From right: Dr. Thomas Tyler, artistic director, Imani Gonzales, Ronald D. Johnson, Evelyn Cieventon, Everette Williams and Dr. Steven Allen will direct different parts of an inspirational concert that will pay tribute to the new National African American Museum of History and Culture. The 200-voice choir rehearses on Saturday, Sept. 10 in northwest D.C. Photo by Roy Lewis
From right: Dr. Thomas Tyler, artistic director, Imani Gonzales, Ronald D. Johnson, Evelyn Cieventon, Everette Williams and Dr. Steven Allen will direct different parts of an inspirational concert that will pay tribute to the new National African American Museum of History and Culture. The 200-voice choir rehearses on Saturday, Sept. 10 in northwest D.C. Photo by Roy Lewis

Thomas Dixon Tyler, Minister of Worship at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Northwest shared his goals for the concert, held last Sunday, Sept. 17.

“This is a celebratory odyssey of artistic expressions that emboldens what the museum represents,” said Tyler, who directed the eclectic musical experience entitled “A Historic Odyssey: From the Cradle to Liberation.”

Chuck Hicks, a member of the DC Host Committee, the group of volunteers responsible for planning events to coincide with the museum opening on Saturday, Sept. 24, described the opening as the biggest event for African Americans since the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

“It is something we, our ancestors, our elders, all of us, young and old, have wanted all of our lives: to be able to tell our story in America,” said Hicks, who served as co-chair of the event along with former DC Councilmember Frank Smith, founder and executive director of the African American Civil War Museum.

The concert, sponsored by the Host Committee, was divided into three parts, featuring music from African-American composers, griots and traditional African stilt walkers with songs sung in centuries-old African languages and a sample of selections that have become standards in the gospel music songbook.

The concert finale showcased the choir leading the audience in the celebrated arrangement by Dr. Roland M. Carter of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” which Carter also directed.

In 1900, 500 school children first performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” written by James Weldon Johnson, as a poem honoring the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln. Johnson’s brother, John, would compose the music five years later.

In 1919, the NAACP dubbed the song “the Negro National Anthem” because of its “power in voicing the cry for liberation and affirmation for African-American people.”

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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