The African American Spirituals are just too valuable to be forgotten. In my many conversations with my dear friend Dr. Dorothy Height(1912-2010), Civil Rights icon, former Chair and President Emerita for National Council of Negro Women said to me, “I am so proud of you Calvin for presenting this historic legislation to the US Congress, because without preserving the African American Spirituals, it would be like we were never here”. Even today, her words add fuel to the fire in my soul to establish a Center For Learning for this precious historical music and oral history. For me, preserving the African American Spirituals, preserves the spirit of all America, and after all the spirituals are recognized as our national music.
Amazingly, the songs the slaves created, (known as the spirituals) allowed the slaves to be heard during a time when they were not allowed to have a voice. Their secret communications within these songs not only changed the course of history, thankfully it preserved their oral history, healed their pain, and paid forward to their children the idea that fortitude, courage and resilience will ultimately give them their human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Now that the African American Spirituals are recognized as an American National Treasure, through the Twin Resolutions I proposed and passed by unanimous vote in the US Congress in 2007, my work is not complete yet. I know it is vitally important to establish a resource center to house the history of the African American Spirituals and the enslaved African’s oral history embedded in the songs. I want to establish and build a National African American Spirituals House, that would include a center for learning, a performing arts center, and be an educational resource for school curriculums across America. A note to self: When you have a dream, it’s time to get to work.