Running the festival was not an easy task. It involved translating dozen of black American art songs from English into German. In addition, historical negligence shaped which scores and voices the orchestra and singers were able to find. “This music has been forgotten,” said conductor Roderick Cox of William Dawson’s “Negro Folk Symphony”. “It was neglected; They couldn’t get access to this music through the publishers; the parts were in ruins. “

In fact, Dawson’s Symphony – once hailed as a brilliant success – rested in the United States for decades. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the only recent recording of it was made in Vienna.

But praising Europe for providing a platform for the music of black American composers leaves out an important part of the story. White European support and advocacy for black American musicians has often come at the expense of their own black populations. As many black European intellectuals and activists have pointed out, do Europeans know the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Trayvon Martin, but do they know the names of Oury Jalloh, Stephen Lawrence and Jerry Masslo?

Renowned music institutes such as Darmstadt in Germany have rarely invited black composers to join their international communities, or given German-based black composers such as Robert Owens and Benjamin Patterson their rights. In the city of Hamburg with a black population from the 19th summer were almost entirely white.

Europe has been lax in promoting its own historical black composers and musicians such as George Bridgetower, Amanda Aldridge, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, and Avril Coleridge-Taylor. Many of the recent high profile performances by black European performers and composers can be attributed more to the Chineke Orchestra in England – Europe’s first ensemble with a majority of colored musicians – than to white European music institutions. Other black European composers such as Werner Jaegerhuber, a Haitian-German composer who lived in Germany from 1915 until his escape from the Nazis in 1937, have not yet received significant European attention.

Recognizing black composers on every stage puts pressure on institutions to grapple with their racist past and envision a better future. Nearly a century apart, Rudolph Dunbar’s performance of Still’s Afro-American Symphony and Roderick Cox’s of Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony suggest that efforts to promote racial justice go hand in hand with commitment to the power of music to use. Performing the music of black composers is not easy or just an opportunity to correct historical errors. It should also not be considered equivalent to eating your proverbial broccoli. Rather, it is an invitation to the most exquisite dishes. Fighting for the music of black composers means fighting for a better world.