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5th Annual Negro Spirituals Heritage Day

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Friends of Negro Spirituals and the Greater Bay Area Celebrate

Negro Spirituals Heritage Day on Sunday, June 22, 2008, 3:30 PM -5:30 PM, at the West Oakland Senior Center, 1724 Adeline Street, Oakland, CA. Doors will open at 3:00 PM. Although unofficial, Negro Spirituals Day is the only known annual day of special recognition of the 350-years-old, irreplaceable Negro Spiritual folk songs, birthed by enslaved Black Americans.

The celebration, featuring an African Drum Tribute to the Ancestors performed by Ghanaian Master Drummer Pope Flyne, will center on an awards ceremony honoring four individuals who have distinguished themselves by working to preserve the Spirituals heritage in our communities. The honorees are Negro Spirituals net worker and educator Donna Hamilton, Berkeley, CA; baritone and narrator Autris T. Page, Emeryville, CA; and choral director and organist Gerald Asheim and educator and administrator Laroilyn H. Davis, both of Oakland, CA.

Each honoree will receive Friends of Negro Spirituals' highest honor, The Negro Spirituals Heritage Keepers Award, and will present a mini program, highlighting an aspect of his or her approach to preserving the Negro Spirituals folk song. The audience will sing some of the songs in styles reminiscent of those in which Black slaves sang on southern plantations. The public is invited to the free, wheelchair-accessible event. Donations are welcomed.

There will be an activity table available for children.

Although the creators of folk Spirituals are unknown, scholars suspect they were folk poets, Black preachers, and slave communities. It is likely that the songs were created spontaneously, capturing the voice, pulse, mood, and the momentary emotional state of the slave community or of a particular individual or family in the community and providing one of the few sources of expressive power available to Black American slaves.

Howard University's late English professor John Lovell held that the Spiritual was worldly, otherworldly, traditional, contemporary, and a true folk song, blending “the experiences and poetic imagination of one folk group and created songs for the universal heart."

The Negro Spirituals folk song was a kindly, uplifting servant to scores of the Black Slaves for years. Whether in the form of folk song, Black gospel, blues, jazz, or classical music, Spirituals have spoken with sensitive understandings to the souls of people around the world, no matter their place and condition.

Join them as they celebrate the 5th Annual Negro Spirituals Heritage Day, honor the folk song, preservers, and sing folk-Spirituals in the community style. Call (510) 869-4359 or e-mail fns3@juno.com for additional information.

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