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Start With Where You Are

Mar. 2, 2022 | by Kaijeh Johnson


Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were murdered about two months apart in 2020. As the social climate of America rapidly declined, so did my hope and faith in humanity. The quarantine of 2020 was probably one of the darkest moments in my life. As students, as citizens, and as a community, our world was turned on its head in more ways than one. Social relationships, careers, performances, events were all put on pause. Sitting in the miserable quiet isolation gave me time to dwell on the pain that the deaths of Taylor and Floyd caused my community.

I not only lost hope and faith, but I also lost the will to fight. When I attended the healing circles and community conversations at Homewood in June of 2020, I realized that many of my colleagues had also done the same. The spirit of my community was broken. However, I couldn’t remain in this state of hopelessness. I acted and reached out to numerous professors across the country, who specialized in African American Studies and Race Relations, and asked them a very layered and complex question: where do we go from here?

The summation of the responses delivered a very clear theme: “Start with where you are.” Almost every response I received had some variation of this sentence. These brilliant minds placed importance on the small interactions that one has daily. They explained how you don’t always have to think outside the box or perform the extraordinary to make an impact on the communities you belong to. Instead, use your current position in the world and daily social interactions to make that change. I took this to heart, and a series of three core Professional Studies courses at Peabody provided by the Breakthrough Curriculum presented a unique opportunity to make use of this knowledge.

After some thought, I was inspired to create Second Movement, a virtual music education resource website. This project combines my appetite for shifting today’s social climate with my love for music education. I used the information I gathered from my previous conversations to create a program that took advantage of the current relationships I already maintained. I was able to use my position as the Black Student Union President along with my placement in the Howard County Public School System to establish long-lasting connections, relationships, and collaborations to develop Second Movement. All I needed was the means to see it through. In the last course of the Breakthrough Curriculum, Pitching Your Creative Idea, my instructor Alysia Lee coached me through the process of grant writing. I learned how to create a budget, business design plan, and pitch, how to assess impact, and how to follow through with my plan. The grant writing process was seamless with the help of the LAUNCHPad office. Upon the completion of the course, enrolled students could apply for the Peabody Launch Grant. I (along with four of my colleagues) was awarded $5000 to make my project a reality.

Second Movement is a virtual platform that spotlights artists of color by posting monthly videos of interviews and masterclasses with experts of color. This free educational resource makes teachers and experts of diverse backgrounds available to students of all ages. Students need to see teachers and professionals that look like them and have backgrounds and upbringings that are like theirs. This project has created opportunities for continuous collaboration with the BIPOC student community at Peabody by paying BIPOC students to create short educational videos for artistry advancement that students around the world can watch.

This is also an opportunity for the students to advertise themselves on the site and connect their own social media links to the videos. As a bonus, I get to interact with amazing musicians of color from all walks of life. This project has been a huge learning experience as much as it has been a career opportunity. I have enjoyed learning invaluable skills in what it means to network, collaborate, and create with other artists.

“Second Movement is an essential and innovative way for Black musicians to connect. A platform like this is needed within our community so we are able to see ourselves represented. Second Movement even provided photos that I can use for my own portfolio! Because of this, I can effectively connect with other Black musicians, and they can connect with me!”

Havalynn Robertson, BM ’23 (classical saxophone and recording arts)

You might not change the world in a day, solve world hunger, or rid the world of all the “-isms” that pervade today’s society, but you can make every interaction count. You can change someone’s world by how you greet them, how you approach every social interaction, how and with whom you chose to collaborate, and how you take advantage of where you stand in the world and use it to make positive interactions. In whatever way you wish to make a change, I implore you, “Start with where you are.”

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Kaijeh Johnson

Voice Performance & Music Education

BM 2022

Kaijeh Johnson is a voice and music education major at the Peabody Institute. He is the director of the virtual music education platform, Second Movement.

Instagram: @2ndmvt
Twitter: @movement_second