Black History

Music Accents Opening of African-American Museum

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.”

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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 Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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