The Humanity Project: A Jazz Suite

Movement 1 No Window Panes Left in Aleppo 

Movement 2 Empty Graves on Sunday

Movement 3 Hate Crimes in New Harlow

Movement 4 Love is Love is Love

Movement 5 She Persisted

Movement 6 Black Lives Matter

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Jazz has had a long history of being used as an instrument of tolerance. This unique and beautiful art form has been a positive advocate for social and political change. Not only has jazz been a symbol for human and civil rights movements but also many jazz musicians have taken up social causes themselves. Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Max Roach, Charles Mingus, and Esperanza Spalding are just a few musicians who have used their art to make an impact on the world. Jazz has been used as a vehicle to tell the story of the oppressed, to comment on injustice, and to put forward a discussion on social, political, and environmental issues. 

The Humanity Project: A Jazz Suite was written solely with the intention of starting a conversation – a conversation about the disease of violence dictating the way we live in our modern world. The Humanity Project was written for the purpose of displaying the beautiful differences we all have as unique human beings despite the violence we witness on a daily basis. In order to heal, we cannot forget the atrocities of the past, we cannot turn a blind eye to the conflict we face in the present, and we cannot conveniently choose when to stand up and say, “Enough is enough”.

Movement One - No Window Panes Left in Aleppo 

There are no more panes of glass in the battle-scarred and divided city of Aleppo, Syria. Glass windows have become more of a liability than a luxury with each passing day and each military attack. Empty frames are covered with sheets of plastic because plastic is cheap and won’t hurt anyone if an explosion goes off nearby. Four and a half years the city of Aleppo has endured. In September of 2016, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the Russian military launched a coordinated assault on Aleppo, leaving the Syrian people unsure of their safety. Hundreds of thousands of people have managed to escape their city, their homes, and thousands more have lost their lives. People who did not flee the city, attempt to pretend life is normal but there is always the fear that the quiet moments between bombs will not last. Civilians have been caught in the cross hairs of violence and conflict. Children have not been able to attend school for fear of walking in the streets, food is scarce, and many people have been forced to find shelter amongst the rumble of desiccated buildings. Even gardens have been turned into burial grounds because there is nowhere left to bury the dead. The carnage of this once beautiful city is left as a reminder of the fragility of life. 

“Aleppo is my city. Syria is my country. This is my principle, really, and I insist on it. People here are suffering because we want freedom…After all that – the beatings, the airstrikes, the war, the bombings – I want to live in a free Aleppo. I want to stay here, where I was born, all my life. It’s my right.” 
– Omair Shaaban, former student at the University of Aleppo in Aleppo, Syria 

War is the most immediate and palpable display of violence. Conflict in Syria began with anti-government protests, which then escalated to a horrific civil war. In March 2011, the once peaceful demonstrations of supporters of the opposition began to take up arms in order to defend themselves and their pro-democracy protests. The Syrian Civil War has resulted in more than 321,000 Syrian deaths in the six years of armed conflict and another 145,000 people are missing. More than 11 million people have been forced to vacate their homes and nearly half of that are living as displaced refugees in the countries surrounding Syria. The conflict has been much more than a battle between the government and the Syrian people. It poses sectarian overtones, between the Shia ruling government and the Sunni majority of the people. While the regime has taken back the city of Aleppo from rebel extremists in December 2016, the civil war continues to ensue. Despite the fact the civil war has changed it is far from ending and many more people are bound to lose their lives. 

For more information on the conflict in Syria, please look to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights website. 

Movement Two - Empty Graves on Sunday 

As the wedding celebrations were coming to a close there was a fatal and tragic explosion, changing the spirit of the once happy event. In August of 2016, mourning friends and family waited close to empty graves at a cemetery on Sunday, during the funeral for the victims of the heinous suicide attack on a Kurdish wedding party in Gaziantep, Turkey. This devastating suicide attack has been likely linked to the Islamic State according to Turkish officials. The bombing is the deadliest terrorist attack in Turkey last year. Fifty-four people died and at least sixty-six more were injured. There has been speculation as to whether the ISIS attacks on Kurds in Turkey is in any way motivated by the conflict in Syria. The Islamic State, although never claiming responsibility, was widely seen trying to manufacture a conflict between the Turkish state and its Kurdish population. 

“One possible explanation is that ISIS is upset about Kurdish military victories in northern Syria because it’s the Kurdish fighters who are really leading the charge there against the ISIS fighters. So some are saying this could be revenge taken against Kurdish civilians – who have nothing to do with it, obviously – inside Turkey for Kurdish battlefield gains in Syria.” 
– Peter Kenyon, NPR reporter 

Movement Three - Hate Crimes in New Harlow 

On a muggy night in Harlow, Essex, two Polish men were eating pizza against a brink wall outside some shops known as The Stow. Arkadiusz Jóźwic and another man stood, chatting in Polish when a group of young, teenage boys and girls attacked them. The group of teens repeatedly berated and pummeled one of the men, beating him to the point of hospitalization where he died two days later. Some residents in the neighborhood said this violent attack was not the first instance of physical violence against Polish people in Harlow since the Brexit vote. 

“There are two faces of Britain.” 
– Arkady Rzegocki, the Polish ambassador to Britain 

“The racist and xenophobic attitudes are reaping an increasingly horrid harvest.” 
– Comment made by the left-wing political party of Poland, Razem 

The vote on Brexit on June 23, 2016, has spurred a drastic rise in hate crimes throughout the UK. By September 2016, there had been 3,000 allegations of hate crimes in the form of harassment and threats against immigrants in the UK. Many prominent politicians, members of the far-right UK Independence Party, bolstered the fear and hatred already stewing within the country. Campaigns and posters were released with messages against immigration warning that the union’s open borders threatened the “British way of life,” made the country vulnerable to acts of terrorism, and hurt opportunities for British workers. These political anecdotes fueled many hateful messages like “No more Polish vermin” and “Go home, Polish scum.” This horrible tragedy shocked the UK and truly displayed the xenophobia and racism that has taken hold of the country. The Polish ambassador in Britain has said that he fears the decision to leave the European Union had given license to xenophobia, and that more minorities will be targeted. 

Movement Four - Love is Love is Love 

Imagine waking up in the morning to find your phone full of text messages and phone calls from loved ones and friends. On June 12, 2016, a horrific tragedy spurred by hate and violence rocked the nation. A mass shooting left forty-nine people and fifty more injured at a Latin-themed dance night at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub. It was almost closing time—more than three hundred revelers were packed on the patio and two large indoor sections of the nightclub. All around, hugs, laughter, and last calls gave way to terror as the gunman headed to the most crowded part of the club. That’s where the terror began. The loud music and darkness on the dance floor only added to the confusion as people desperately fought to escape. 

“I don’t know who that person is…Thank you for saving my life,” Carter said. “The guilt of feeling grateful to be alive is heavy.” 
– Patience Carter, victim of Pulse shooting 

The Orlando massacre turned a sanctuary of fantasy and escape into a sobering scene all too familiar in America. However, since the Pulse shooting, stereotyping has increased despite the outpouring of support for LGBTQ and Latino people. The unsettling tragedy became an excuse to continually vilify Muslims, especially in regards to the 2016 presidential election. It has been made clear that the tragedy would not become a reason to pursue gun reform. Instead, it would become the foundation of political campaigns to ban Muslims from entering the county despite the disturbing fact that the shooter was an American. One horrendous act of violence, made by one sick man, spurred countless acts of violence in answer. According to the Council of American-Islamic Relations, incidents of bias against American Muslims increased by more than fifty percent nationwide. 

Movement Five - She Persisted 
Lyrics by Alison Poteracke

Sometimes I find myself, dreaming of a place I can call him my equal.
This is the land of the free, but you could have fooled me.
I'll never be free while he reigns over me. 

 She was told to sit down and be quiet,
but still hidden behind four walls,
she persisted.
And time and time again
she was warned to back down,
but her fight would still go on.

She persisted
We've been called to the fight,
to fight for our right to be free.
Kick off your shackles and we'll march.
He won't define who we are;
he can't define who are,
we'll be free.

She stood up for herself and her people.
One bullet is all it took but she resisted.
By opening her eyes for the whole world to see
that she demands all women be free.

She persisted
We've been called to the fight,
to fight for our right to be free.
Kick off your shackles and we'll march.
He won't define who we are;
he can't define who are,
we'll be free.

You think that your voice can't be heard.
You've been shown your whole life that you don't matter.
This world is a cruel and hateful place.
Don't let the violence consume, resist it.
By standing all as one, starting with you and me.
We are the change the world needed to see.

She persisted
We've been called to the fight,
to fight for our right to be free.
Kick off your shackles and we'll march.
He won't define who we are;
he can't define who are,
we'll be free.

Sometimes I find myself, dreaming of a place I can call him my equal.
This is the land of the free, but you could have fooled me.
I'll never be free while he reigns over me.  

Movement Six - Black Lives Matter 

“#BlackLivesMatter is working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. We affirm our contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression. We have put our sweat, equity, and love for Black people into creating a political project – taking the hashtag off of social media and into the streets. The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation.

This is the official #BlackLivesMatter Organization founded by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza. #BlackLivesMatter is an online forum intended to build connections between Black people and our allies to fight anti-Black racism, to spark dialogue among Black people, and to facilitate the types of connections necessary to encourage social action and engagement.” 
– Official statement made by Founders of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement 

For more information on the Black Lives Matter Movement, please look to http://blacklivesmatter.com.