Monday, September 26, 2016

Eric Conway: September 25, 2016, we sang in a festival called Freedom Sounds assembled by the Smithsonian to celebrate the opening weekend of the NMAAHC

Eric Conway writes:

Hello all,

What another great Morgan State University Choir Engagement!  Yesterday, September 25, 2016, we sang in a festival called Freedom Sounds assembled by the Smithsonian to celebrate the opening weekend of the National Museum of African American History & Culture.  We sang at 4PM on the Gil Scott-Heron stage in the Silvan National Theatre on the grounds of the Washington Monument.

We fortunately had a picture-perfect day for our forty-five minute presentation. Although there were many other acts present this weekend, the Morgan State University choir was the only college choir asked to participate - what an honor! When we arrived, we all received talent badges for the event.  I also arranged for each member of the choir to get one free pass into the museum.  As the Washington Monument grounds is a vast area, we walked a great deal around the property to find our performance space. As we walked we noticed several food stands of typically African American Cuisine including Southern Barbeque, Kenyan Curries, Carribean Jerk, & PO Boys to mention a few.   

Surprisingly, all the previous acts performed precisely on time, almost to the minute.  We were scheduled to begin singing at 4PM and 4:01 we were on the stage scheduled to end at 4:45 p.m.  Although it is relatively difficult to guess the actual number who heard us, given the powerful loud speakers, I would say that at least one thousand persons were on the grounds conservatively to hear our presentation. As I looked out, I saw many proud Morganites, including Alumni Association President Jackee Lawson, with her husband Art. I also saw my first cousin Tracy Lofty who I asked to take photos of the group while we were performing!  Many persons after our short concert commented on how much they very much enjoyed our ensemble.

Immediately, after the concert we walked to the National Museum of African American History & Culture to try to get a glimpse of this much anticipated museum.  On the way to the museum, we took a group photo in front of the immediately-iconic building.  We all noticed that although virtually every building in Washington is adorned in Italian white marble, this building was cast in a conspicuously beautiful bronze color (real bronze was material for exterior) , reassembling the beautiful bronze hue of the African-American skin.  As I received the tickets, I was reminded by the event manager that these tickets were very valuable, as one could only enter the museum via a free ticket that must be arranged ahead of time.  The museum will not be fully open to the public, until the 2017.

Because we all had talent passes, we did not have to wait in lines like the masses, but could immediately go into the museum via the stage entrance.  A friend alerted me to the fact that the exhibits on music and culture were on the fourth floor, so I led everyone immediately to the fourth floor, where we saw wonderful Music exhibits from African American history and culture.  The fourth floor included exhibits on Music, Entertainment Industry, Visual Arts and Cultural Expressions:  The third floor included African-American exhibits of the Military Experience and our lives in the Sports arena.  The second floor was closed to the public for classes, workshops, and research events.  The 1st floor included exhibits on African-American Slavery where I was told you could descend into a space that resembled a slave ship!  The first floor also featured an Oprah Winfrey Theater, Special Exhibitions Gallery, and a restaurant featuring typically African American Cuisine - High-End Soul Food! Needless to say, our quick tour only wet our appetites to return and spend the entire day!

After leaving the museum, given that all of the dining halls on campus were closed, I took the choir out to dinner at a local buffet restaurant.   At the end of the day, we reflected on another extraordinary experience.  How fortunate we were to be able to share our music in such important events that we have enjoyed over the years!  Although most of us have been to Washington, many times before, I still marvel at the beauty of the city!  See pics below of our day at the Washington Mall and the Freedom Sounds festival, the concert, scans at some postcards given to the first visitors to this museum, and some first photos inside of the new museum in the Smithsonian collection - the National Museum of African American History & Culture! 


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