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Elijah McClain

Elijah McClain: A Light in the Darkness

A key moment in Mayflower and Beyond will be a piece called #elijah, celebrating the life of Elijah McClain. But who was Elijah?

Elijah McClain was a 23-year-old Black massage therapist living in Aurora, Colorado. Self-taught on the violin and guitar, Elijah often took his instruments to a nearby animal shelter where he played music for the animals to relax them. According to the Colorado Sentinel, one of his long-time clients at Massage Envy said, “He was the sweetest, purest person I have ever met. He was definitely a light in a whole lot of darkness.”

On August 24, 2019, Elijah bought ice tea at a gas station and was walking back to his nearby apartment. Someone called 911 to report a masked man waving his arms. His family said that Elijah wore the runner’s mask (he was a serious runner and fitness buff) because he had anemia that caused him to get cold easily, and that he was probably waving his arms along with the music that he was playing. Elijah was wearing headphones when three police officers approached.

He was put in a chokehold, cutting off his carotid artery, and when two paramedics arrived gave him ketamine to sedate him. He went into cardiac arrest. Elijah McClain died in the hospital six days later, when his family made the decision to take him off life support.

The initial response to Elijah’s death was frustrating to those who knew him. In the wake of George Floyd’s death in 2020, however, a public outcry demanded further investigation into Elijah’s death, and both the governor and the city of Aurora opened investigations.

According to the Denver Post in February 2021, the city’s independent investigation concluded that the Aurora police officers “did not have a legal basis to force McClain to stop walking, to frisk him or to use a chokehold on him,” and that the Aurora paramedics “failed to properly evaluate McClain — or even attempt to speak to him — before injecting him with a powerful sedative.”

Just two months ago, in early September 2021, a grand jury indicted three officers and two paramedics for their roles in Elijah’s death. Colorado’s Attorney General announced that all five were charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. As the case proceeds, what happened to Elijah remains in the public eye, a horrifying example of the dangers of living as a black man in our country.

Elijah’s mother told the Sentinel, “He wanted to change the world. And it’s crazy, because he ended up doing it anyway.”

As part of the Mayflower and Beyond experience on November 13th and 14th, the Cape Symphony commissioned Emmy-winning composer John Wineglass to create a piece in celebration of Elijah McClain’s valuable life. The performance of #elijah by Randall Goosby will be presented in such an extraordinary way that the audience will never forget it. Please join us in remembering Elijah and honoring his love of music.

The Cape Symphony presents Mayflower and Beyond on Saturday, November 13th at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, November 14th. For more information and to purchase tickets for Mayflower and Beyond, visit capesymphony.org, call the Box Office at 508-362-1111, or visit 1060 Falmouth Road in Hyannis, MA. The Cape Symphony Box Office is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

 

 

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