A few weeks ago, I had the honor of attending a benefit concert at the Berklee Performance Center, which featured a multi-star Americana cast comprised of Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Robert Plant, Buddy Miller, and the Milk Carton Kids. The concert, titled Lampedusa, aimed to raise awareness for the current worldwide refugee crisis. Previous to the concert, I had no idea that 65 million people worldwide have been displaced. As I left the concert, I challenged with a choice—will I allow myself to react in despair, or will I choose to respond with hope?
Emmylou Harris organized the 11-city tour, inviting her celebrated friends on stage with her. The sold-out show wasn’t set up like a typical concert; instead, everyone sat in chairs organized into a semi-circle and played one song each, round robin style. I had never seen anything like it. I loved the way it made everyone feel like family, like it was just a living room jam where everyone’s voice was heard equally and celebrated. They all played different instruments and sang harmonies on each others’ songs, which mirrored the way they pulled together to support the refugee cause.
The concert was named after the Italian island of Lampedusa, which has been a prime entry point for refugees in Europe since 2000. With currently 65 million people worldwide that are displaced from their homes and families, it is natural to feel overwhelmed and powerless. It makes us feel small when there are crises so much bigger than what we can tackle with our mere two hands, but it provoked me to dig deeper and think about my place in everything that is happening both in America and around the world.
In my Music, Spirit, and Transformation class, taught by Liberal Arts professor Linda Chase, we have had many discussions surrounding the various crises around the world and how we can choose to respond as musicians. In this past year, I’ve realized that a response is very different than a reaction. A reaction is a split-second action that occurs after something happens, similar to what psychologists would call “flight or fight mode.” In contrast, a response is an action that requires a choice—a conscious effort and a mind that is made up.
Our narratives are all chapters of one big story. Rather than being overwhelmed with the weight of the world, we are only called to tend to our own piece of the puzzle. Emmylou Harris and her company demonstrated that powerfully at the concert by generously giving away what they’ve been given—their music, their stories, and their support. They inspired the audience to have an awareness of something bigger than themselves, and I was certainly challenged to remember and reconsider what is truly important to me and what I am fighting for as a person and musician.
Belinda Huang is a Taiwanese-American singer/songwriter, music producer, and audio engineer from Los Angeles. Her vision is to create and release a fresh and authentic sound that brings about healing, personal freedom and hope through its messages of life and truth. She is currently in her last year at Berklee College of Music, majoring in Music Production & Engineering.