From the beginning on the American colonies in the early1600's, all the way to the late 1800's, slavery was a massive part of the economy and culture of the United States. America was built on slave labor and the hard work of others. These slaves were beaten, whipped, malnourished, and lived painful lives. During these awful years, slaves found art, religion, and folk tales, as a way of release, but one of the most important things was music. Music was essential to coping with bondage and bringing them through. It was the one saving grace that they could truly call their own. The rhythmic moans, clapping of hands, tapping of feet, and the creative manipulation of basic utensils, gave our brothers and sisters a way to escape their daily pain.
Music was our place where we could go and express ourselves in a way like no other. As individuals progressed in talent, they became the target of the master’s house for the entertaining of house guests. The Fiddler was the most cherished position of them all and the great skill of this cherished role afforded many benefits. The master's plan, however, was never straight-forward, and while this musician was afforded a few benefits, the tragedy of his people was never far away; the fiddler was in constant torment. Hearing the soul of a man’s pain, joy, and hope expressed through torn and weary hands made a sound that would pierce the skies for miles.
For his duty, the fiddler would often be bathed and dressed in clean linen and made to play for hours during festivities. The smell of hot food in the room and the sight of cool water nearby only taunted the musician as a reminder of who he really was. The sight of dogs given table scraps before him was also a clear reminder of where the master's hierarchy placed him. After performing, he would his dirty work clothes back on, be given a few scraps that were left over, and ushered back to his sleeping quarters for another day's work in the field the next morning.
Music was not only an escape, but was also the weapon used to rip apart the soul of the musician. The temporary torment of experiencing a lifestyle he could only dream of was dangled right in front of him while others in his community were suffering. The insidious scheme was intended to isolate you and also make the community envy and ultimately hate you. Dividing the community was always the goal because a united community was the ultimate threat. Entertainment for the slave-master was a sport. They compared their fiddlers’ talents among plantations and often shared them for certain events.
Today, regardless of the entertainment, the deep-rooted manipulation of our people for the sake of entertainment masked behind the opportunity for wealth and fame, only masks the reality that this ideology has never changed. Wealthy owners benefiting from the exploitation of African-Americans for sport, entertainment is a much darker plot. Yes, few of you have made it to levels we are all proud of, and for the most part the real winners are still the same. We celebrate those who have risen to the top of their fields and are winning in a game designed for them to lose.
This appalling reality has been hidden for centuries but today we express our acknowledgement of such a strategy as we stand together. The master’s desire is to exploit you whether you shut up, stand up, kneel, sing, dance or act according to their guidelines. Remember, you are just the fiddler.
Wearing the Fiddler's Union Movement says:
I am in support of this movement and honor those who have suffered in their role as a Fiddler.
I am in opposition of the very act and mentality that still exist and I wear this shirt to remind others that I understand the game and I am not a Fiddler.
I am calling out those whose have made it in their fields and have lost sight of the real game being played. I am shouting to them to Wake Up!
I am wearing this shirt in support of the many leaders who have studied the game and work together to win.
Why will you wear it?