The choirs of Lincoln University and of Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges will be coming together for a concert and panel discussion called “Race Matters – Singing Across the Color Line” onSaturday, April 16 from 2:00-5:00 at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral. The event will be live-streamed at www.philadelphiacathedral.org.
In 1854, before Emancipation, Lincoln University in Eastern Pennsylvania received its charter as the first degree-granting Historical Black College in the nation. Haverford College and Bryn Mawr College had been founded around the same time by Philadelphia-area Friends meetings to promote education based on Quaker values of social justice. Choral singing was a part of student life at Lincoln from early on, and tool hold only much later at Haverford and Bryn Mawr when Quaker suspicion of public performance yielded to broader cultural perspectives in the 20th Century.
Lincoln choir director Edryn Coleman and Haverford choir director Thomas Lloyd were introduced to each other by mutual friend Jay Fluellen, the Philadelphia composer, conductor, jazz pianist, and Director of Music at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. They all shared a belief that face to face engagement by young people through the meaningful listening, dialog, and genuine cultural interchange that singing together involves can be a first step toward addressing the racism that has plagued our history as a nation. They and their students came to believe that getting to know each other better through person-to-person, community-based interaction and shared artistic, social, and political projects could help them learn to embrace both their common humanity and their cultural distinctiveness, and to see the incredible diversity within racial identities that goes well beyond stereotypes.
In February of 2014 the Lincoln University Choir visited Haverford for the first time to share a concert of music from both the African- and European-inspired repertories. Videos of combined selections from that performance can be found here:
In the two years since that performance, severally widely-publicized incidences of racially motivated violence against black people began to galvanize students on campuses across the country to try to do something to turn back the trajectory of hate. The Black Lives Matter movement brought attention to the value and integrity of lives that had been culturally marginalized and demeaned, and many students responded to their calls to action.
With this backdrop, Coleman and Lloyd began planning a reciprocal visit of the Chamber Singers of Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges to the Lincoln campus for another shared concert. But this time, they also wanted to give the students an opportunity to share their collaboration and their concern for racial justice with a broader audience. Student leaders from both choirs will meet at Lincoln on March 18 to plan discussions together that will result in questions to pose to a panel of leaders and activists directly involved with racial justice issues in their communities.
The students from Haverford and Bryn Mawr will travel to Lincoln on Friday, April 15 for rehearsals, discussions, and a campus-wide concert. The next day, Saturday, April 16, they will go to the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral for a 2:00 panel discussion and an hour-long 4:00 concert, both open to the public without charge, at the invitation of the Cathedral and the Anti-Racism Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.
The panel will be convened by Cathedral Dean, the Very Rev. Judith Sullivan and University of Pennsylvania Chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Chaz Howard. The panelists will be Rev. Marshall Mitchell, Pastor, Salem Baptist Church, Jenkintown, Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad, Muslim Chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Terrance Wiley, Asst. Prof. of Religion, Haverford College, Cecily Harwitt, Director of Organizing, POWER, and the Rev. Dr. Katie Day, Lutheran Theological Seminary and national Chair of Heeding God’s Call, an anti-gun violence advocacy organization.
The kinds of questions asked by the students will relate to the recent wave of racial violence across the US. Does this trend signal that things are getting worse than ever in the US, or is it part of a longer cycle of racial violence in the US? What specific steps can we take to turn the trajectory towards longer- lasting racial justice, equality, and sense of shared destiny? A large part of American society either doesn’t understand the expression “Black lives matter” or turns it on its head to assume it means “other lives don’t matter” (and police lives in particular). What is the basis of this misunderstanding and distortion? Can it be overcome in our communities?
The event is open to the community without charge or advance ticket purchase required.
Article Courtesy of Thomas Lloyd
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