. An advisory board was also created, consisting of 20 students, faculty, and alumni, who provided a sounding board to the task force.
During the 2020-21 academic year, the task force conducted several listening sessions with alumni, current students, and music faculty/staff. We listened to people’s stories and experiences with racism in the music department, and began to develop a draft statement professing our goal of achieving greater equity, diversity, and inclusion. We also created a website and co-hosted several events during Black History Month.
This year, we are encouraging all music students, staff, and faculty members to “take the pledge” to do anti-racist work this year, in whatever shape or form feels right for each individual. The bulletin board outside Jenson-Noble 214 holds pledge cards and stickers. As expressed by our 2021 Martin Luther King Day speaker, Lydia Kenow-Bennett, “anti-racism work needs to be done in the community.” In this way, we are echoing the many calls from President Ward, former Dean Kevin Kraus, and now Provost Lynda Szymanski to commit to making Luther College a more welcoming place for all students, staff, faculty, and community members.