TRENDS Diary: Speaking Out Against Racism With Music

Selasee Atiase held a neighborhood concert to raise money for Black Lives Matter 5280 and the Colorado Freedom Fund

TRENDS Diary, a project of the Community Foundation of Boulder County, is a place for Boulder County residents of all ages to share personal experiences that relate to a pressing community need. The focus, for now, is on our shared need to connect and solve problems, despite the increased isolation we’re all experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dear TRENDS Diary,

I grew up in Ghana, and music began for me through church activities. When I was in college, I traveled to Minneapolis with an Acappella group, and after college, I moved to the US to record and perform as a musician. I went back to graduate school at CU Boulder a few years ago, studying and teaching music, performing with my band Selasee & the Fafa Family, and taking care of my kids.

After George Floyd’s murder, my wife and I were talking about what we could do to support Black people. As a Black man raising biracial kids in a predominantly white community, I felt like we had to speak out against racism. Music is how I speak out. So we started to plan what we thought would be a small concert.

I had been following Black Lives Matter and the Colorado Freedom Fund, which raises bail bond money for incarcerated people of color who can’t afford to pay for their freedom. I also served on the Boulder police oversight board, working to address racial inequities in the justice system. This pandemic has given everybody the time to look at the things they usually have the privilege to overlook. George Floyd’s death and the protests have received so much attention because people were less able to distract themselves from what is happening.

We decided we would hold a fundraiser for Black Lives Matter 5280 and the Colorado Freedom Fund. The band would perform in my front yard while people listened on the grass in Martin Park, just next door. Some neighbors offered to help plan the event. We printed flyers and posted them all over the neighborhood.

The day of the concert, more people showed up than we expected, and I was worried we might get in trouble with the police. But everybody spread out and danced and enjoyed the music. There were no police, no problems. We raised $5,000 for the cause.

– Selasee Atiase, as told to Hannah Nordhaus