Monday, July 20, 2020

Eric Conway: Remembering the Morgan State University Choir at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, days after the death of Representative John Lewis!

John Lewis at Edmund Pettus Bridge

Morgan State University Choir at Christ Cathedral, New Orleans, Louisiana  March 23, 2006

Eric Conway and son Christopher in New Orleans, Louisiana, March 23, 2006

Morgan State University Choir March 22, 2006

6th Avenue Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama March 24, 2006

Dr. Eric Conway writes on July 19, 2020,

Two days after Georgia Representative John Lewis passed away at the age of 80 years old, I am reminded of my first Southern tour as Morgan State University Choir Director way back in 2006 when we visited the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in Selma, AL.
We wanted to provide some support for the victims of the 2005 Katrina Hurricane that devastated New Orleans. We scheduled a Southern Tour during the March of 2006 that included concerts in Selma, New Orleans, and Birmingham. Since my librarian Colin Lett and my predecessor Dr. Nathan Carter were both from Selma, AL, we arranged a concert in Selma at the George Wallace Community College on March 22, 2006. Prior to our evening concert in Selma, knowing the history of the city of Selma, we made a point to go over some of the important aspects of the history of the city in the context of the civil rights era of the sixties. Many had never heard of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. As we walked the bridge, local tour guides shared the importance of the Edmund Pettus bridge as it related to the civil rights era. See attached photo of the choir at the bridge. Leaders across the country are still promoting renaming the bridge, the John Lewis Memorial Bridge, for his role in the Selma to Montgomery marches.
The entire tour was quite impactful for our Morgan students. Our first stop in New Orleans was Xavier University where we had a very pleasant musical exchange with their choir. As we walked around the destruction of the wards of New Orleans, the Morgan students were visibly shaken trying to hold back their tears of grief. Our benefit concert at Christ Church was televised by the local network all over the city of New Orleans! When we entered New Orleans, we were greeted with a gift of t-shirts for the entire choir in Morgan colors, commemorating our tour - see a photo attached taken with my son Christopher who accompanied the choir with us wearing the Katrina commemorative T-shirts. See a link below to the televised concert presented on March 23, 2006 with all the proceeds to go to the victims of Katrina.
We then proceeded to the historic Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, famous for holding the funeral of three of the four girls killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963.
This was an experience that our students would certainly never forget, having the opportunity to visit this historic site.
As we are dealing with our own problems nearly sixty years after the turbulent decade of the sixties, it appears that we still have a long way to go towards agreeable relations between races in our country.
The young John Lewis lived through this era, to share his unique and up-front perspective with the world. Representative John Lewis, please, rest in peace!
Link to Morgan benefit concert for Victims of Katrina:

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