Performers Note Black History

BK Davis Black HistoryThe gospel and jazz music at a Black

History Month celebration Saturday afternoon drew more than quiet toe-tapping from the audience.

Many clapped their hands and shouted encouragement to a trio of musicians and the Pauline Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church choir, performing in the Salem City Council chambers.

“You know, we’re not at a funeral this afternoon,” the Rev. Nellie B. Thompson told the 50-member audience. She is copaster or the Salem church, whic sponsored the celebration.

“If you’ve never heard music from the South, you’re hearing it now.

“They’re only putting into it what it really is – soul,” she said. “So loosen up, get with it, shake your shoulders. If you want to jump around, there’s not any harm in it.”

Salem composer Byron Davis on piano led solo performers and the eight-member choir in lively musical numbers. A bassguitarist and drummer also accompained the group, forming a trio with Davis for several instrumental jazz selections.

“I love it – it’s great,” Joy Armstrong of Salem said. “It’s about time Salem had something like this.”

Biographical reading about famous black Americans and speeches about black history alternated with the music.

Speakers told of the accomplishments of Lt. Col. Guion S. Bluford Jr., the first black American to enter outer space, Louis Armstrong, Americas ambassador of jazz, and Maya Angelou, an author.

They praised the work of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and of Rosa Parks, who began the busy boycotts in Montgomery, Ala.

Bruce Smith, a member of the choir, talked about the real events of balck history- events that he said are often missing from schoool textbooks.

“Black history accurately retold points out the good and the bad about people,” he said.

“Knowing this history is important, he s aid, “not only to break stereotypes but to help the majority group see that we have much to contribute.”

Phillip Taylor reviewed the history of black Americans from their early days of slavery.

“I dont believe Martin Luther King Jr. was the first to say, “We shall over come,’” Taylor said.

He is the executive director of the National Association of Advocates for Prisoners’ Rights and a member of the Ebeneezer A.M.C. Zion Church in Seattle.

Taylor urged the members of the audience to expand their knowledge of other subjects and other people.

“I think it’s very important that we try and learn all we can about every aspect of life,” he said. “Let us keep the dream alive. Try to understand each other a little better.”


By Patricia Moyer
Of the Statesman-Journal

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