Values Exchange

Sphinx President Responds to National Crisis

23 Jun 2020
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Sphinx President Responds to National Crisis

The Sphinx Organization is the Detroit-based national organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.

A 3 minute video overview of the Sphinx Organization

“Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls. Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.”


These are the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, which ring true today. As we mourn the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many others, we bow our heads in solidarity and pain, reflecting on the deep injustices that have been dividing our world. We must do all that we can to not permit another story to become a statistic.  Indifference has run its course to give way to initiative, accountability, solidarity: each of us must now find our humanity and courage to take action. 


Life is a collection of stories told through the arts and music. Our artists have given their voice to tell the most important stories of our communities, like the story of Stephen Lawrence, a young Black British teen, killed by a white gang, told by composer Philip Herbert and performed by the Sphinx VirtuosiJoel Thompson, a visionary composer and member of our Exigence ensemble told the stories of Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, John Crawford, and Kenneth Chamberlain. As a mother to brown boys and partner to a Black man in America, I reflect on my own husband, who has had to stare down the barrel of a police gun as a 15 year-old boy and then again in our own home more recently, each time without cause, a sense of compassion or reason. While these stories are countless, many are still untold, omitted or forgotten.

Meanwhile, the global pandemic has affected communities of color in a disturbingly disproportionate manner, and countless of our artists have been silenced due to loss of work. 

My mind is drawn to Emilia Mettenbrink who has been giving quarantine concerts in the heart of Minneapolis and violist Robin Massie in Baltimore, who is fighting on the frontlines of COVID as a nurse. I think of violinist and composer Jannina Norpoth, one of 10 artists selected by the Library of Congress for a special commission, after losing not only work but a mentor to the pandemic. I am inspired by violinist and humanitarian Kelly Hall-Tompkins who continues to bring world-class music to homeless shelters and use her voice for advocacy at a time when her own family has been affected by loss. Activist, composer, artist and educator Daniel Bernard Roumain has raised his voice to address complex issues of social injustice most recently through his chamber opera We Shall Not Be Moved.

Anguish and grief come in a variety of shades, from afar and close to home.  To the members of the greater Sphinx familia, I encourage you to continue perpetuating the stories of struggle, excellence, compassion and pride. As the artistic interpreters of the lives that surround us, you inspire Sphinx’s work daily.  To my fellow allies in the arts world, we have a choice to make, each time we engage an artist, choose a work of art to support, or hire a member of our teams: we must remember the power of representation.

To the broader public, I call upon you to ensure that these voices are not only heard but listened to, known and understood. Ultimately, unified, we can all be a part of telling a more just story by transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.






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June 25 at 05:19