Celebrating Black Artists: An Hour to Listen

Presented by Katie Toner of DPC’s Esther Brigade

Welcome everyone, to Celebrating Black Artists: An Hour to Listen. We’re glad to be gathered together in God’s name even in this limited way. Tonight, on the last day of Black History Month, we’re celebrating Black artists, present and past, who have made and are making history. We’re taking a moment to sit and listen to, reflect on and appreciate Black voices as they find spaces of joy in this world. The theme for tonight’s pieces is joy and celebration, so without further ado let’s watch this music video starring Pharrell Williams performing a song which is a literal synonym for joy and celebration.

Alright next up we’re honoring the joy of a long life and the wisdom it produces. Here is Maya Angelou, poet, civil rights activist and icon, reflecting on a piece of wisdom she came to appreciate with age.

Now we’ll move from a poet of the recent past to the poet of the moment. Here is Amanda Gorman reading her poem “Earthrise.

The next two artists and songs are a little more established in America’s cultural repertoire, but who also feel celebrate the joy of being alive on this planet. Here is Louis Armstrong singing ‘What a Wonderful World’ and John Legend singing ‘Feeling Good.’

It’s time to go back in time again, all the way back to the 1800s. Here is a man who possesses a great talent with a paintbrush.

Coming back to the present, here is an Oscar-winning short film created by Black artist and producer Matthew Cherry.

Next up we have a music video that celebrates and uplifts the folks who are working very hard just to survive. This is Alicia Keys singing her new song ‘Underdog.’

Next up we have a group called Black Violin. As you might guess from their name, you’re about to hear some violins. Kev Marcus and Wil B combine these classical instruments with hip hop styles. Take a listen.

Now, here is James McBride reading an excerpt of this book ‘Deacon King Kong.’ (start at 14:36, end at 19:03)

Moving along, here is a quick, but playful video of one of the best tap dancers, Savion Glover.

Next up is the second civil rights activist in this series. Let’s listen to her uplifting message of self-empowerment for black kids, offered at a time when those messages were certainly lacking.

As we near the end of the hour, let’s take a look at the amazing things Brisa Butler does with quilts.

Now to finish the night, we have a moment to praise the Lord. Here is Ray Charles and the Voices of Jubilation singing ‘Oh Happy Day.

Thank you all for following along. This compilation is obviously a small sampling of the gifts Black folks have cultivated. I hope you’ve found some joy and inspiration from these videos. The entertainment industry has offered talented Black people an opportunity to escape physical labor and domestic servitude. Through music, art, acting, dance and writing, African Americans have been able to express themselves and, for some, finally find prosperity beyond society’s expectations. As DPC continues to work to end racism and its intersection with poverty, I hope we’ve seen glimpses of prosperity for all, especially for Black folks. Through the Matthew 25 initiative, we will endeavor to support and invest in all people, and that means intentionally investing in the Black and Brown people who are still struggling.

Again thank you for joining us tonight. Let us close in prayer…

Lord, open our hearts and minds

by the power of your Holy Spirit,

that as we encounter your creation, 

our neighbors, everywhere,

we may see with your loving eyes 

and hear with joy

what you say to us today. Amen.”