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Musicians and Artists Are Essential Workers Too

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Venue sign against blue sky and trees with text "Birchmere music hall, restaurant, brewery. Good Eats. Every Nite." The marquee says "Wash your hands. We will see you soon."

Before the brutal and racist murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery exploded into mass protest and resistance, we were merely in the midst of the Covid crisis (illness and skyrocketing job loss.) It seems like another lifetime.

We watched growing Covid casualties with horror but also inspired by the outpouring of support for front-line workers — the nurses, doctors and hospital staff, public and private sector workers who are keeping us fed, delivering the mail, and teachers using technology to stay connected to students.

We were learning (or relearning) that health, education, communication, transportation, food, water, shelter, and more are basic public goods we all need all the time. They shouldn’t be privatized commodities available only to those who can afford them. These are life’s essentials that we can only do for all if we do it together.

We must deal with both crises at the same time. We have to foreground and confront the deep history and impact of structural and cultural racism. We also have to remember that there are millions of essential workers, putting their lives and families in jeopardy while waging a war against the pandemic and keeping America moving.

There’s an even deeper lesson about what’s important. After several months in isolation we hunger to reconnect with our friends, our families, our communities. We’ve seen in sharp relief that the community we need is the community of all of us — bereft of racism, hatred, and oppression and full of understanding, empathy and connection.

It turns out that community is a vital public good that provides the glue that makes possible our common purpose.

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