Washington Performing Arts (WPA) prepares for the first of two major programs focusing on of-the-moment issues of social injustice, calling out specific instances of injustice in modern American society while offering more just, community-building responses to these tragedies.
“I Am a Man: Reclaiming Brilliance in the Midst of Brokenness” takes place Sunday, March 1 at 7 p.m. on the stage of the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.
The performance will feature a combined male chorus and include members of the Washington Performing Arts Men of the Gospel Choir, the Alfred Street Baptist Church Choirs and other DMV-area choruses, supported by a full orchestra and under the direction of Theodore Thorpe III.
Co-presented with Alfred Street Baptist Church, the program also features a number of special guests: D.C.-born composer Darin Atwater (who guest-conducts some of his own works), piano virtuoso Joseph Joubert, hip-hop artist Konshens the MC and operatic tenor Issachah Savage.
Drawing its title from a famous 1968 civil rights protest slogan, “I Am a Man” bears witness to the violence against African-American men and celebrates the ongoing achievements of African-American men that enrich our community. At the heart of the program — an intense and moving oratorio by Atlanta-based composer Joel Thompson, “The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed,” inspired by the last words of seven African-American men who died tragically and violently, all but one while interacting with police: Michael Brown, Kenneth Chamberlain, John Crawford, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin. The composer, Thompson, will attend the concert.
The program also includes an excerpt from Darin Atwater’s “Evolution of a People” and songs of uplift including “Glory” from the film “Selma” and “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the “Black National Anthem.”
WPA President/CEO Jenny Bilfield says their ongoing mission remains providing artists with a platform to speak with their full voice and creatively express their perspective.
“This is ultimately social justice: making space for shared experiences, which leads to awareness and, eventually, healing,” she said.