Fashionable-day traditions resembling Black Historical past Month and Juneteenth heart the cultural roots of the African diaspora, and function a time of remembrance, solidarity, and celebration of our lineage. The origins of Black Historical past Month could be traced again to 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Affiliation for the Examine of Negro Life and Historical past established the second week of February as “Negro Historical past Week.” Over time, the celebration grew in recognition, and in 1976, President Gerald Ford formally acknowledged February as “Black Historical past Month.” Since then, it has been celebrated yearly in the US and Canada, with quite a lot of occasions and actions to honor the contributions and accomplishments of African Individuals.
Many occasions that had been essential to the formal recognition of Black Historical past Month occurred in that 50-year span — most notably the Civil Rights Motion. Organizing and protests had been definitely foundational to the success of the motion, however artwork was additionally a type of political expression and communication, serving to to mobilize and encourage a technology of activists to struggle for racial equality and justice.
Uniting Voices Chicago was based in 1956 as a direct response to the Civil Rights Motion. Initially named the Kids’s Refrain of the First Unitarian Church of Chicago, the youth choir program was fashioned to have fun the racial and financial variety of town. Through the Nineteen Fifties, a major variety of Black folks relocated to Chicago, inflicting town’s Black inhabitants to develop from lower than 10 p.c to just about 25 p.c in lower than a decade. This speedy inflow of Black folks strained racial tensions within the metropolis, and it wasn’t lengthy earlier than Chicago turned a serious heart for activism through the Civil Rights Motion.
Uniting Voices Chicago supplied the kids of the motion with a wholesome outlet and a studying atmosphere that cultivated empathy and respect throughout racial traces. Since then, the group has expanded and now consists of free in-school and after-school packages that serve over 4,000 youngsters from low-to-moderate earnings households.
Persevering with its deal with unity, the group’s upcoming Black Historical past Month Live performance Collection will carry collectively a number of facets of the African diaspora. Two concert events, which occur on the Chicago Symphony Heart on Feb. 27 and 28, will current music from West Africa, Black America, and the Caribbean within the spirit of their central theme — sankofa.
“Sankofa” is an Akan Ghanaian phrase which means “to return what was misplaced.” For folks of the African diaspora, the transatlantic slave commerce stripped away their languages, religions, and customs; a lot was misplaced because of the systemic repression of cultural identities, however the affect of these cultures stays. The mass displacement of enslaved folks from West and Central Africa to the Americas additionally resulted in distinct cultures intertwining — borrowing from and interacting with one another to kind one thing fully new.
In an effort to return what was misplaced, the variety of musical traditions on this system symbolizes a convergence of cultures. “Uniting Voices Chicago purposefully creates programming like its Black Historical past 365 Crucial to honor fact and legacy, heart the voices and educate the minds of all youth, and uplift the profound experience of tradition bearers,” says Lonnie Norwood, the conductor and Director of Africana Research. The concert events will function multi-talented visitor artists whose experience spans the gamut of this system’s choices. Uniting Voices Chicago will probably be joined by famend soprano Audrey DuBois Harris, whose repertoire encompasses opera, classical, jazz, oratorio, sacred songs, gospel and inspirational hymns. They can even welcome Sekou Conde, whose prowess on the djembe totally showcases the outstanding capabilities of the instrument.
Items that had been important to the Civil Rights Motion, resembling “Elevate Each Voice and Sing” and “We Shall Overcome,” are featured on this system. Each songs served as symbols of hope for activists, protesters, and the group. In recognition of civil rights points in different components of the world, the ensemble can even carry out “Braveness, My Buddy,” a track written by pupil freedom fighters who had been imprisoned in South Africa through the apartheid period.
Whereas a major a part of the live performance collection is about celebrating historical past, it doesn’t shrink back from making trendy connections. This yr marks a milestone in Black music: the fiftieth anniversary of hip hop. An ode to the style will embody choices from Tupac, Queen Latifah, Public Enemy, and Kendrick Lamar. Highlighting the rise from counterculture to a world phenomenon is a testomony to the resilience of hip hop artists and gives a recent entry level for audiences to have interaction with the lineage of Black music.
Of their Black Historical past Month Live performance Collection, Uniting Voices Chicago is constructing upon a legacy of training and advocacy by giving younger folks the chance to create artwork in a considerate and significant means. By means of these performances, voices from throughout the African diaspora are capable of present the individuality of their music, whereas highlighting their deeply rooted connections.
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