After his friend, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, was killed in Pakistan in 2002, Todd Mack began looking for ways to honor his life. He found it in music.
“I wanted to tap into our shared belief in the power of music to connect people and to combat the evil and hatred that took Danny’s life,” said Mack.
The idea spurred the foundation of Music in Common, a nonprofit that aims to strengthen and connect communities through collaborative music projects.
“We have a variety of programs that use a similar formula to bring together diverse communities or communities in conflict,” said Mack. “We facilitate discussions and creative collaborations that result in multimedia performances and songwriting.”
Since its inception in 2005, the organization housed on Auburn Avenue has worked in about 400 refugee communities in the U.S. It has also spread into the Middle East, where it’s paired with Israeli and Palestinian groups.
“It was an intentional decision to go to the Middle East in 2010 to address the reasons why Danny was murdered, one of those being he was Jewish and murdered by Muslim extremists,” said Mack. “We intentionally bring together communities in conflict or in need of getting to know each other better. Sometimes it’s just a very diverse group of folks, and we provide a platform for them to learn about each other’s cultures or faiths.”
While much of the focus has been on young people in those communities, the nonprofit also expanded in 2021 with the more adult-oriented Black Legacy Project. Since its start in Massachusetts, it’s moved into six communities, with Atlanta being the latest.
“We have two Black and two white musicians re-imagining songs and writing a song together,” said Music in Common’s Program Coordinator Trey Carlisle. “We’ll also be hosting roundtable discussions in different communities.”
Carlisle learned about Music in Common at 17 when he attended some of its programs.
“It brought Jewish, Christian and Muslim teens together on the anniversary of 9/11, and I fell in love with its work,” he said. “I’m now 24 and went from being a participant to helping to facilitate these programs.”
Mack, a career musician devoted to conflict resolution and peace building, said surveys conducted after the programs showed positive results.
“We’re helping people learn about backgrounds they didn’t know about,” he said. “We’re changing and shifting perceptions, and dismantling stereotypes. And we hear that in participants’ own words.”
Information about Music in Common is online at musicincommon.org. Details about The Black Legacy Project can be found at theblacklegacyproject.org.
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