Until recently, the pandemic, and our directive to stay put, wasn’t all that hard for Hayden Farr. Farr is an introvert – to the point where large crowds bother him. It may not seem that way when you see him dancing on stage with The Burroughs, playing his baritone saxophone (an instrument that’s hard to ignore) or his antics — and that’s what they are, antics — with the goofy Trash Cat. But he is an introvert. Staying inside, at least for him, leaves him energized, like a phone left plugged in all day.
So when he got an invitation to protest for Black Lives Matter in Denver, he declined. He was scared of the crowds, or what could happen, of the chaos of all of it.
Oh, he was angry. Farr is black. He is also white. His father is black, and his mother is white. It hurt to see George Floyd killed by the police. It was another person who looks like him killed by another white person with a badge. Farr makes it a point to watch every video of someone who looks like him killed by the cops. He wants to know the reality.
It is not his reality, of course. He keeps his head down. That’s his introverted personality, even when he wears the bright colors and crazy, mohawk’d hair of someone who doesn’t want to go unnoticed. He doesn’t interact with police officers all that much because he doesn’t interact with many others at all.
“But I’m wondering,” Farr asked, “why do we need to have this conversation every two years?”
Once he saw the video of Floyd’s murder, he didn’t want to talk to white people. He called his father, and his brother, Everett, and a friend who is also mixed race. Yet the first person who checked in on him was Mary Claxton, a close friend, a bandmate (in both groups) and a white woman. He loves her. But it was weird to talk to even her.
“My brother later corrected me on that,” Farr said. “He asked me how I expected things to change.”
Farr is a thoughtful guy who says he doesn’t always know how to handle his emotions, but they bubble to the surface at times. He was in a car once when a white friend was pulled over. He urged his friend to put his hands on the steering wheel, put the keys on the roof, and expose the glove compartment. His friend later remarked that it was the first time he saw Farr scared.
“I can feel that energy,” Farr said. “I don’t like that energy.”
So he and his brother Everett have talked about avoiding trouble (hence the pull-over routine). Everett is a big man, with the strength of an NFL player, and Everett knows this. So whenever he’s pulled over, he asks the cops, gently, if they want to cuff him.
Once, when Farr was driving, a friend flipped off the cops, and Farr became angry. Why, he asked his friend, would you ever give them a reason? That’s how he and his brother survived: They never give the police a reason.
Even so, Farr also believes the energy feels different this time.
“I wonder if it’s because people are stuck at home and forced to see what’s going on,” Farr said, “or is it because people want to see a change?”
Farr wants to see a change. He doesn’t ever want to force himself to watch another graphic video. Perhaps that’s why, in the last few days of June, he’s wanted to get out. He wanted to march in Greeley.
“It has to start in your own community,” Farr said. “You have to do small things that will make it better until there’s change.”
He wasn’t afraid of Greeley, his home where he’s well known, and because of that, he wondered what else he could do to make things better. And though navigating the territory of racial injustice is complicated, uncomfortable and overwhelming, small, positive gestures are often the most powerful. For Farr, the movement starts with one simple thing: love. Loving his mother, who is white, and his father, who is black.