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Cousins James and Regina Cater reconnect during the pandemic to examine America's extremely difficult 400 year history / DOWNBEAT

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First came the coronavirus and then the killing of George Floyd, his neck fatally compressed under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. For Black Americans, a convergence of plagues compounds disappointment and outrage-a double whammy.

"Being on ‘lockdown' and glued to the news during the pandemic, the world witnessed a speck of the systemic racism that Black Americans face, daily," said violinist Regina Carter from her home in New Jersey. "Examining and discussing America's ugly history over the last 400 years is extremely difficult for some, but there is no other choice; George Floyd was the last straw."

Multireedist James Carter echoed the urgency expressed by his cousin and a multitude of others demonstrating in the streets around the world. "It's good to see so many young people, especially white Americans with Black Lives Matter signs, in the demonstrations," he said. "The pandemic, poverty and the police have brutally assailed the Black community."

No place or profession is immune to the coronavirus pandemic or disparities based on race. But setbacks are not defeats for these two musicians, whom I've known since they were coming of age in Detroit-Regina when she was a member of the all-female ensemble Straight Ahead and James when he was with the youth ensemble Bird-Trane-Sco-Now! Both are as talented as they are resilient, and though at the moment they can't perform together-as they have on numerous studio dates-the pandemic has put them back in touch.

"When James called me about sharing my thoughts during this bleak period, it was an opportunity I welcomed," Regina said. "This is a good way of reconnecting, something that is absolutely indispensable for us musicians."
 (Photo: John Abbott & Christopher Drukker)

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