Jetro Da Silva is an artist, educator, producer, and researcher. Da Silva’s experience, training as a keyboardist, producer, and arranger has increased his opportunities to work with people such as: Whitney Houston, Jamie Foxx, Patti LaBelle, Pastor Andrae Crouch, Earth Wind and Fire, Chaka Khan, the Pointer Sisters, Gladys Knight, Brandy, Sheila E., Namie Amuro, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Kem, Celine Dion, Patti Austin, Emilio Santiago, Monica, Mary Mary, and many others.
Last week, the Berklee community gathered to reflect and respond to developments in the Ferguson, Missouri coverage. Berklee professor Jetro Da Silva was among those who shared thoughts and personal experiences. The following post from Da Silva builds on those initial thoughts.
I remember when I first met our dear college president, Roger H. Brown. He was very enthusiastic when he found out that I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and with a great smile he said something like (I am paraphrasing here), “I have an impression that Brazil has less of the stark racism than we have in the U.S.?” I responded saying, “No, Roger—I am sorry to disappoint you, but this is not true.” I could see in his face an expression of disappointment or surprise.
The idea of racial democracy was introduced by the Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre in his work, Casa-Grande & Senzala, first published in 1933. In this work, Freyre paints slavery in Brazil as a romance and it consequently serving as a benefit to Brazilian society. Freyre only started using the term “racial democracy” later, but his work has become the basis of this propaganda that Brazil is the model of racial democracy.
In my view, this is an international issue. I have experienced racism on many levels. In Brazil, I had the police stopping me all the time, even when I had on my school uniform—especially on the bus. In one particular incident, a white guy who was seated behind me on the bus said to me, “Man, you saved me. The police only asked you for documentation and I didn’t have mine with me. Thanks to you they didn’t approach me.” I must confess that when he said that to me, I became angry because it was not in my imagination that those policemen only approached me because the color of my skin.
Today, I am a professor at one of the world’s top contemporary music schools, where I also attended as a student graduating with a major in music production and engineering. I have successfully attended two masters program and am still working on other graduate studies. However, all these degrees don’t protect me from racial profiling by the police, and I can go further and say that this racial profiling is not limited to the police. This is a reality in many lives all over the world. It becomes complex, however, when one speaks out against these issues. Generally, this action is seen and interpreted as using “the race card” as an excuse. Here is my question, is it the race card when the police stops two black students and beat them for no reason? Is it the race card when a professor with academic credentials from Oxford University tells his black student, “I was prepared to give you a bad grade until I read your paper. You really surprised me.” These two examples are part of my life experience.
Much is going on in America regarding this issue these days. But I must say that this is happening daily right here in places such as Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury. What happened in Ferguson is a daily reality all over the U.S., if one is knowledgeable about black and Latino neighborhoods. It is also true that male black and brown are targets and potential candidates to the new slavery system (referring to the prison system). It is also true that a majority of advertisement on alcohol is in black and Latino areas. This is not only an American issue. This is a global issue.
Justice shall be served to those who have committed crimes against our young people. Discussions are not enough. Behavior against non-white people must be changed at all levels— from disrespect to the Commander-in-chief of our country to the young student who feels unsafe by those who are paid by the state to protect the community. At the same time, we the black and brown community should not rely on others but find resources within ourselves.
I can hear the cry of innocent blood, yet I still hope for the greater plan. In the words of Dr. King:
“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of ‘interposition’ and ‘nullification’—one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; ‘and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.’”
The truth is that we are the human race. As a Christian man, I have chosen to forgive and move on. I have learned and believe that we black, white, yellow, and mixed are to love and forgive one another. But forgiveness is a process. One may never forget, and the one who did the hurting—if he/she chooses to ask for forgiveness—should be ready to listen or give the hurting person room to share their pain. And here is what I say: Before you judge me by the color of my skin, ask me who I am. Then if you ask me, you may be surprised with the answer. I may be the medical doctor taking care of your mom or I may be your landlord.
When I posted similar thoughts on Facebook this past August, I received many “likes.” My dear colleague, Mark Simos, sent me a text with a full poem or lyric based on the text I had shared online. When I read it, I was deeply touched and read it over and over again. I replied to him and shared how touched I was. He asked me if I was willing to add anything or write the music but he had done such a great job that I felt it was completed. A week ago I shared this note on Facebook: “Mark Simos, thanks for making this note into a beautiful poem and melody—psalms really. Looking forward to hearing it performed soon and be sure to record it when the proper time permits. Many blessings to you and yours, Dear Colleague :)”
There are people who are in one’s life, and they are really sent by God. Somehow they know how to speak with you with love and wisdom. They know how to encourage and correct us. In many ways, they can become closer then sisters and brothers. Some people call them angels—others call them even guardian angels. The point here is to honor these wonderful people who pass by or remain in our life. People who are with us in good and bad times. . . . People who are with us when a dream is about to give birth or when they are about to die. . . . They are a gift from God who love us unconditionally. . . . Those without us knowing fight on our behalf behind closed doors. . . . They are black, white, yellow, brown, gay, straight, male, female, children, youth, adult or an elder. . . . They are human beings willing to exercise love no matter what.
Let’s not give up hope friends. We can still love, respect and honor one another. It is not too late.
- Raising the Roof: Reflections from Santa Fe, New Mexico - July 17, 2019
- Don’t Forget the Memory: ‘Tali Jams New York’ (Episode 7, Final) - March 8, 2019
- Bach for the Beasts: Berklee Performs at the Franklin Park Zoo - October 30, 2015