The First of May was a beautiful spring day both concerning weather and art. The United Strings of Color put on a wonderful performance on the hallowed grounds under the tree at St. Ambrose. What a joy it was to hear these talented young people as well as have a socially distanced safe outside gathering.
The performance was a blend of calls of original poetry and response by string ensemble. The poetry was written by youth poets and their high school english teachers in Wake County. The subject matters of the poetry touched on a range of topics from police shootings, not being “black enough” because you enunciate and speak eloquently, and the hopes of Black youth for our country in the now and in the future. One poem written by a young poet who wasn’t African American talked of our Nation’s past use of Lynchings. She demanded more people who are not people of color do more to live into reconciliation. This can only happen she said with recognizing the truth of history in America.
The response to these poems was the music. Familiar freedom songs such as “A Change Is Gonna Come” and a soulful version of the Shaker tune “‘Tis’ A Gift” were comforting. One piece, less familiar, showed off the virtuosity of these young African American musicians. One memorable moment was when “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was performed and the crowd stood to their feet out of respect. Moments like this are powerful reminders of the beauty of being connected, united, and that nothing from slavery to the pandemic can destroy the beauty of black culture.
There’s a popular TV series that came out during the pandemic. In this TV show it is imagined what the power dynamics between races would be like if things were different historically. The point of the series is that the present would look different if there was a place in European aristocracy for people of color back in the day. This organization, United Strings of Color, is living into imagining how our present day society looks if there’s a place for people of color in Classical music. It’s often possible to run into creative blocks when well intentioned people ponder how to truly make a difference, but this organization is doing it in real time. This is a gift and a blessing. Please catch their next performance and support this cause.