Saturday, March 28, 2020 Daniel Crupi: “We’re performing more works by women and composers of color"

Martha Graham Dance Company's ballet of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring

Santa Fe New Mexican

Mark Tiarks

Mar 27, 2020

The Santa Fe Symphony and Performance Santa Fe announced their 2020-2021 seasons on March 24. It wasn’t an unfortunate coincidence or a case of bad planning, but an intentional decision reflecting a new spirit of collaboration.

Next March, the two groups are co-presenting one of the most compelling offerings on the upcoming cultural calendar, the Martha Graham Dance Company’s 75th anniversary presentation of its groundbreaking ballet Appalachian Spring. The symphony is furnishing the 13-member group that will play Aaron Copland’s original score for chamber orchestra, as well as accompanying The Auditions by Augusta Read Thomas, a 2019 ballet piece written specifically to be paired with the Copland.

Both organizations have new executive leadership, with Daniel Crupi becoming executive director of the symphony in March 2019 and Chad Hilligus taking the executive and artistic director reins at PSF four months later. The newly announced seasons are therefore the first to fully reflect their visions, and it’s an encouraging sign that both groups are demonstrating increased artistic vigor and engaging in new creative collaborations, in addition to their co-presenting venture.

“We’re performing more works by women and composers of color, commissioning new pieces, and prioritizing 20th- and 21st-century repertory,” says Crupi.


Performance Santa Fe’s season opens on July 19 with another high-profile co-presentation, this one with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. It’s based on the acclaimed 2019 multi-genre album Holes in the Sky by pianist Lara Downes, which featured music written by female composers including Janis Ian, Clara Schumann, Georgia Stitt, Eve Beglarian, Joni Mitchell, and Paola Prestini, among others.


The Sphinx Organization, which describes itself as “a social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts,” and the symphony have entered into a three-year partnership, during which the Detroit-based group will provide a soloist for one of each year’s concerts. The first is violinist Rubén Rengel, who plays Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor on a March 21, 2021, concert that also features the Symphony No. 1 by African American composer Florence Price. Price is one of classical music’s “hidden figures,” a woman whose important works from the first half of the 20th century are just now being rediscovered.

Rebeca Omordia plays "Willow Song" of William Lloyd Webber in Episode 5 of series by Julian Lloyd Webber

Julian Lloyd Webber - A voyage around my father’s music -episode 5- William Lloyd Webber Willow Song

Michela Cocolin

Julian Lloyd Webber introduces some favourite pieces of his father’s music William Lloyd Webber was born in 1914. He studied composition with Ralph Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music and was an accomplished organist and choirmaster. His own music was highly romantic in style and he became increasingly convinced that it was ‘out of step’ with the times. By the mid-1950’s he had virtually stopped composing altogether. Rebeca Omordia, piano

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Classical Alternative: "What I wish everyone knew about Florence Price"

The Classical Alternative

Doug Shadle

March 19, 2020

With the world coming down around us, I’m not sure how relevant this will be. But maybe it can point to a better world in the future. (~DS, 3/18)

In my last post, I highlighted some of the exciting work on Florence Price taking shape right now. I also documented the positive power of storytelling when it frames performances of her music. By this point, most organizations programming Price’s music know they have a compelling story on their hands and want to tell it.
What I wish everyone really knew is this:

How we talk about Florence Price matters. A lot.

The Problem

The basic elements of “the” Florence Price story are:
  1. Price was “America’s first significant African American woman composer” and “the most widely known African American composer from the 1930s to her death in 1953.” (Rae Linda Brown, The Heart of a Woman, 1)
  2. Something happened after 1953 that seemingly caused this “significance” and “wide knowledge” to “fade.”
  3. In 2009, two property investors found a very large collection of Price’s music manuscripts strewn about an abandoned house. They later sold this collection to the University of Arkansas Mullins Library.
  4. The classical music industry developed a surge of interest in Price after:
There’s certainly a lot of human interest here! Her prolific musical career is inspiring, and the serendipity of the manuscript discovery is the stuff of legend. Performers would be foolish not to say something about these things. But one phrase on my list sticks out: “Something happened.” I might as well have put a giant question mark.
Here’s the thing, though: Marketers, educators, and performers who don’t adequately account for this mysterious #2 in their narratives about Price are perpetuating the industry’s racist, sexist norms and therefore undermining their own attempts to be inclusive.

Who’s Responsible?

So what happened, Shadle? It’s complicated! From the intro of an unpublished article:
The relevant evidence spans nearly a century and uncovers the complex dynamics of race, gender, and class underpinning the unsettling “loss” of Price’s belongings. Over the course of that century, the women in Price’s family confronted questions that have routinely haunted African American women in a society that has unapologetically placed their very lives at risk. This article teases apart the intricate layers of generational change within Price’s family and creates a portrait of a context in which her music could face persistent existential threats.
Persistent. Existential. Threats. Not something most classical musicians think about on a daily basis. But the truth is that identifiable individuals and organizations played active roles in Price’s marginalization both during and after her lifetime—a situation so profound that it jeopardized the existence of her music despite the resistance of Price and her daughter (which is what the rest of the article is about). “Something” doesn’t “just happen.” People do things, and these actions have consequences.

Assigning responsibility is central to ethical storytelling.

“Overlooked” and “Forgotten” … By Whom?

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I’m far from the only person to address the issue of agency—in relation to Price or to marginalized people generally.

This tweet by Dr. Matthew Morrison of NYU gets to the heart of the matter:

Her music and reputation never really disappeared! Price scholar Kori Hill wrote an essential essay in November 2018 (just after G. Schirmer announced the acquisition of Price’s catalog) that makes similar points:
The “rediscovered” Black composer is a tired, damaging trope. It reflects an active process [emphasis mine], where certain histories and cultural memories are not considered “relevant” to the mainstream until they prove useful. Black musicians kept the name of Florence Price on their lips, in their minds, and under their fingers. She was not forgotten.

Earlier this year, James Bennett wrote another essential piece for WQXR that approaches the question from a slightly different angle:
When talking about Price, it’s easy to transform her story into a Coach Carter-esque hardscrabble narrative of overcoming obstacles and “persevering.” But this veers into territory that is, at worst, factually wrong or, at best, narratively irresponsible.
Finally, this tweet from Kenyan scholar Dr. Keguro Macharia directly addresses the underlying problem:

Read the entire thread. It could very well be about Price, because the ease with which her music has been brought into the spotlight also indicates how quickly it could fade.

The Wrong Way

These writers aren’t tilting at windmills—not at all. It’s easy to find examples of passive storytelling that hides responsibility. Take a line like this—here from Jesse Rosen, CEO of the League of American Orchestras:
“If you go back in time, this was not a viable career for a woman to become a composer,” Rosen explains. “And so, you have a canon that, by definition, does not have a lot of women composers in it.”
And so, you end up with tons of Mozart and Beethoven.
“Not a viable career…” “So you have a canon that…” “So you end up with…” Nope. Just wildly inaccurate narration that deflects responsibility from the real individuals and institutions that actively marginalized (and still marginalize) real women.
In Price’s case, I frequently run across copy like this (not linked intentionally):
Florence Price was the first female African American composer to have a symphonic work performed by a major symphony orchestra (Chicago Symphony, 1933). [True] Florence and her compositions have been historically overlooked [BY WHOM??] due to racial and gender inequity [CAUSED BY WHOM?], depriving her and the world of the legacy she deserves. Her works are often compared to Dvořák [BY WHOM??], as they both reference African American folk music and share a Romantic aesthetic. This concert will showcase the similarities in their sounds, and will explore why a white, male, European has been praised throughout history for his take on “American” music [BY WHOM??], while Florence Price has been continually forgotten and omitted [BY WHOM??].
There’s a good heart here, but the way the writer addressed item #2 is inaccurate and morally flimsy. A responsible storyteller needs to specify who did these things.

What would this paragraph look like if we inserted historical agents?
Florence Price was the first Black woman to have a symphonic work performed by a major symphony orchestra (Chicago Symphony, 1933). Whether through prejudice or ignorance, most conductors have since neglected her music, depriving her and the world of the legacy she deserves. This concert is part of our effort to redress the legacy of pervasive racial and gender inequity they left behind instead.
Here are some key features:
  1. Price’s achievement and stature are maintained.
  2. The comparison to Dvořák becomes a moot point.
  3. The active complicity of just one or two conductors in injustice (e.g., Serge Koussevitzky) is expanded to include the entire industry for decades on end.
  4. The organization is acknowledging its own role in this active complicity.
  5. The organization is openly taking an anti-racist, anti-sexist stance that could be framed in a more intersectional way if the situation warrants—e.g., “legacy of Black women’s oppression they left behind instead.”
  6. No extra research or facts, only a forthright analysis of the broader landscape.

Pianist Lara Downes Finds Survival And Solidaritty In Traditional Freedom Songs With Her Uplifting New Release


Pianist Lara Downes’ uplifting new album Some of These Days (out April 3 on Flipside), revisits freedom songs and Spirituals, historic expressions of hope and courage that remind us — in this time of global unrest and chaos caused by the Coronavirus — of our human capacity for optimism, activism, and unification in the face of crisis. “For me, the motivation in creating this record has always been the relevance and timelessness of these songs," says Downes. "There’s the pain, reaction to oppression, always hope, always a vision of a better place. All of those things are relevant and current today."
Despite the cancellation of her live album release tour, Downes is moving forward to launch this very personal project as a concert live-streamed from her home in California and produced in partnership with public radio nationwide - including her local Capital Public Radio station - raising funds for Feeding America to support emergency relief efforts in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Lara's concert will stream via her Facebook Live on April 3 at 5PM Pacific / 8PM Eastern. The 30-minute event will include solo piano performance and words about the importance of these songs and why they are so important today. 
Some Of These Days is a meditation on some of America’s most important songs, its central themes focusing on the shared experiences seen throughout history and resilience of the human condition. Spanning diverse musical traditions including classical, jazz, folk, country and R&B, Lara is joined by Toshi Reagon, PUBLIQuartet, Musicality Vocal, The Chapin Sisters and others, in arrangements by H. T. Burleigh, Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Billy Taylor, and Lara Downes.   
Listen to “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” here: 
By looking to the past, we can gain insight and understanding in the present; time and time again we have been faced with challenges to overcome and we have survived. As Downes describes it: “We are strong. We are resourceful. We have come through darkness into light, over and over again. Let’s lean on our ancestors and the lessons they have taught us about hope, courage, and above all unity.” Some of These Days is the embodiment of all that we are feeling, a message beckoning us all to stand together in solidarity.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Music Kitchen Coronavirus Covid-19 Update

I hope that this message finds you and your family safe and well.  This is certainly a most frightening and uncertain time that we are experiencing in the world amidst the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic.  I want you to know that in accordance with CDC guidelines and for the health and safety of our shelter community, artists, partners and the world at large, we are practicing strict social distancing measures and have temporarily suspended our live performances.  However, Music Kitchen has existed for 15 years to bring comfort to those experiencing harsh and unforeseen circumstances and to bring awareness to the most marginalized among us.  And though the former designation now extends to all of us, the reality is that even in this global crisis which has infected hundreds of thousands worldwide, the homeless remain the most vulnerable among us.  The language and the strategies we are employing wholesale as a society – “Stay at home,” “Work from home,” “Drive-through testing,” “Stocking up,” “Buying PPEs,” “Closing non-essential businesses”- already leave those experiencing homelessness at a time like this with fewer options than ever to fight for their survival.  

The shelters and agencies are working very hard to adapt their services, expand accommodation infrastructure and hygiene stations, decreasing population densities to accommodate 6-feet distancing etc.  Music Kitchen is also adapting at this time of trial to continue reaching the people we serve, “Bridging the Distance,” as many of us are doing with our families, friends and colleagues at this time.  Honoring our originally scheduled March 30th performance date, we will be streaming directly to the shelters a curated video of several performances from this last year, including beloved standard repertoire and a couple of inspiring new Forgotten Voices songs.  (Please note that clients at the shelters are also practicing social distancing and will be accessing the content not as a group, but individually.) This will be followed by live interaction via Zoom, with question and answers and I’ll also have my violin handy!  The lemonade we make here is that we have the possibility of reaching a far wider nationwide community with each broadcast of “Music Kitchen Bridging the Distance” and we look forward to bringing the uplifting, healing power of music plus the sustenance of human contact during a time of isolation.

Moving forward, we would also like to share with you, our village of support, some “Music Kitchen Bridging the Distance” broadcasts to give you an unprecedented look at our work inside the shelters, including a few Forgotten Voices songs.  Please stay tuned!

Regarding our world premiere at Carnegie Hall, we are obviously watching and anxiously awaiting the time when we can safely come together in person again.  And when we do so, it will be more important than ever to hear from the Forgotten Voices in our midst.  Please stay tuned.  I know this is also a time of high economic anxiety for so many.  If you have the ability to support us at this time, your support will be critical to help us continue our work and prepare for the future.  Buying a ticket now for our Carnegie concert is another way to support our work and make your voice heard (and if the concert is rescheduled for a date that you’re unavailable, your ticket would be refunded).

I just received word that 2 people at the Olivieri Center which we have served for 15 years have been confirmed infected with Coronavirus and at least one person from the New York City homeless community has died.  Please see below for a brief video message and a Forgotten Voices song which I believe speaks to this moment in a crisis of this magnitude, “These Strings” by Angelica Negron.
"Sometimes even in the darkest moments
when you want to give up hope,
                               these strings bring hope back in." - Shelter Client

We will emerge from this stronger than ever and with greater clarity of passion and purpose.

Thank you for your support of Music Kitchen-Food for the Soul.
Stay safe and be well,

Music Kitchen New York City - Photo by Gregory Routt

Jesse Blumberg, baritone
Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violin
Hector Falcon, violin
Margaret Dyer-Harris, viola
Grace Ho, cello
Logan Coale, double bass

Recent and Upcoming Press

  • Click here for a recent article in World Bride Magazine
  • Sanya-On-Air Podcast (Video/Audio) from 47"
  • Please stay tuned for upcoming stories on WQXR and WCBS radio and Kontrol Magazine

Forgotten Voices World Premiere

Presented in Association with Carnegie Hall

May 21, 2020 @ 7:30

Zankel Hall

Prefer to send a check?
We welcome your checks at the following address:
Music Kitchen - Food for the Soul
Attn: Kelly Hall-Tompkins
P.O. Box 907
New York, NY 10040
Thank you for your support of Music Kitchen -Food for the Soul

Valerie Coleman Named 2020 Classical Woman of the Year by APM's Performance Today

ST. PAUL, Minn., March 26, 2020 Performance Today has named flutist and composer Valerie Coleman as the 2020 Classical Woman of the Year. The honor is granted annually to a woman who has made a significant contribution to classical music as a performer, composer, conductor, music teacher or supporter.

“Valerie is an extraordinary flutist, composer and founder of a groundbreaking ensemble, with an unflagging devotion to teaching and mentorship,” said Fred Child, host of Performance Today. “Our choice was clear. We are proud to name her as this year’s Classical Woman of the Year.”

Coleman will be honored on tomorrow’s episode of Performance Today and she will speak with Child about her extensive career in classical music and pieces on which she’s currently working. Performance Today will air a show focusing on Coleman’s music and performances on Wednesday, April 8.

"I am grateful to Performance Today and its listeners for supporting my music and naming me their Classical Woman of the Year,” said Coleman. “It is a privilege and I hope that my work as a flutist, composer, and educator at the Frost School of Music creates bridges and inspires healing to all who experience it, including the hybrid artists of tomorrow.” 

A GRAMMY-nominated artist, Coleman is the founder and former member of the internationally acclaimed ensemble Imani Winds. She has received many awards and commissions from organizations including Carnegie Hall, American Composers Orchestra and The Library of Congress.

Named one of the “Top 35 Women Composers” by Washington Post, Coleman is widely recognized for her composition “Umoja,” which made its orchestral debut last fall with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

Coleman has dedicated much of her career to making music inclusive and is an advocate and mentor for emerging artists. She joined the faculty of Frost School of Music at the University of Miami in 2018 as Assistant Professor of Performance, Chamber Music and Entrepreneurship. She has led masterclasses across the United States and created the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival, a New York City program devoted to career development and excellence.

“Professor Coleman is at the forefront and is an exemplar of 21st century musical careers. She is brilliant and renowned as a flute soloist, composer, chamber musician, ensemble leader, and entrepreneur,” said Shelton G. Berg, Dean of the Frost School of Music. “This is the elevated skill set we want for students in the Frost School of Music, and it is the recipe for being named Classical Woman of the Year!”

Coleman was selected by the staff of Performance Today based on listener nominations. Throughout the month of March, listeners submitted nominations of those who inspired them through their contributions to classical music. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Sergio Mims: Watch tenor Levy Sekgapane sing as Count Almaviva in Rossini's The Barber of Seville

THE BARBER OF SEVILLE Rossini – Teatro Municipal de Santiago


Sergio A. Mims writes:

In these trying times I thought you and your readers would love to see the upcoming much acclaimed young South African tenor Levy Sekgapane in this production recorded last year at the the National Opera of Chile of Rossini's The Barber of Seville.

Key to Change: Six Week Intercession: Sign Up Now!

Key to Change is inviting middle and high school students in South King County to take online lessons during a special six week intercession beginning on March 30.  

These video lessons are conducted via Zoom or Google Hangouts to ensure every student receives individualized instruction and feedback.

While many students in our region are on a hiatus from school, we feel it is more important than ever to cultivate a positive and empowering community through music. We are committed to helping our students continue growing as musicians while providing a sense of structure and inspiration amid the evolving COVID-19 outbreak in our region. 
The first 10 students to sign up will receive an additional FREE 30 minute video lesson!

Deeply Rooted Postpones GOSHEN

You are receiving this information due to your past interest in Deeply Rooted Dance Theater and/or arts-related activities in the Chicago area.

Our mailing address is:
Deeply Rooted Dance Theater
17 N State St # 19
19th floor
Chicago, IL 60602-3315

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

RED CLAY DANCE’S “VISIONS & VOICES” GOES VIRTUAL! Rehearsal Footage, Choreographer Interviews and More

To provide audiences with an inside look at the creation and preparation involved in its spring program, Red Clay Dance Company (RCDC) is sharing a series of videos related to its previously scheduled “Visions & Voices,” which intended to consider the question, “How do our bodies manifest the world around and through us?”
 “We are, above all, an arts organization that strives to connect with our community,” said Founder/Artistic Director and artivist Vershawn Sanders-Ward. “We have been working in the studio for several months with guest choreographers Du’Bois A’Keen and Lela Aisha Jones, both of whom have created world premieres, as well as on my own premiere for the company. We are fortunate to have captured much of that creative process on video and now, in lieu of our live performances, can share it with our audiences and supporters.”
RCDC is posting its video series during the next two weeks, culminating with the original performance dates of April 3 and 4. The public may view the following on RCDC’s Facebook and Instagram pages:

  • Tuesday, March 24: RCDC’s Philadelphia residency with Jones, part of the process of creating her world premiere, artistic/soulful labor that expresses dreams for blackness and reciprocity with the natural environment.
  • Friday, March 27: Sanders-Ward’s world premiere FAKE NEWS!, a response to the 2016 “election” that re-examines ideals of capitalism, democracy, immigration and our dangerous obsession with power and media
  • Tuesday, March 31: Jones’ Chicago residency, which took place later in the creation process of we:all ~ gon’ die into revivals
  • Friday, April 3: Footage from RCDC’s 5th Anniversary Paint the Town Red fundraiser, coinciding with the original opening night of “Visions & Voices,” which would have included the Paint the Town Red post-show party fundraiser
  • Saturday, April 4: Short film inside the creative process of A’Keen’s world premiere INCARNATION 1, which explores the body as archive, altar and access point, set in the present-future but experienced in retrospect, caught in time lapse. The work asks: How do we prepare ourselves to be good ancestors? What are we downloading to pass on? The work features music by Kingsley Ibeneche, Moses Sumney, Shake, and Jessie Reyez; Jovan Landry is the filmmaker; and costumes concept is by Cam A’Keen, styled by KFleye.

Anyone who follows RCDC on social media may view the videos at no charge, although the company would appreciate donations to offset the lost ticket revenue. Individuals may donate by texting RCDANCE to 44-321.
Augmenting the video footage are “Choreographer Conversations” with the three choreographers; the conversation with Du’Bois A’Keen is available here; the conversation with Lela Aisha Jones is available here; and the conversation with Vershawn Sanders-Ward will be posted April 7.
For more information about RCDC, visit
Red Clay Dance Company lives to awaken “glocal” change through creating, performing, and teaching dances of the African Diaspora—change that transforms cultural and socioeconomic inequities in our local and global community. Founder Vershawn Sanders-Ward conceived the idea of RCDC while on her first trip to Senegal, West Africa, when she became fascinated by the interconnectedness of dance and everyday life. The name Red Clay comes from her childhood memories of playing in red earth during her summers in Mobile, Alabama.
RCDC is supported by the Chicago Community Trust, the Alphawood Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at the Richard H Driehaus Foundation, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Springboard Foundation, the Polk Bros. Foundation, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

Top: Kenesha Reed in INCARNATION 1, photo by Kristie Kahns.
Du'Bois A'Keen courtesy of Du'Bois A'Keen.
Bottom L:  Vershawn Sanders-Ward by Raymond Jerome.
Bottom R: Lela Aisha Jones by Denise Allen.

African American Composer Initiative News

African American Composer Initiative News

We write with the hope that you are well, now and in the coming days and weeks as we all curtail in-person contact and find alternative ways of connecting.
AACI would like to link arms with the many arts organizations throughout the world that are so thoughtfully making performances available through on-line means. In this spirit we invite you to enjoy and share our January 2020 concert with family and friends. We are grateful to our tech team for making it possible to experience the entire concert – including LaDoris Cordell’s informative and inspirational narration: Complete Video
To view individual pieces, visit the Program Listing on our website.
Note that this year we performed works by several marvelous composers new to our roster: Jeremiah Evans, Adolphus Hailstork, Mary Lou Williams, and Kenny Dorham; and outstanding composers historic and contemporary now familiar to our audiences: William Grant Still, Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Charles Lloyd, Jr., Duke Ellington, Valerie Capers, and John H. Robinson.
We send you our best wishes and ongoing appreciation for your participation in our musical journey.

LaDoris Cordell, Jodi Gandolfi, Deanne Tucker, co-founders, AACI

Monday, March 23, 2020

Lawyers' Committee: U.S. Supreme Court Rolls Back Historic Civil Rights Protections In Comcast Ruling

March 23, 2020

The Court’s Decision Weakens 19th-Century Civil Rights Law, Imposing a Burdensome Pleading Standard on Victims of Discrimination

WASHINGTON – Today the United States Supreme Court instructed a lower court to reconsider its ruling in a discrimination case involving National Association of African American Owned Media (NAAAOM) and Comcast. The decision issued by the Court weakens the reach of Section 1981, a core provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 – a historic statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and ethnicity when making and enforcing contracts – imposing a burdensome pleading standard on victims of discrimination.

 “The Court's decision imposes a tougher burden of proof that will likely make it more difficult for discrimination victims to invoke the protections of Section 1981 in discrimination cases,” said Kristen Clarke, president & executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “This ruling weakens our nation's oldest civil rights statute and may shut the courthouse door on some discrimination victims who, at the complaint stage, may simply be without the full range of evidence needed to meet the Court's heightened standard. That said, the Court has ordered the district court to review its earlier decision to determine whether ESN'S claims satisfy the standard. We will be watching closely to ensure that courts give discrimination victims a fair opportunity to be heard in these cases.”

"Today's Supreme Court decision is a huge step backward in our march toward achieving equal opportunity for all," said Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO. "It will significantly restrict the ability of discrimination victims to prove their claims under one of our nation's premier civil rights laws. We will do everything within our power to urge Congress to correct this travesty of justice."
“In passing the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Reconstruction Congress recognized that African American people must be placed on an equal footing with white people in their ability to access economic opportunity.  Today, the Supreme Court undermined that important commitment, ruling that a defendant may escape liability even if racial discrimination played a role in its decision, and places instead an additional burden on plaintiffs at the very outset of their litigation,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “We are gratified that the Court did not adopt some of the more extreme arguments advocated by Comcast and the Trump Administration as amicus curiae.  We will be carefully monitoring how this decision is applied in the lower courts to ensure that victims of racial discrimination have a meaningful remedy.”

“The court’s troubling decision has the potential to weaken a historic civil rights statute and diminish an important tool for discrimination victims seeking legal recourse,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Every person, no matter who they are or what their race, should have fair and equitable access to opportunity and economic mobility.  If courts apply today’s decision in a manner that allows discriminatory acts to go unabated, Congress must step in to reverse the decision and safeguard the rights of discrimination victims.”

Section 1981 applies to all private and public actors and prohibits retaliation. The statute has been one of the cornerstones of the oldest and most storied pieces of civil rights laws for over 150 years – the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

The Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), NAACP, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights filed amicus briefs in the case last fall.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and NAACP LDF argued in their briefs that the position taken by Comcast was inconsistent with the plain text of Section 1981, and would frustrate the fundamental purpose of the provision – to place African Americans on equal footing as white citizens in our nation’s economy. Comcast urged the Supreme Court to hold that Section 1981 requires a “but-for” causation standard.

The Lawyers’ Committee brief is joined by The Leadership Conference, NAACP and over 20 other organizations and can be read here. The NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund’s brief is joined by several other organizations and can be read here

Sunday, March 22, 2020

San Francisco Classical Voice: Lara Downes Explores the Many Resonances in Roots Music

Lara Downes
(Credit: Christine DiPasquale)

Some Of These Days
Lara Downes & Friends

March 21, 2020

By Lou Fancher

In liner notes for her new album, Some of These Days, pianist Lara Downes expresses the 14-track CD’s origins and significance. A line in an African-American spiritual, “Welcome Table,” provides the album’s title and the final track is an adaptation by Downes of the composition by African-American composer Florence Price (1887–1953). Following a pull quote from the refrain, Downes reveals her purpose and shares a personal narrative:
“All of God's children gonna sit together, some of these days.” (“Welcome Table”)
The conviction in these words — the hope and faith in them — is why I’m even here at all. I was born because my parents believed these words.
They met at a sit-in, my mom and dad. San Francisco, in the late 1960s. He was a Black man from Harlem and she was a Jewish girl from Akron. They fell in love and got married and had three golden-brown babies, all in the hope and faith that their daughters, and all the children, of all shades of black, brown and beige, would sit together in freedom and fairness — some of these days."

The albums’ spirituals and freedom and protest songs trace a dark history of oppression, but sing forward to hope, courage, strength, faith, and enlightenment. Downes says in an interview this multigenre collection that intermingles the songs with classical, jazz, folk, country, and R&B musical traditions expands an authentically American story. Spirituals, she suggests, are the first examples of original, indigenous American folk music. Collaborations on the CD feature guest artists: Toshi Reagon, Howard Fishman, PUBLIQuartet, and the Chapin Sisters, in arrangements by Downes, H. T. Burleigh, Hall Johnson, Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Nina Simone, and Billy Taylor.

Downes spoke about the album, slated for release on April 3, and her ongoing My Promise Project, which has had her traveling nationwide to engage with young people and through music, spark and support their activism and agency in the pursuit for social justice. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Charleston Gospel Choir Spring 2020 Performance: A Tribute to Army Sergeant Isaac Woodard Saturday, April 4 Postponed

Charleston SC—The Charleston Gospel Choir 2020 spring performance entitled A Tribute to Sergeant Isaac Woodard, scheduled for Saturday, April 4, 2020 at 6 p.m. at Second Presbyterian Church, 342 Meeting Street, Charleston has been postponed until further notice.

“For several weeks I have been monitoring the COVID-19 virus pandemic and thinking about how we can take precautionary measures to mitigate our collective concerns and those of our patrons given so much alarm about being among individuals who may be asymptomatic.

Until there is a widespread testing method our patrons may feel uncomfortable gathering for extracurricular activities at this time. With the interest of choir member health and safety and that of our audience we are postponing our April 4 spring performance.

The Choir is eager to honor the extraordinary legacy of Sgt. Isaac Woodard but as a group we feel waiting until the virus situation regresses is both prudent and necessary, says, Lee Pringle, Founder and Producer of the performance.

Sgt. Isaac Woodard was an African-American World War II veteran whose 1946 beating and maiming, hours after being discharged from the U.S. Army, sparked national outrage and galvanized the civil rights movement in the United States.

Still in uniform, South Carolina-born Woodard was left completely and permanently blind after a run-in with police in South Carolina (Fairfield County) while traveling to rejoin his family in North Carolina. The sheriff involved claimed he struck Woodard only once in self-defense, although Woodard claimed otherwise, and suffered a ruptured cornea and complete blindness in both eyes. South Carolina's reluctance to bring the sheriff to trial prompted federal involvement. In July 1948, over the objection of senior military officers, Truman promulgated an Executive Order banning racial discrimination in the U.S. Armed Forces. This was done as a response to several incidents against black veterans, most notably the Woodard case.

Through song and narration, the Charleston Gospel Choir looks forward to paying homage to Sergeant Woodard’s legacy in performance of moving spirituals and gospel standards including, Lawd, How Come Me Heah, All Good Things Will Be Added Unto you, Heaven Help Us All and To Be Young Gifted and Black.

Tickets and Information
Charleston Gospel Choir
A Tribute to Army Sergeant Isaac Woodard
Second Presbyterian Church, 342 Meeting Street, Charleston SC 20403
General Admission Tickets
$25 adults; $10 children/students with ID
or at door (cash or check only) up to one half hour before event

About the Charleston Gospel Choir

Now in its twenty-first year, the Charleston Gospel Choir celebrates and performs gospel, spirituals, and sacred music for annual concert events including a Palm Saturday weekend performance, Charleston Gospel Christmas and regional events throughout the southeast with numerous engagements internationally including Paris, London, Rome, Prague and Ghana, West Africa.