This post comes with a lot of frustration at myself for not recognizing how I feel in the present, and always having to see the truth in hindsight.
As many of you know, I've come outside and played for my neighbors on my front porch a handful of times, going live on Facebook or Instagram when I do so. That way, my family can see me play from miles and miles away. Also of course whoever else is interested but can't be physically present.
At first I was excited by the positive response I was getting.
I really don't think I put a lot of effort in, so the magnitude of the response confuses me. It makes me feel undeserving of the attention, because of how little I actually do when I play outside.
I got interviewed about it a few times now, by local publications and the like. I've felt like an imposter every time, because I see videos of people doing extraordinary things during Quarantine and my contribution to society falls somewhere along the lines of "bare minimum". There's always a portion of me that thinks that I'm getting my picture taken because:
1) I'm non-white
2) I'm holding a saxophone
3) I have long, curly hair
I've become a non-threatening conduit for the upper middle class into a culture that they desperately want to be a part of. The arts have always needed their patrons and supporters, and said patrons are largely affluent. While the attention I've received dismantles no paradigm (mostly older, upper-middle class mfers to no surprise), I don't want to be a poster boy for white people just because I photograph well and don't scare your kids. I might as well be a well-groomed android, playing sweet nothings to the ether on your "we're too privileged to take social distancing seriously" walks with your dog.
I don't want to take a picture for you. I don't want to be holding my saxophone as a racially-ambiguous white-facing pedestal for my much shinier, much-more-important-than-me instrument. I want my body of works to be CONSIDERED when there are conversations about me. I want the barriers I'm breaking down in music to be SEEN and HEARD, and to be synonymous with my image. I want people to call out "Feralcat!" on the street, not just "eyy sax guy". I want kids to see my likeness and aspire to be artists, not just have their parents point at me like I'm a fucking museum exhibit. I am wrestling with the idea of being a public figure, and want to do the best I can to inspire without becoming a pawn of the local elite.
But it starts with me, recognizing this pattern of perception that I could so easily be blind to. I am going to play outside more than ever, but doing so for myself and not for the randos on NextDoor. I will do my best to filter through the opportunities presented to me, ensuring that I take opportunities that don't make me feel like a white person's show pony. To those of you who wanted a photo of me on my porch, understand that my likeness is not yours. Just because you want something, doesn't mean you'll automatically get it.
I don't succumb to your privilege.