Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music
I was doing some research and came across a post on Craigslist. Is this the sort of thing typical of American steelbands today? The text reads:
"Potts & Pans Steelband is looking for black musicians to work with. The group is currently comprised of white and hispanic members, and we have lost numerous gigs due to not having a black person in the group. If you have any musical experience and are up for learning a new instrument (the steelpan aka steel drum) I will give you free lessons. Even if you don't have musical experience, but would like to learn, I'll work with you!"
I personally find this disturbing for many reasons; as a human, as a musician, and as someone who works very hard at my craft.
Am I way out in the depths of space to be bothered by this?
Dear Pan Community,
I was gone for the past few days teaching and gigging, so didn't have the time to check the forum. I sincerely apologize for not getting this letter together sooner, but when I last saw the thread it was still relatively controlled. I would like to submit this post in response to what has been said in this thread. I will continue to answer personal messages/calls, but will not post again in regards to this thread or topic..
At a time when Donald Sterling can walk away from such blatant discrimination with two billion dollars in his pocket, and Dan Snyder can refuse to change the offensive name of his team to no social or legal consequence, I understand how the interpretation of this ad comes across as tasteless and poorly timed. I apologize to all who were offended, and it was not my intention to hurt anyone or perpetuate the stereotype that a “legitimate" steel-band must contain a minimum of one black member.
Pan, to me, is more than just an instrument; it's my life. It's our lives. Pan is our culture, our history, our dreams and aspirations, the hardships that our great pioneers of pan had to endure to get us where we are today, and the hardships we all endure to ensure it has a future for tomorrow. I believe it is important that any panist carries this all with him or her and wherever he/she goes, as an ambassador to the movement and our way of life. Although I'm not Trinidadian, I take the pan culture and history very seriously and enjoy the opportunity to educate others at every chance I get.
My intention with the ad, in targeting the recruitment of black (a term poorly used)/ethnically diverse musicians specifically, was to, specifically, draw musicians to interview for a chance to join us after receiving little to no response to my previous generic calls for musicians in the area. Having a more diverse band would open up the opportunity for a broader range of audiences to which we can spread pan to. This is not to pander to a racist demand for black/ethnically diverse musicians as a necessity for a steel-band, but representation and diversity matter. Pan is a beautiful instrument and can bring people from all walks of life together. I am building a group/band to reflect the idea that skin color, height, age, weight, sex, hair style, religious background, nationality, etc. play no role in the ability of a musician. A diverse group creates opportunities to demonstrate this fact of music, while another group of similar musicians may not be privy to such opportunities.
I would also like to clarify another point that continued to be brought up; the issue is related to a beginner going on gigs. I receive many calls/e-mails weekly for people interested in joining my various groups. In addition to running the professional group, I also run multiple community and educational organizations along with offering private lessons. No-one that connects with me through Craigslist is automatically put on a gig. Every one must earn a spot in the professional gigging side by demonstrating their ability to play their instrument of choice (pan or not) and conduct themselves in a professional manner. When I speak with potential new members, I recommend to over 90% of them to come out to a community rehearsal first before jumping into the professional side, so we can meet and assess their musical abilities. The remainder still need to come to a professional rehearsal before being put on a gig. The line about not having musical experience is to help alleviate the anxiety that a less confident musician may have when applying to be a member of a professional music group. This opens the door to expose more people to the beauty of pan and help encourage the diversity of the group.
I appreciate the support, and manner in which it was delivered, from people like Denette, Cecil, Bede, GHOST, Bertel and the many others that sent me personal messages and calls to offer their support.
I've dedicated my life to pan, and will continue to do so to the best of my ability with absolutely no regrets, as pan has enriched my life like nothing else has or will ever. My only agenda is to spread pan, as we see it, as far as I can.
Sincerely and Respectfully,
Way to go Matt. Nuff Respect!
I think that it is good that you addressed the Pan community. There are many people who believe in you or need to believe in you. I would have fired you for that ad on the spot if you worked for me. I hope you do not disappoint those who put their reputation on the line backing you, going forward.
Reading through all of this, what remains clear in all of this mess is that Carl Robinson by his own posts and lengthy harangues is aligned with Potts and Pans. This connection alone is enough to make anyone with concerns or scruples, steer clear of Potts and Pans. Notwithstanding that Ad from Potts and Pans Steelband called "Looking for Black Musicians", which speaks for itself. A combination of Carl Robinson and this band - a devilish one by any stretch.
Somewhere in the Bible there is a saying, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her". We are all Humans and we all make mistakes, none of us are Perfect and I accept Matt Potts Apology. I hope we all at WST can put this behind us and move on to a new Discussion concerning Pan and more Pan (thanks my fellow Comrades)
I just came across this article written by George D Goddard aka GHOST that I find to be very interest reading for my brothers and sisters at WST. I hope the management of WST would allow me to copy the entire article as I find it to be most interesting and informative to all. Thanks.
The OVERSEER and the PANTATION! - Why Matt Potts’ Apology Is As Just As Innocently Insensitive
And Disconnected As His Craigslist Ad.
Good day to all. Before I get into the above subject, I would like to clarify a few things. As some of you know, although I no longer post on When Steel Talks (WST), I still consider that blog site as one of my sources of information on steelband and pan-related “stuff”. As such, I became aware of Matt’s Craigslist advertisement the moment that Ms. Sara Paulenti posted her discussion on WST. Of course, as you all know, I too have my strong opinions, as they relate to BOTH the content of, and the intent behind the ad, because I choose to trust that he is genuine in his love for (our) steelband culture, I also chose to hold off on my comments, in order to allow him the opportunity to “defend” himself. In my opinion, an apology was forthcoming, and I’ll explain why in a moment.
The second thing that I’d like to clarify, is that I still consider Matt as being a decent young man. I waited eagerly for his response, and after a couple weeks without any, I decided to give him a call. Although we have never met, Matt and I have always had open and honest conversations. He immediately told me what I sensed; that he had no ill intent in posting the ad, and that he had intended to post an apology. I told him that, in my opinion, that idea should be priority, and that although I believe that he is not a “racist”, that I believe that the ad is (racist). I still do. I shared (with him) my views on the Craigslist ad, which I will share with the rest of you, now that Matt has posted his response.
As I explained to Matt, the ad, in and off itself, is racist. I explained that one does not (necessarily) have to be (a) racist, to make a racist statement. I used the example; that I can put out a fire, and not be a fireman, and likewise, anyone of us can deliver a baby, and not be midwives. In fact, labelling anyone (racists, included) as “racist”, let’s them off the hook; it gives them an out, or a way of detaching themselves from their (racist) statement. All they have to do is say, “No, I’m not a racist”, and they become the victim (of “wrongful accusations”), and the name-caller, becomes the “reverse-racism” predator. So, I do not know if Matt Potts is “racist” or not; I choose to give him a sincere “benefit of the doubt”, for only he knows what is in his heart, mind, and spirit. I don’t; and I’m too imperfect to try and play “God” over this Craigslist ad issue.
That said; the moment that “Black” became a qualifier in the ad, is the moment it became racist. Not “racial”, as many of my Trinbagonian colleagues term the practice. In reality, most people do not understand what “racism” is, nor do they grasp the difference between (being) “racist” and (being) “racial”. As a contributor to WST, I posted numerous discussions and YouTube links on the issue of racism, however, I was seen as the “racist”. In other words, speaking about racism, to far too many (of us), is seen as racist in itself, for we would much rather not have the discussion. We would rather pretend that in Trinidad and Tobago, “every creed and race find an equal place”, however, we ALL know that this is not the reality.
Black people in our twin-island nation, continue to be victimized, marginalized, and discriminated against, MAINLY because they belong to the ex-slave, African diaspora. I do not expect Matt to fully grasp the offensive nature of his insertion of race as a qualifier for the “job”, because, in reality, most of my peers who commented on WST, including some whom I consider “close friends”, did not (and still do not get) how the ad is racist. Hopefully, we can all learn from all this, and I again encourage you all, to look at the YouTube links that I posted on WST.
As far as the “justification” for the racist ad; here, again, is an opportunity to learn. The method of fighting racism, can never be the conforming to the requests of those whom you know to be racist. The correct action, in my opinion, is to reject the offer, and then expose the racists to your peers. Matt failed to do either, and I am not sure that he truly understands that. For some reason, Matt’s “apology” seems to be “apologizing” for those (like me) who are offended, for (our) failure to understand the ad. In other words, it seems that he is saying that he is sorry for the “misunderstanding” on our parts, and not the racist snafu on his. Again, regardless of his intent, the words are clear and concise; left to very minimal (if any) interpretation. He also made incorrect references to Donald Sterling and Dan Snyder, for both of these racist, White wealthy men, are suffering the consequences for their actions, whether they are in denial, or simply apathetic about the feelings of those whom they consider “inferior”.
The fact is, Donald Snyder did not just “walk away”, and his attitudes and opinions are not just “blatant discrimination”; they are OFFENSIVELY RACIST! The fact is, Dan Snyder continues to receive opposition from many in society, and Facebook and the internet are laden with social organizations and mobilization towards the effort to have the “Redskins” label removed permanently. As Bob Marley sang, “who feels it, knows it”, and I understand that, to many who do not fall into the “minority”, the tree isn’t falling in the forest, because they are not in the forest to hear it fall. Only those in the forest hear the trees falling, and the tree of racism MUST fall, but will not fall until we ALL (from “crow to snow”, lol), become more genuine in our attempts to understand and eradicate racism.
So, again, while his intent may have been bona fide, Matt needs to own this. Embrace the fact that the ad was racist. In my opinion, an apology (i.e. admitting an error), would include the removal (or editing) of that offensive ad, and I hope that it has been removed or edited; for if it is still posted on Craigslist, then that tells me that Matt was not apologizing for the posting of the ad nor its contents, but (again) because the reader failed to understand the ad. As Black folk would say on this, “Mama didn’t make no fool”. When I saw the apology, I was really hoping that he would have gotten it, because in posting the ad, he did, in fact, “pander to a racist demand…”
I would ask Matt to consider: what if he were a pan player desperately looking for work, and came across that ad? How would he have felt, if, because he is not “Black”, he could not apply for the job? Further, why wasn’t the ad posted where many Black “Trini” panmen and panwomen would have seen the ad? The whole thing just does not make sense; what if he goes back to the client, and the client says that they prefer a “Black” with dreadlocks, or tell him to take it back, as they want a blacker one? How black should the Black be? And what is his intended White-Black ratio for the band? Eleven percent, in keeping with the population? As the band grows, will the need for more Blacks grow? Affirmative action or offensive action? Keep in mind, the former was designed to balance the college education “playing field”.
Matt was not seeking to balance anything other than his bank account, and he admits that, and that is where they got him…the “racists”, that is. By the way, this was also the “justification” many slave owners used, including those who were (supposedly) against slavery. You cannot claim to hate the beast, while feeding the beast, and by looking for a “Black” for the desires of the beast, you become an ENABLER! The OVERSEER on the PANTATION! Again, I know Matt does not get the serious implications of his ad, and I sincerely look forward to the day that this fine young man becomes mature enough to truly understand what he did in posting the ad. I know he will, for the ONLY other choices he has, is to be(come) openly racist, or be stuck in denial and disconnect. I encourage Matt to do more study on, not just steelband and steelpan, but on race and racism as well, for as a White American “panman”, the issue will continue to raise its ugly head.
Finally, we MUST accept Matt’s apology, if not for him, but for the rest of us. We must rise above our epidermal differences, however, we must first embrace the fact that those who look like me, have it much harder in society, than those who look like Matt. I have often wondered why the African-American population has never been a sincere target group for introducing (them) to our “National Instrument”. Then again; I understand that as well, for all one has to do is ask oneself, “In the United States of America, who is more-likely to attend college, a Black child, or a White child? And, why?” Until we understand “institution racism”, we would not understand why more White Americans are learning a culture that originated with Black Trinidadians. Of course, our expatriates who immigrated to the US and Canada, have made little or no effort to reach out to the Black urban ghettos or inner cities, because there is little financial reward to be made, and (unfortunately) because of their own biases and prejudices against “Black Americans”. Remember, the slave plantation was laden with “House Negroes”, and Harriet Tubman was quoted as saying, “Today I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more, if they know they were slaves”.
I look forward to the day when the shackles of racism no longer divide us, however, as long as racism is used as a mechanism to “hold one race superior and another inferior”, neither of us (“owner” or “slave” classes) will ever be free! TRUE freedom is the dismantling of the “superior-inferior” model, not the manipulation of the model for personal “freedom”; a “freedom” that is, in reality a role-reversal, where you, too, join forces with the oppressor. (See, Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere.) In closing, I would personally like to say, Matt, I forgive you, and embrace you as “my brother”. Stay on the “Highway to Heaven”, my colleague, and avoid the lowly paths of those booking agents, who are as racist as they get! Don’t lower yourself, nor compromise your values, REGARDLESS of the potential financial benefits, for you may gain the World and lose your soul in the process. Hotep (Peace).
George D. Goddard/Ghost.
This Post by The Ghost is very filling, I enjoyed it.
Bertel, the only reason I am making this comment, is so that you do not get into trouble with WST. All fine by me, bro. Thanks for re-posting. BTW - You can post the links as well. Peace to all. Ghost.