In 2019 the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival commissioned Daniel Bernard Roumain, with the support of Desai Family Foundation, for a chamber work to have been performed this summer. The premiere will now take place in summer 2021. In the meantime, we have invited Daniel to lead a series of conversations about the role art can play in exploring the systemic racism and police brutality that afflict Black communities and other communities of color.
"As a Black, Haitian-American composer, I am wanting to create a work in process and partnership with the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival/Yale Summer School of Music, listening and responding to the urgent needs of our communities," DBR said. "Can We Talk About Why The Fires Burn? is a work for piano, string quartet, and two singers, that will seek to musically respond to the confrontations and conversations that have and are happening between Black men, people of color, law enforcement, and an undefined civic morality."
We encourage you to read DBR’s declaration, which we at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival as well as the entire Yale School of Music community, wholeheartedly endorse:
A Declaration & Affirmation of Love for Black People
We, as a dedicated group of artists, arts organizations, and places of education and learning, declare without reservation or restraint, that the presumed innocence of Black people—and specifically Black men and boys—in recurring encounters with errant law enforcement officers, has disproportionately led to a presumed guilt and summary, inhumane responses centered on fear, detainment, arrest, removal, or a growing, repetitive practice of unlawful and unnecessary deaths.
We acknowledge America’s historical propensity towards harm, injustice, and exclusion. We also witness America’s extraordinary capacity to heal, be just, include and embrace. We know that law enforcement is tasked with the difficult work of policing our communities as they uphold the law and their solemn oath to protect and serve. And we are aware and reminded of the distance and divides we face between our politics, as well as the constant struggle we face in finding agreement on what we most value.
However, as artists, educators, and learners, we are clear and committed to the sanctity of life, the promise of liberty, and the most fundamental and absolute right to personal safety regardless of race and gender.
Therefore, we proudly and boldly affirm our commitment to Black people as a vital part of our American identity and families, and implore all of us to see in them your father, mother, brother, sister, and your child—all living within one spirit of one nation engaged in a shared, everlasting pursuit of happiness and love.
Dr. Daniel Bernard Roumain
May 28, 2020