DEFFA stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the fight to end the racial injustices built into our government, institutions, arts, and cultural narratives. Traditions of folk music and dance have been influenced by these same forces of racism and oppression. We will work to understand and share the history we haven’t talked about (though others have been researching and sharing these stories for years-see resources below) and as a board commit to:
- Increasing inclusivity at the Downeast Country Dance Festival. We will host anti-racism workshops and endeavor to broaden the Festival beyond an Anglo/Celtic focus. We will critically examine our organization and festival planning process to identify ways to create a more inclusive and welcoming event.
- Educating ourselves and our community about embedded racism. We own and acknowledge that the history of contra and square dance contains discrimination and cultural appropriation, and that the role of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people in shaping these traditions has largely been erased. We will work to honor their contributions and celebrate the true diversity of influences within these music and dance forms while we address the way white privilege continues to impact our communities.
We welcome suggestions on how to be more inclusive in event promotion and festival planning. Please contact [email protected] with feedback and ideas. Thank you for learning and working with us.
Here is a selection of resources from scholars and artists who have been investigating these questions. We are grateful for their work and for members of the DEFFA community who have shared these links with us:
- Jacqueline Cogdell Djedje’s The (Mis)Representation of African American Music: The Role of the Fiddle. Journal for the Society of American Music. Volume 10, Issue 1, Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 February 2016 pp 1-32.
- Conversation with Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi from Live at Carnegie Hall (June 18, 2020) about the history of the tambourine and banjo and their roles in black face minstrelsy.
- Conversation with Rhiannon Giddens and Brandi Waller-Pace (Decolonizing the Music Room) from December 11, 2019
- Phil Jamison’s Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics; Roots and Branches in Southern Appalachian Dance (2015) exploring the history of square dance and other Appalchian dance forms and their European, African American, and Indigenous roots.
- Phil Jamison’s “Square Dance Calling: The African-American Connection”. Journal of Appalachian Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, 2003, pp. 387–398.
- Kafari and Jake Hoffman’s TEDx talk Bones and Banjo: Confronting Cultural Appropriation (December 20, 2017) and online workshop (hosted by the Portland Intown Contra Dance) Cultural Appropriation in American Folkways (June 19, 2020)
- Robyn Pennacchia’s America’s Wholesome Square Dancing Tradition is a tool of White Supremacy in Quartz online magazine (December 12, 2017)
These sites have lists of additional resources:
- Old Time Central’s African Americans in Oldtime: 10 Resources for Learning the History of the Music (June 11, 2020)
- The Portland Intown Contra Dance’s resources on their blog about addressing racism and understanding the history of contra dance. They are also hosting an antiracism book club
- Decolonizing the Music Room’s broader list of resources about racism, music education, and shifting from white-centered narratives
- CDSS’s inclusivity resource portal with a variety of articles and videos that explore racism in traditional music (DEFFA is an affiliate organization of CDSS)