A musician can’t just stick to one form of music and consider it their calling. They need to explore diverse fields and be a master of them all. It gives them a vast repertoire of choices and also gives them worldly wisdom. And no musician can epitomize this thought better than Daryl Davis- an African American pianist who has had the good fortune to play with Chuck Berry, BB King, and others. Not only does he play the Blues, but he also plays jazz, classical, rock, and dabbles in others. But maybe his life’s calling was his performance in Maryland. There he was the only Black person in the entire hall filled with members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Musician’s Crusade Against The Ku Klux Klan
There’s a very pivotal anecdote at the end of the concert at Silver Dollar Lounge. This is where Daryl Davis first met up with a Ku Klux Klan member who engaged him in a very casual and bewildering conversation. The KKK member mentioned never having met an African American pianist who played like Jerry Lewis- a white pianist. The white man was even more surprised when he came to know that Davis was also a good friend of Lewis, and they had the same mentor.
While this must all seem very odd to the reader, one must understand that the white man in question was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. He definitely didn’t host African American parties at his house. Instead of taking offense, Daryl Davis decided to take this opportunity up to talk to this person in a very upfront discourse. And thus began a life-long crusade against untangling the knots of racism.
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Since then, Davis has had a career trajectory shift from just a pianist to a crusader, whose main weapon is oratory. He used to frequent lecture theatres and seminars and discuss his philosophies with people from the KKK. His hope was that they would actually try to understand the people they were so against. And it worked- many Ku Klux Klan members left the cult to become his friends. He systematically debunked their theories, causing them to lose interest and faith in the tenets of the cult.
There have been several reports on how Davis was the reason why they shifted. But he believes that it was their own efforts that led to a shift. In the last three decades, Davis has become very well-versed in the laws and regulations of the KKK. So he decided to write a book called ‘Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan’.
From meeting with Robert Kelly, the Imperial Wizard of Maryland, to helping him debunk the entire organization, Daryl Davis has done it all. In a recent interview with Joe Rogan, he commented that the people in this country need to advance their ideologies the same way they have advanced their technology.
“People must stop focusing on the symptoms of hate, that’s like putting a Band-Aid on cancer,” Davis says. “We’ve got to treat it down to the bone, which is ignorance. The cure for ignorance is education. You fix the ignorance, there’s nothing to fear. If there’s nothing to fear, there’s nothing to hate. If there’s nothing to hate, there’s nothing or no one to destroy.”
Featured image: Daryl Davis