The Arts and Social Justice:

Bridging Artistic Excellence and Social Justice Transformation

by Myran D. Parker-Brass,

With the rise in racial tension and violence in our communities, the question of how we engage our communities in meaningful civic discourse is being asked across the country—particularly how do we engage our young people and help them understand how to include their “voice” in the discussion? The arts have a long standing place in building a bridge between artistic expression and social justice. “Music and the arts are often the glue that helps hold a movement together, providing a sounding board and an emotional support structure,” says Anthony Trecek-King, Artistic Director for the Boston Children’s Chorus, BCC, during our recent discussion about BCC’s unique mission.

Founded in 2001 by civic rights activist Hubie Jones the BCC’s mission is to:

Harness the power and joy of music to unite our city’s diverse communities and inspire social change. Our singers transcend social barriers in a celebration of shared humanity and love of music. Through intensive choral training and high-profile public performance experience (locally, throughout the U.S. and around the world), they learn discipline, develop leadership skills, and proudly represent the city of Boston as ambassadors of harmony.

Twenty children were accepted into the initial pilot program in 2001—this season there are almost 500 singers representing Greater Boston, participating in thirteen different choirs in five Boston locations. Named “Boston’s Ambassadors of Harmony” by the Boston Globe, collaborating with community and other partners is integral to BCC’s vision of creating a social and cultural legacy for Boston’s youth, families and communities.

With equal emphasis given to music and social justice, my conversation with Anthony focused on the bridge between the two and how adhering to this unique mission impacts and supports building artistic excellence for the chorus.

What does the dual mission “look like” in the daily operation of BCC?

With the mission to use music as a catalyst for social change, the inclusion of social justice is at the center of what we do. Being more purposeful has only deepened that impact. We now make sure that every student, regardless of age begins a journey on the path to understanding and valuing our differences. This first begins with having classrooms with a diverse population. Then we proceed to create a safe space where there is perceived and understood equal status. This allows for the breaking down of prejudices overtime, which is a goal of the organization. Through pursuit of a common goal of artistic excellence, we are able to build community with our singers and win the minds of our audience.  

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