Elizabethtown College Lifts their Voices in Celebration of Black History Month
February 28, 2019   //   By:   //   Campus & Community, Campus and Community

In celebration of Black History Month, Elizabethtown College presented Lift Every Voice and Sing! On Feb. 24, students gathered in Zug Recital Hall to sing and read an assortment of poetry written by African American artists. Anne Gross from the Fine and Performing Arts Division and John Rohrkemper from the English Department worked alongside the High Library to provide students and community members with this program.

In Zug Recital Hall, students took the stage to bring to life works written by African American poets. The goal for this event was to allow students to lift their voices in celebration of African American artistic expression. Music was the main medium of the night. Every performer used their voice in slightly different tones, ranges, and diction to engage the audience.

“I think it’s important to remember the richness of our heritage when so much of that noise and destructive anger is racist in nature,” said Rohrkemper.

The singers for the evening were all accompanied by Justin Badgerow on piano. The melodies Dr. Badgerow played combined with their voices lead to loud applause from the crowd.

“It was refreshing to listen to texts that you don’t hear too often,” said audience member Bevan Fields, “I was grateful for the opportunity to listen to musicians, and specifically African American readers, as they shared art from the Harlem Renaissance.”

The selection of poems that were sung and read was primarily written by Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Tracy K. Smith. Langston Hughes was one of the standout poets of the evening. Over half of the poems performed in the program belonged to him. Each of the performances attempting to commemorate his legacy. As the last performer finished her last note and bowed on stage, she signaled for all the performers to rise. They stood and faced the crowd, grins wide, as the room filled with applause.

Rohrkemper has worked on programs that have blended music and poetry in the past. He enjoys organizing poetry readings for events. It has become something he is accustomed to. He acknowledges the importance of participating in events of this nature.

Rohrkemper chose a selection of poems he thought best suited the occasion and allowed students to pick the ones that spoke to them.

“This was an important event to be a part of,” said reader Pleasant Sprinkle Williams. “E-town doesn’t have much Black History Month so when the opportunity presents itself, it necessary to be active. It’s also a learning experience for some, a casual way to learn about African American Poets through music and stories.”

Rohrkemper gave his final reflection on the event, “The readings and the singing were beautiful. I thought it was just about the best way I could imagine spending an hour on a Sunday evening.”

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