Music and me

 

Naomi Bazira | Contributor

Featured Image: Naomi Bazira performing at York. | Courtesy of Naomi Bazira


Experiencing life as a Black woman often includes a never-ending journey of breaking glass ceilings. This task doesn’t consider your talents, qualifications or abilities; it attaches itself to you the minute you are born from a Black woman.

I have played and performed classical piano since I was five years old. I have been singing and performing for about the same amount of time. I have been a Black woman invested in performing arts all my life.

I have a long history of classical piano certificates, awards and scholarships. I have hours of footage of my vocal performances, competitions and theatre productions. My legacy is deeply rooted in music, tantamount to how my ancestors have always interacted with music.

In spaces like York, the performing arts scene mimics the world outside in many ways. The world is not a safe space for Black bodies that exist outside of the narrow frame of what society and Eurocentric history has defined us as. It is an even more dangerous space when the intersection of gender and race meet. Respectability politics and anti-blackness line the inside of every opportunity and the demand for me to shrink myself to be more “consumable” is deafening.

I have learned that although my intention is to simply engage in the miracle of music and to continue my romance with repertoire, my authentic existence in such spaces is understood as controversial. Perhaps it is because I refuse to leave my Blackness at home. Perhaps it is because I refuse to let the length of my skirt, or the ratio of exposed skin to clothing, dictate the value of my humanity and the respect I am due. Or, perhaps it is the combination of all those assertions that turns my talents into weapons of resistance.

Regardless, I understand that every time I perform and refuse to conform to a more “consumable” Black woman, I am breaking glass ceilings. I am making history. I am demanding the performing arts realm, and the world at large, to recognize my talents and my humanity at the same time.

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