TCGMC Response to the Death of George Floyd
To the TCGMC family of members, audience, and supporters,
The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus was born almost 40 years ago in a time of near-total indifference to and outright hostility toward the lives, suffering, and deaths of gay men, at what was the start of the AIDS crisis. Forty years ago, it felt like our lives didn’t matter. So, arm-in-arm with members of our society who shared in our outrage, we spoke up. We acted up. We sang out. Progress that has been made over the last 40 years would not have been possible without the support and fight from a larger swath of our society. The lesbian community, HIV/AIDS healthcare workers, some religious communities and heterosexual people who also saw the injustice that existed were paramount in that struggle.
Today, we feel like we’re in another one of those times when it comes to the lives of people of color, especially African Americans. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, the killing of Breonna Taylor by police in her home in Louisville, the attempted framing of Christian Cooper in New York— and now here in Minneapolis, the violent death of George Floyd at the hands of police. Yes, we’re a largely white organization, and we feel called to rise again to fight injustice in our world.
Two years ago, the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus premiered for this entire region of the country a new choral work called “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed.” The young African American composer Joel Thompson brilliantly set for men’s voices and orchestra the last words of seven unarmed African American men — Kenneth Chamberlain, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, John Crawford, and Eric Garner — who were killed for nothing more than being black. We didn’t program that work lightly. We thought hard about a largely white chorus performing it for largely white audiences. We performed it because we believed in it and believed our performing it could open hearts and minds. It had a profound and lasting impact on us.
We think back to the last movement of “Seven Last Words,” set to the final words of Eric Garner — “I can’t breathe” — and are chilled that George Floyd uttered those same words here in Minneapolis before he was killed. We sang those words to keep alive the memory of Eric Garner. George Floyd died by them. To everyone in our community, we say: George Floyd’s life mattered. Black lives matter. To our singers, our audience members, our supporters, and our community members who are people of color — and especially those who are African American — we say: We see you. We grieve with you. We are mad as hell with you. We stand with you.