As a singer/songwriter, guitarist, storyteller and activist for America’s music, our music’s history and our history as a nation matters. As citizens we recognize that our strength as a nation stems from choosing to come together on our moral values as a nation for the common good of all of us. For me understanding the vital unacknowledged role the African American spirituals played in our history and our music’s history is not only fascinating it is the source from which America’s multiple music genres were created from. Besides being the source of our Americana music the spirituals have always been a compass that reflects our humanity in real time. American music is a big part of how we overcame major moral hurdles in American history. We have a huge debt of gratitude we owe our beloved enslaved brothers and sisters who from 1619 -1865 not only labored to build our nation but gave us an original music out of which inspired our multiple genres of American music.
America, “The Great American Experiment” began as a fledgling country in search of its soul by ruling itself as a democracy. For the first time in world history, a country would choose a governing leadership that would be comprised of individuals coming together as equals to form a government for, of and by the people to collectively be responsible for defining and governing our destiny as a country. Some of these ideals have yet to be fulfilled, and in order to accomplish this we must be the change. We must not settle for stagnation or apathy as the acceptable norm, instead we must choose hope and a willingness to create solutions to end poverty, racism and injustice for the good of our children and our nation.
It is my greatest honor to teach and share what I have learned in my studies about our history and the vital role of the African American spirituals. I also share the oral history I learned from my Elders as a young boy in the cotton fields, and the back wood country churches in my home state of North Carolina where my family and many in our community worked and lived as sharecroppers.
In my one-man show on the history of the spirituals, I tell the stories of our enslaved ancestors embedding their oral history into the spirituals for safekeeping. I sing their secret and sacred songs. I shed light on the secret coding hidden within the songs to help runaway slaves find safe routes on the Underground Railroad. I talk about how the Abolitionists pressured elected officials and worked to sway the public to abolish slavery on moral grounds. I talk about how the Abolitionists risked their own lives in helping ensure runaway slaves on the UGRR made it safely to their destination of freedom. We will also explore how the spirituals are the foundation and inspiration for most American music genres including blues, jazz, gospel, folk, country, R & B, and rock and roll, and others. The African American spirituals have stood the test of time and transformation and will forever continue to be safekeeping a message of hope. In my “Music Connects Our Common Humanity Series” it is my intention to invite the opportunity for us together to heal & celebrate our cultural diverse roots with America’s diverse music genre’s.