Redlining

As I mentioned previously, this "Image of God" composition is being written with a primary focus on racial injustice in the United States. This is a deep issue I have grown more aware of and passionate about over the last several years, and I've been doing research during this composition process to back up my music. Here are some of the facts on systemic racism I've found.

- Much of the current plight of African Americans stems back to the 1930s, when redlining was a common practice in real estate.

- As part of the New Deal, the National Housing Act of 1934 was designed to make housing and mortgages more affordable. Billions of dollars in home loans were given out, but only given to white people. In fact, the Federal Housing Administration manual underwriting recommended "prohibition of the occupancy of properties except by race for which they were intended". 

- White middle class suburbs were created, with many black families forced to live in inner-city neighborhoods lacking investment. A snowball effect ensues - refusal to invest in a "risky" neighborhood meant no new business ventures, leading to abandoned neighborhoods and therefore more attractive for criminal activity, which leads to further denial of investment and equating black people with bad neighborhoods and crime.

- Further snowballing - Property taxes fund schools. Therefore the affluent white suburbs have better education than the inner-city ghettos. Better education leads to higher college acceptance rates, more job opportunities, and ultimately more wealth. Lower quality or a lack of education naturally has the reverse effect, and many black people had to resort to low wage manual labor.

- Redlining wasn't outlawed until 1968, and still continued under the radar for years to come. When people talk about "systemic racism," the long-lasting effects of this practice are some of the more predominant symptoms they are referring to.

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And that's just racism through redlining.

We cannot keep ignoring the pain and plight of people who are suffering, EVEN IF you may think someone is overreacting. If a friend of yours is hurting, you listen to their sufferings and stand with them in the midst of it. When was the last time telling your wife she's overreacting did any good? Unfortunately we are quick to judge and slow to listen. Once we stop viewing the world as "us" versus "them" and instead see each person as divinely created in the image of God, beautifully crafted humans with individual stories, then hurts can be addressed and solutions can be found.

Legislation and policy decisions certainly need to happen on a nation-wide level to address these issues. Prayer for our leaders and choosing to stand behind government officials that offer viable solutions is a must. Finally, the American church needs to unite and show the grace, love and compassion of Christ by being a prophetic voice for the oppressed (in this case people of color).

'Prayer Album' - Image of God

The first piece planned for this album is going to be called Image of God. I'm not sure of the instrumentation yet, but I've been jotting down some musical ideas. The original inspiration behind this piece is the racial injustice prevalent in the United States today and the tremendous need for these problems to be addressed on both an individual and a systemic level. However, the "image of God" concept extends far beyond this country, and this piece can be a prayer anywhere and for anyone in the world facing oppression.

Two recent events are particularly significant in the passion behind this piece. The first is the blatant display of hatred and racism in Charlottesvile, the tragic death of Heather Heyer, and subsequent unsatisfying response from the current administration. The fact that white supremacy still exists unabashedly is shameful and baffling. My heart grieves for the loss of Heather Heyer and for the pain her friends and family now have to endure.

The other event is the president's decision to rescind DACA protections. This decision is a shameful decision, simply an attempt to win political points at the expense of 800,000 innocent people - 91% of which are employed and 100% of of which have a criminal record. I cannot begin to imagine what Dreamers must be experiencing right now. My attempt to imagine took the form of a poem I wrote when I heard the final decision:

Dreamers' brightness fades away;

aim for the stars they say

but now the world looks away

(or at least our leaders anyway)

while we look for a place to say.

No more dreams of flying high,

no more gazing toward the sky,

but look around and find some ground

some other ground where we can

safely chase the stars again.

 

As a Christian, the heart of God in this matter is clear:

You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. –  Deuteronomy 10: 19

 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. – Leviticus 19:34

And yet... even white supremacists were created in God's image. Reconciliation happens when both the oppressor and the oppressed see each other as truly created in the image of God.

But what does it even mean to be created in God's image? And what do we do about these things? More on that next week. :)

 

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'Prayer' Album Storm-braining pt. 2

I was perusing my list of prospective compositions to write for this album, and I thought to myself - how the heck am I gonna capture the stories, emotions, deep tragedy, and heart of God surrounding each of these pieces? People devote their entire lives to exploring each one of these topics. Sure, I could write a piece that sounds like it's written for children affected by war, but I truly believe that for the music to be transformative, effectively reflecting the passions and stories behind every piece, I myself need to delve deep into each issue, hear the stories, experience the pain and the joys behind each piece, and then write from a place of true empathy and keen awareness.

For that reason, I have chosen to devote one month (still such a short amount of time) to researching and listening to the stories of those each piece relates to. And I'll be sure to share my findings!

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'Prayer' Album Storm-braining

As evidenced by current events, the world is a troubled place with many broken and hurting people. As I've grown up, I've come to realize that I have been given much so I can give much. Music, especially, is one of the most beautiful, transportive, heart-warming gifts that we can experience. It communicates from the depths of the heart what cannot be expressed in words. I

n this next album project of mine, I'd like to explore using my musical gifts as a prayer for the things that are oppressing humankind the most. I've come up with a rough track list, which will likely change over the next several months. Take a look below.

1) Image of God
2) Children of War
3) Refugee
4) Peace.
5) Lament (for minority people groups of Southeast Asia)
6) Reconciliation
7) Cancer (My Chemical Romance cover)
8) My Country Tis of Thee
9) Root of Evil / Hearts to Give
10) Cry of the Earth
11) My Father's World

Life Is Beautiful now available!!

My debut solo piano album, Life is Beautiful, is now available for purchase! The album is comprised of seven piano improvisations I recorded about a year and a half ago. Each improvisation is based off of a general life experience most people have in common, with an overarching theme of the beauty of life. Click below to download your copy!

Life Is Beautiful
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Life Is Beautiful

It's easy to get bogged down by the pain and injustices we are constantly confronted with. While we should indeed grieve and address those things, it's also important to step away and notice the divine beauty in the world and in our fellow human beings. This album is invites you to let go of life's troubles and engage with the beauty that may be difficult to find in our daily lives. Life is in fact very beautiful.  

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New video up!

There are many experiencing deep sorrow at this many moment.  My heart aches for the displaced Syrian refugees, the victims of ISIS, the victims of the various terrorist attacks that have taken place this last month, the victims of the shootings within the US, the oppression that is a regular part of the world we live in... My prayer for some time now has been that my music my be used to heal a broken world. This pieces was played not only to communicate the deep sadness experienced by so many in the world, but to also communicate the beauty that can be found in even the darkest times. 
In the words of Leonard Bernstein - "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."
Dedicated to all who have experienced loss in their lives.