Anthony McGill’s #TakeTwoKnees Challenge Inspires Activism, Donations for Equal Justice Initiative

By Christian Thorsberg |

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Anthony McGill (Photo: David Finlayson)

There are few international stages clarinetist Anthony McGill has yet to grace. His historic resume includes playing at President Obama’s inauguration, and being named the New York Philharmonic’s principal clarinet, the orchestra’s first African-American principal player.   

But on July 6, in his home, Anthony McGill shared a video of himself playing “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee)” while on his knees. This performance was his most recent bearing his call-to-action hashtag: #TakeTwoKnees.

“I spent the Fourth of July thinking about what America should stand for,” wrote McGill in the video’s Facebook post. “In that spirit, I want to present another social media challenge as the second phase of our #TakeTwoKnees call for equality and justice.” 

He followed with a pledge, a $5,000 donation to the Equal Justice Initiative, (a nonprofit that prioritizes criminal justice reform, racial justice, and public education), and a public call to action: McGill would contribute an additional $50 for each #TakeTwoKnees tribute he sees, up to $10,000, through his birthday on July 17. 

“Please post something meaningful to you with the hashtag #TakeTwoKnees,” McGill wrote. “This movement is about action and inclusivity.” 

McGill’s challenge has already been answered by notable musicians, including operatic tenor Lawrence Brownlee, flutist Allison Loggins-Hull, and violinist Nancy Zhou. But the support he’s received from thousands more amateur and professional musicians has been steadfast since he berthed the #TakeTwoKnees movement, well before the donation pledge 

In late May, as a wave of Black Lives Matter marches and protests -- one of the largest social movements in history –– swept through McGill’s hometown of Chicago, and cities across the United States, he played a profound rendition of “America the Beautiful.”  

“Let’s try and #TakeTwoKnees in the struggle for justice and decency,” McGill wrote in this first video’s post. “No guidelines. Your message, your voice, your mission, your focus. Just #TakeTwoKnees for what you believe in.” 

SEE ALSO: The McGill Brothers return home Grant Park Music Festival debut