Kuumunity Collaborations is very excited to have Wiljeana Jackson-Glover as the featured artist for the We Lift Our Voice! 6th Annual Benefit Concert! Read more about Wiljeana in this post.
This year, we've had such wonderful opportunities to build our community and share our talents. We asked members of the choir to reflect on our most recent events, enjoy their reflections below.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
“…Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
On September 24, 2016, we had the profound honor of performing with Angelique Kidjo at the grand opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Performing with Angelique is nothing short of exhilarating. The power and energy she exudes is contagious for performers and observers alike. I’ll never forget the sight of Chris Tucker with one fist clenched singing along to Afrika. Our moments on that stage were filled with pure joy. The feelings I had that day, the joy and the pride, are truly indescribable. But the most moving and meaningful moments for me actually happened back stage in the green room.
The green room was filled with many of America’s greats who were preparing to take part in the ceremony. There sat the family of Ruth Odom Bonner, whose father was born a slave in Mississippi. It is hard to fathom just how far we have come in a single person’s lifetime. We got ready with Angela Basset, Oprah Winfrey, and Will Smith. We shook the hand of President Bill Clinton. We walked past Stevie Wonder and sat next to Robert DeNiro. But perhaps the most humbling experience was watching Senator John Lewis prepare for this historic moment.
John Lewis is my hero (for many obvious reasons). Yet as I sat getting my hair done, I watched him greet his admirers with extreme humility and gratefulness. While none of us had ever fought or sacrificed nearly as much as he had, he was genuinely humbled to meet us. That look on his face, that humility, is what I remember most about that day.
During the ceremony, he told a story about Negro History Week in rural Alabama. As a boy he was tasked with cutting out photographs of great African Americans and was inspired by the stories of George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson, and countless others whose efforts are enshrined in the museum. I was profoundly moved by this story, one of a man who set his sights on justice and has endeavored to pursue it endlessly.
While his speech focused on how far we’ve come, his interactions in that green room revealed that he was acutely aware that there is still much to do and his story indicative of how far we have the potential to go. It was a reminder of the power we each hold to make our situation better for those who will come after us. Perhaps his humility in meeting everyone in the green room stemmed from the knowledge that we each hold within us the ability to bend the moral arc just a little closer to justice.
As I shook his hand, I felt an unspoken love, an affirmation that we matter, a declaration that we made it, that we have a place in this nation, and a promise that together we will continue to rise.
Kuumunity Jam Session
On November 6th, Kuumunity had its first jam session event. It took place at the Democracy Center near Harvard Square. Below are my reflections:
On Sunday evening we gathered in a cozy living-room setting. Throughout the night we flowed between moments of laughter, harmony, and cacophony. It was beautiful. Looking around the room I noticed that we varied in our abilities; some of us singers, some of us instrumentalists but all of us musicians, nestled in the arms of creativity.
It is hard to describe what the Kuumunity Jam Session night became, now that it is over. Perhaps, it is necessary to start with the heart of a musician in today’s society. Imagine that you are a musician brimming with endless musical ideas. During the day you are an educator, a graduate student, or a young adult figuring out next steps- regardless of your current situation, your schedule makes it almost impossible to stop and develop those musical ideas. You have little time to dwell in the random beauty of inspiration. Instead, you move on with your day and if you’re lucky, you remember to record the musical phrase. This lack of time to explore random bursts of inspiration is a heartbreaking reality for many creatives.
At Kuumunity, we strive to create spaces that allow inspiration to blossom into collaborative creation. Music and the spaces necessary to create are of utmost importance to us. It is also important that these spaces protect the artist and capture ideas before they are forgotten. To that end, our first Jam Session was a tangible glimpse of what it looks like when you allow musicians to let loose and just be. We ensured their ideas were protected from being used without their consent and also recorded the session for future reference. Our agreement laid the foundation of trust necessary to create and share. Whether someone had a song that was near completion, or only a few chords without lyrics, that cozy living room became a refuge of sorts: a safe space to be messy, try new lyrics/harmonies/chords and to share pieces of our hearts without fear of judgment. At the end of the night, everyone shared how much the space was needed. It was clear this cozy spot in Harvard Square, for at least 3 hours, felt like home.
- Zanya Harriott
As an organization dedicated to providing a platform for young artists to not only discover their voice but to also amplify their message, we find it necessary to speak up for those whose voices are often hushed for the sake of convenience. Black men and women are dying at an alarming rate at the hands of law enforcement. According to a Washington Post study Black people are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by a police officer. This is not a feeling or an irrational fear, and this certainly is not new. Listen to black mothers, fathers, grandparents and you’ll hear a common motif that has existed years before the Black Lives Matter movement: fear driven by constant threat of death. Everyday.
Today, turn on your TV. Scroll through your timeline on Facebook. Read through your friends’ tweets. Everyday, there seems to be a new hashtag- what has become our digital tombstone-of -sorts. Here rests a man #PhilandoCastile, woman #SandraBland, child #TamirRice whose name is worthy of remembrance. Here rests another life, gone far too soon.
To say that Black Lives Matter, to circulate these hashtags, to memorialize their names, is not at all a slight to the lives of any other group of people. It is, rather, a reminder that Black Lives should matter too, but have not and continually do not seem to matter.
We at Kuumunity Collaborations acknowledge that this country has, since its inception, found more value in the labor and product of brown bodies than in the personhood and humanity of said bodies. We understand that to shed a light on the plight of a traumatized people, to use platforms to raise awareness and create solidarity, and to bring voices together and declare the right to live and breathe, and pursue happiness is one of the greatest works of love and community anyone can lend themselves to.
We at Kuumunity Collaborations choose to lend our voices to the movement and declare that Black Lives do indeed, matter.
Zanya- This year at Kuumunity's 5th Annual Concert, you'll be our featured artist! Are you excited, nervous, or both?
Aleigha - Definitely both. I’ve never done anything like this before and I love singing, obviously. I’m just excited to share music that other people have written and to be in a space where people love music. I just want to make people be happy!
I've always had a deep appreciation for layered vocals - I was in an a cappella group in both high school and college, and I love performing in small groups where we meld our voices to create beautiful musical moments… those who know me well might say I’m addicted to harmony (shoutouts to Kuumunity Director Sheldon Reid for enabling my addiction).