By Arielle Ollagnon

Interview with RAMpage, Arielle Ollagnon x Jamie Perry, Violin Alumni 2018

AO: What does the Black Lives Matter movement mean to you as an individual?

JP: I believe the Black Lives Matter Movement stands for the Unheard Voices of Black People and the lack of care we as a Black community have faced for hundreds of years. Racism is not a new trend. It is a cancer that has grown in America and throughout the World for far too long. With this movement, Awareness, Self Reflection, and Change can be birthed in the mindset of others who may not understand the magnitude of their mentality when pertaining to the Equal Rights of Every Human, including those that may be considered different from themselves.

AO: Was there anything you felt you could not do because of your race? How have those events affected your life?

JP: I thank God for allowing me to experience the life I’ve lived through Music. Being a Black Violinist, it is difficult at times to “fit in” to the familiar makeup of the Music World. There have been times where I was the only Person of Colour in some performance settings, but that never deterred me from my goals. There have been a few times where the colour of my skin made a negative impact in life due to the ignorance and malpractice of other people; however, I believe it is the responsibility of Black People and other people to stand up and make sure that every Black person feels that they can do ANYTHING in this life.

AO: Why did you choose to settle in the city you now live in? Did you have difficulties getting a job because of your race?

JP: I was born and raised in Houston, TX. The city itself is an amazing one and it is one of the most diverse cities in the country. I have not faced racism in the workplace as of yet, but I am sure anything can happen in these times. I did not face any issues finding work, as my dedication, my goals, and the forward movement of Black People are more important to me than the negativity that would push us further away from those aspirations.

AO: Was there anything you felt you could not do because of your race and/or identity?

JP: I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me. We were made to do great things. No matter what colour I am, I know that my purpose is far greater than adversity placed in the way of me and my people.

AO: What racist experiences have most marked you? How have those events affected your life?

JP: I have had two major experiences dealing with racism in London. The first involved me and another British student of colour in RAM. She decided to express to me her opinion on how my “American” identity cancels out my “Black” identity. She proceeded to tell me I was not black and I should “never let my Americanness get in the way of my Blackness”. I was initially shocked because this Black Woman is telling me that since my ancestors were chained, shipped unwillingly on boats to a country that forced them to build on stolen land for 400 plus years, I do not qualify as Black? This situation caused me to delve deeper into my roots to understand who I am and where I came from. It also opened a door to Racism in All Forms. In this situation, a woman who looked like me expressed these feelings. It may seem backwards, but she expressed the feelings of so many other people. This mentality must be shifted, especially in the minds of people who don’t see everyone as equal.

The second incident was far worse. While in London, I was called an Ugly N***** for not complying with a White Male’s attempt to flirt with me. It was extremely shocking, but I know that the slur was completely intentional in order to warrant a reaction. I calmly found his full name, found his personal information via Facebook and LinkedIn and proceeded to show him how I could literally end his career by sending these messages to his boss and family members. He was extremely apologetic and proceeded to beg for forgiveness. It was apparent that this racist and sick remark came from a place of hate and fear, but when called out on it, he was so apprehensive and tried to play the victim.

We see hundreds of other cases like these: White people believe it is all right to say and do whatever they please to People of Colour and when acknowledged, it is suddenly an attack on who they are and the situation escalates to a bitter point, even to the point of death. Police Brutality is a prime example of this. There seems to be a new case too often in these times where White officers take it into their own hands to decide whether a Black person lives or dies when they have sworn to Protect and Serve. In this instance, all Black People are affected by the hate crimes targeting us and therefore, fear and anger grow in the community. There will be no rest until every voice is an equal voice.

AO: How do you think your experience of racism differs from a British person of colour? How is it similar?

JP: I don’t think they differ. Black is Black. No matter how it’s mixed, Black will always be Black. There may be different racist remarks or actions involved, but I believe every act of racism is the same in every part of the world. The mentality is evil across the board.

AO: What are some ways you think we can improve the representation of people of color in classical music?

JP: Accessibility. Make the music that we love accessible to us. When I think of Classical Music, I think of how privileged I was to be able to play music my ancestors never had access to. Because I have access to the music, it is my responsibility to pass the knowledge on to people like me, who aspire to do great things with Classical Music.

Recognition. There are many Black Composers and Black Musicians who are not publicised because of lack of information and the Whitewashed mentality of Classical Music in some cases. Many Black musicians play and enjoy classical music as well. Recognise that we make up a part of the Classical World as well and I believe we add a great deal to the music that is already so well preserved by many great artists through the generations.

Finally, Inclusion. Just because someone looks different, that never measures one’s potential. Allow Black People into these spaces. We are just as talented. We are just as capable. We are just as competent. We are just as dedicated. Allow us the opportunity to be part of what we love.

AO: What are some examples of ways you were supported by others as a person of color in music?

JP: I have always had amazing allies in my corner. I thank God for my friends, colleagues, and professors through the years that saw the talent in me and not just the colour of my skin. It is so important that people accept everyone for who they are. It will create a big difference and a different narrative when it comes to racism and inequality.

In the two incidents I shared in the previous questions, I always had friends to stand up with me. I had people around me who took my safety and my well-being as a Black person seriously. There are many who would just look over these situations and tell me to brush them off, but I am so happy to know that the people I am associated with are open minded and caring enough to understand that though I am different, I am just as important as they are.

AO: How can students help support Black Lives Matter?

JP: I will attach the link to their website now! There are so many ways to help, but some ways to help in the midst of the Quarantine would be:

⁃ Advocate for those in need, especially people who are seen as less than.

⁃ Educate yourself on current events, historical background, and the importance of Black Lives and the Black Lives Matter Movement.

⁃ Be understanding during this time. A lot of negativity is being shown around the world and during this time, it is imperative that we keep the peace and understanding moving forward when it comes to the importance of Black Lives.

There are so many ways to grow in the area of understanding, but it is up to the individual to search themselves and understand where they are in their own mentality. If growth is required, don’t be afraid to ask questions, but do not ignore this movement. It is not a trend. It is a lifestyle.

AO: What advice or guidance would you give to white people who want to be allies?

JP: I would tell every white person I know, please consider our humanity before you make an assumption about who we are as People of Colour. The only physical difference between us in the melanin in our skin. We are all people and we all deserve Equal Treatment. It is nice to be treated well, but it’s even better to be genuinely respected and held at the high standards that you hold yourselves to. We are all willing to do the right thing so that our world can move in a positive direction, but it is up to you all to stand with us as we move forward. Do not be afraid of change. Do not be afraid of what your forefathers were afraid of. We are all capable of being together, but the mentality of racism must be destroyed in order to get there. I believe things will get better, but let us work together to assure a better future for the generations to come.

Posted by:RAMpage Website

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