Hello there, friends, fam and followers! Long time no nothin’, huh? We came off a VERY busy spring season. Just to quickly recap, we were with North Carolina Central University for the Barbershop Revival hosted by the Caronlinas District of the Barbershop Harmony Society in March.
In April we presented a Race and #RealTalk workshop for the community of Frederick, hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick. All this as we conducted our spring Race and #RealTalk series “Allies in Action” with our culminating Community Concert.
After that, we topped it all off with a RRT presentation for the National Museum of African American Music’s RISE (Rivers of Rhythm Institute for Social Educators) workshop in Nashville. The #HALOgrind is real!!
So once June had come to a close, HALO took a siesta on performing and presenting to give a little breathing room for our lead before she gave birth to her beautiful baby boy, Micah Vaughn Pitts on August 12! It’s possible all her children are immaculate conceptions because they look JUST like her. <3 We’re so happy for their family!
Before getting to where and why HALO is connecting with this particular centerpiece of America’s history, let me give you the “how.” Elizabeth Shatto, Executive Director of the Heart of the Civil War organization, was one of our RRT participants– after she’d attended our first community concert in 2018. We’d met up to talk about potential connections, as she and other members of her team were looking to amp up their outreach and connect the community to this complex and oft misunderstood history of the Civil War through our current reality with confronting racism in the United States.
Now as the fall approaches, we are gearing up to be back on the HALO horse with a number of performances, programs, and workshops in the works. And first on deck is our Race and #RealTalk presentation for Heart of the Civil War’s Porch Program series at the Antietam Newcomer House.
When Liz explained that it was difficult to draw younger audiences to their museums and historic landmarks, I recalled the hundreds of times I’ve probably walked past the Museum of Civil War Medicine in downtown Frederick and just got this visceral “NOPE” in my spirit. Why? Well, while I’m personally actually finding myself attracted to history in my adulthood (it was a harder sell for me in grade school, I must admit), the aspects of our country’s history which relate to my indigenous and African ancestors and seem to have been blanketed under many rugs of revisionist history and even straight up myths are painful to swallow. I feared that I’d be confronted with relics of what I felt were reductive narratives which oversimplified and occasionally romanticized my own connection (and perhaps some of yours…) to the truth of the Civil War and the institution of slavery.
Then Liz described to me the organization’s (and her own) dedication to telling the whole truth about this very important event in America’s history– and beyond that, helping us as Americans come to truly appreciate who and what we are as a country today. This, we mutually recognized, was very much in alignment with HALO’s own mission. And so here we are, now preparing to join forces for this particular event to figure out how to embrace that tension and, together, sing the truth.
I can say now that I’ve been able to acknowledge and move past (somewhat) my inner “nopes” about the Civil War, I’m quite fascinated with some of these long forgotten and also new (for me) details about these battles and some of the soldiers who fought them. Antietam is famous for being the bloodiest one-day battle of the war. And more notably for the occasion of this Porch Program, the battle of Antietam is significant for its having ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion into the North, leading to Lincoln’s issuance of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. It was this proclamation, basically putting the South on notice that states “in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” And given the specificity of this proclamation, as it pertained to states in rebellion, since Maryland was not one of them– enslaved people in our state were not freed until about 2 years later.
September 22, 2019 marks the 157th anniversary of this preliminary proclamation– both an end and a new beginning of America’s story, into which the institution of slavery and racism is ineffably engraved. On this day at the front porch of the Newcomer House–where the Newcomer family who lived there during this battle and suffered the devastation of war– HALO will present a Race and #RealTalk workshop in commemoration of this American milestone. With America certainly struggling with our identity in today’s political climate, perhaps it’s time we go back to the beginning of who we’ve come to be– to help us find truth and harmony that can maybe lead us to a better tomorrow.
Join us and register for the FREE event here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/race-and-real-talk-legacies-of-the-civil-war-incorporating-african-american-perspectives-tickets-68293049349