City celebrates Black History Month with a ‘Showcase of Song’
Photo by Ashlea Jones
BY ASHLEA JONES
FOR THE CHRONICLE
A showcase featured recitals and enactments of African culture and modern day African-American hymnals and spirituals on Saturday, Feb. 25, during a “Showcase of Song.”
The City of Winston-Salem Human Relations Department along with St. Philips Heritage Center presented the program at the James A. Grey Auditorium inside the Old Salem Visitors Center in celebration of Black History Month.
“The purpose of this showcase was to link, through song, the African culture to modern day African-American culture, said Wanda Allen-Abraha, director of city of Winston-Salem Human Relations Department. “And how [African culture]” has played in to and developed mainstream. A lot of the music we listen to today is from Africa.”
The showcase began with a greeting in English and Spanish from Dr. Krishauna Hines-Gaither, director of diversity and inclusiveness at Salem College, who emceed the event. The Easton Elementary Drum Squad kicked-off the entertainment with a performance of Guinea rhythms infused with a bit of Mali culture on traditional African drums.
Cultural performer Kenneth Wallace performed songs such as, “Down by the Riverside,” “Wade in the Water,” and “Follow the Drinking Gourd” while giving the audience a lesson in oral tradition. These spirituals were used as examples of songs with encoded messages that helped enslaved people escape to freedom.
“Code songs had another message. They taught us how to stand against injustice,” Wallace said.
“Music and songs form the sound-tracks of our lives,” said Council Member John Larson during his greeting. “Music can stimulate and provoke. It gets people through bad times.”
The Kidane Mehret Ethiopian Orthodox Church of the Triad sung songs in Amhara, the official working language of Ethiopia.
“Christianity in Ethiopia dates back to the first century,” said Hines-Gaither.
Liturgical dancer, Calleah Solomon; soloist, Tamra Bradshaw; the Salem College Gospel Choir; and F.O.C.U.S Professional Gospel Group were also among the performers during Saturday’s showcase.
Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke attended the event and brought greetings to the culturally diverse crowd.
“We want you to know that we believe in diversity,” said Burke. “We know what this city was built on.”
“Today’s event in one of the oldest backgrounds in Winston-Salem is appropriate,” Larson said.