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Black Out Tuesday

The murder of George Floyd has once again caused much of the nation to question the position of Black people in American society. Is that position to remain one of one more Black man, or Black woman, lying prone on a Staten Island street, as was the case with Eric Garner in 2014? Or Floyd on a Minneapolis street last week? Both pleading, “I can’t breathe?

The response to the anger, sadness and fires that have consumed our nation over the past few days has been uncertain. But setting aside their many other contributions to our society, for today the music industry recognizes the contributions of Black people to its history. Hence, Black Out Tuesday. The concept of Black Out Tuesday takes many forms. Some record labels are shutting down for the day, urging employees to make it “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community.” Some radio hosts are replaying old shows, or interviews with community leaders.

At The Little Theatre, operated by WXXI, Tuesday's Virtual Café performance has been postponed. Otherwise, our broadcast platforms cannot go silent. Our programming will quietly acknowledge the contributions of Black people to the music industry.

On Classical 91.5, our programming with be filled with music composed and performed by Black musicians. Shows such as Scott Regan’s “Open Tunings” at 9 a.m. and Maureen Rich’s “Road to Joy” at 6 p.m., both airing on WRUR-FM (88.5), will also spotlight the work of Black musicians.

In the name of Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown, Walter Scott and even 12-year-old Tamir Rice – all Black people whose names had their moment in the nation’s conscious, before fading away in the light of some other tragedy – the effort to combat this plague must be ongoing, and brought to a righteous conclusion. “As a part of this,” the Warner Music Group wrote in a statement released on Instagram, “we will be contributing to Black Lives Matter and other organizations that are doing crucial work to combat racial injustice.”

Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle. He has also been published in Musician and High Times magazines, contributed to WXXI, City newspaper and Post magazine, and occasionally performs spoken-word pieces around town. Some of his haikus written during the Rochester jazz festival were self-published in a book of sketches done by Scott Regan, the host of WRUR’s Open Tunings show. Spevak founded an award-winning barbecue team, The Smokin’ Dopes, and believes Bigfoot is real. His book on the life of a Lake Ontario sailor who survived the sinking of his ship during World War II will be published in April of 2019 by Lyons Press.