Tours to connect civil rights and music

When remembering the 1963 March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech is what usually comes to mind, but some forget of the songs people sung about freedom and their hope for the future.

To help bridge the connection between civil rights history and African-American music, the College of Arts and Sciences Student Ambassadors are sponsoring the Voices of Freedom Tour. This tour will take students to several non-local sites and museums.

The committee separated the tour into three dates.

April 7 will be in Memphis where the students will go on a heritage bus and walking tour. This tour will include a stop at the W.C. Handy Memphis Home and Museum, former home to the “Father of the Blues.”

April 14 will be in Birmingham where students will visit the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, a museum dedicated to Alabama jazz artists.

April 21 will be in Atlanta where students will visit the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, where LeeAnna Brown, advisor for the ambassadors, said she hopes students will learn how songs were “intertwined” with nonviolent civil rights efforts.

Kijana Mitchell, chair of the Voices of Freedom special projects committee of the COAS Student Ambassadors said she is passionate about diversity and music and wants to show people their connection.

“People need to understand the impact that music has had on society today,” Mitchell said. (On the tour), we’ll be talking about the history of plantations and slavery, (but also) the way music shaped those experiences. It’s a combination of both.”

All three trips are open to a minimum of 25 students on a first-come, first-serve basis. The trips are open to all students, and everything, including transportation, food and attraction fees, is free.

Brown said the upcoming tour will raise awareness for both the connection of civil and human rights and music, as well as the ambassador program.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity for students to participate in a multi-cultural initiative that is student-led and student-centered,” Brown said. “We’re going to be focused on how music was an aid in nonviolent tactics and motivating activists, as well as telling the overall story of the civil and human rights movements.”

The trip could highlight the influence culture had on the music of African-Americans, said freshman Janice Remkus.

“Most people don’t completely understand how music does tie with culture,” Remkus said. “When they listen to songs and hear something from (African-Americans’) past or culture, they don’t understand. (The tour) would help everybody have a better feel of the music, where it came from and how it started.”

The committee will hold a forum March 16 in preparation for the tour. They have not set a time and location at the moment.

A panel of speakers will speak about civil and human rights to both prepare those who are going on the trip and inform everyone in attendance about African-American history and music. Committee members will be available for questions.

Mitchell said the group will hold a social event March 20 at the Memorial Amphitheater from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

“This will be a chance for students to ask any questions they have pertaining the tours,” she said. “We will also have some light refreshments and music.”

Mitchell said she believes the tour will be an “incredible” event and hopes students will come to show their support.

“We really want (everyone) to celebrate diversity,” she said. “(This tour) is going to be a life-changing experience and is not something to miss out on.”

For more information about the tour, contact Kijana Mitchell at [email protected] or LeeAnna Brown at [email protected].