Traditions & Beliefs Newsletter, Summer 2016

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& Beliefs

A Publication of the Initiative for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in the History of Africa and the Diaspora (RASHAD) Regennia N. Williams, PhD, Editor Volume 10, Issue 3 / Summer 2016

Editor’s Corner Photo by Nathaniel Rhodes.

The spring of 2016 was a season of growth and change for RASHAD and for me. My move to the Washington D.C. Metro Area made it necessary for me to work smarter and more creatively while trying to take better advantage of the incredible opportunities that are available in the nation’s capital. This issue of Traditions & Beliefs provides a brief overview of some of the most exciting news from the first five months of 2016. Be sure to visit our website often for more program updates. --RNW

Contents Scholarship Award ………….…….. 1

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RASHAD Awards First Scholarship Congratulations to Katherine Taylor, native Clevelander, John F. Kennedy High School alumna, and recipient of the 2016 RASHAD Scholarship. Taylor, who previously attended the College of Wooster, is completing her undergraduate degree in Black Studies at Cleveland State University (CSU). She is a student employee in CSU’s Office for Institutional Equity and the president of the Black Studies Elites student organization.

Save the Date

Save the Date …....…………………. 2 The RASHAD Center, Inc. …….… 3 Archival Updates ……………….. 4 - 5 Book Review ………………….……. 6 JTB Call for Submissions ………….. 7 Board, Internet, and Contact Info … 8

Spiritual Gifts Choir

New Workshop Location!

Saturday, May 21

Saturday, October 8

Business Meeting, 1 p.m. Hough Library 1566 Crawford Road Cleveland, Ohio

Workshop & Sacred Music Summit Details TBA Washington, DC



RASHAD Center, Inc. Opens in Maryland With the opening of the Maryland-based RASHAD Center, Inc., Dr. Regennia N. Williams’ dream of establishing a new home for the Initiative for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in the History of Africa and the Diaspora (RASHAD) became a reality. The roots of what would eventually comprise RASHAD can be traced to the summer of 2003, when, with support from Instructional Media Services, the University Library (now the Michael Schwartz Library), and the Black Studies Program, she launched the Praying Grounds Oral History Project. In 2006, she approached Dr. Michael J. Tevesz, Director of CSU’s Sacred Landmarks Center and Special Assistant for Cultural Partnerships, with a proposal for establishing a Center for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in Africa and the African Diaspora. In 2007, Dr. Williams launched CSU’s Initiative for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in the History of Africa and the Diaspora (RASHAD) and The Traditions & Beliefs Newsletter. In addition to cash and in-kind support from the Department of History, RASHAD-related programs received grants from the Ohio Humanities Council and the Ohio Arts Council, donations from Wings Over Jordan Alumni & Friends, Inc. and The National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc., program support from the Office of the CLASS Dean—totaling more than $20,000 for Praying Grounds and over $38,000 for RASHAD, and numerous other contributions from individuals and organizations. In the 2008-2009 academic year, Dr. Williams joined others in establishing Spiritual Gifts, A Professional Black Sacred Music Repertory Ensemble, Inc. In 2010, she received a Fulbright Fellowship for oral history research and teaching at Nigeria’s Obafemi Awolowo University, published the first issue of RASHAD’s peer-reviewed Journal of Traditions & Beliefs, and pledged her financial support for the establishment of the RASHAD Endowment. Dr. Williams ended her CSU teaching career in May 2015, performed with Spiritual Gifts in Vienna, Austria and Paris, France in December 2015, moved to the Washington D.C. Metro Area in March 2016, filed the Articles of Incorporation for The RASHAD Center on April 12, 2016, and, later that day, learned that CSU’s Katherine Taylor was the recipient of the first RASHAD student scholarship. Today, Dr. Williams serves as the Founder and Executive Director of the RASHAD Center, Inc. As RASHAD’s Articles of Incorporation state: This educational corporation will create, support, and promote excellent arts and humanities programs in three main areas: 1.The Performing Arts, through Spiritual Gifts International; 2. Oral History Education, through the Praying Grounds Project; and 3. Educational Publications, through The Journal of Traditions & Beliefs and The Traditions & Beliefs Newsletter. Dr. Williams is grateful to family, friends, members of various faith communities, classmates, colleagues, individual donors, university administrators, internal and external funders, advisory board members, and so many others for their support of RASHAD’s work. . * Photo of Regennia N. Williams by Nathaniel Rhodes. 2



It’s Official! The RASHAD Center was incorporated in the state of Maryland on April 12, 2016.




Wings Over Jordan Alumni & Friends, Inc.

Documenting the Past, Charting a Course for the Future!




Collections of Key Paper and Digital Documents Continue to Grow

Both the history and ongoing influence of the original Wings Over Jordan Choir are carefully documented in a number of library manuscript collections and online digital resources. For example, the photographs, newspaper article, funeral bulletin, DVD, and program booklets shown here are part of Cleveland State University’s Praying Grounds Collection, for which Dr. Regennia N. Williams serves as curator. The Ohio Secretary of State’s online business records also include important information on Wings Over Jordan Alumni & Friends, Inc., and Dr. Samuel Barber is the owner and curator of an extensive Wings Over Jordan Collection in North Carolina. This year, Mr. James Catledge, President of Wings Over Jordan Alumni & Friends, Inc. (shown above in a 2008 photo with Delores Del Anderson) and Retired Judge Sara J. Harper (pictured in the documents on the right) have agreed to discuss the possibility of making additional Wings Over Jordan materials available online—for use by students, scholars, journalists, and others. If you would like to support this effort, please contact Dr. Williams at (216) 244-6630 or 5



Book Sheds New Light on the Life and Musical Legacy of PianistComposer Billy Strayhorn Most fans of 20th-century jazz are probably familiar with “Take the A Train,” “Lush Life,” and “Chelsea Bridge,” but many of those same fans might be hard pressed to recall more than a few basic facts about the life of Billy Strayhorn, the prolific composer of these songs and so many others that have found a permanent home in the world’s canon of vocal and instrumental jazz standards. Ohio-born and Pennsylvania-bred, William Thomas Strayhorn (1915-1967) is, perhaps, best remembered as the composing and arranging companion of Duke Ellington, and no one spoke more highly of Strayhorn’s genius than the legendary bandleader. (Strayhorn even contributed to Ellington’s 1965 “Sacred Concert.”) Since Strayhorn’s untimely death from cancer at the age of 51, two studies – Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn (1996) and Something to Live For: The Music of Billy Strayhorn (2002) –have done much to bring Strayhorn out of the shadows of Ellington and his orchestra. Strayhorn: An Illustrated Life, published in 2015 as part of the global celebration of the artist’s centennial year, goes even further than the aforementioned works. Co-edited by A. Alyce Claerbaut (Strayhorn’s niece) and David Schlesinger, the work includes contributions from scholars and relatives, excerpts from interviews with close friends and performing artists, and heretofore unpublished documents from the family’s Billy Strayhorn archive. I am convinced that this volume will be a welcome addition to any library collection. --RNW 6

Strayhorn: An Illustrated Life (2015) Produced by Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc. $35.00



CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS The Revolution Is Now Being Televised and Tweeted: Black Protest, Preaching, and (Re)Presentations, From the Black Arts Movement to #BlackLivesMatter, c.1965-2016 for

The Journal of Traditions & Beliefs Spring 2017 Regennia N. Williams, PhD, Editor The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised, Will not be televised, will not be televised. The revolution will be no re-run brothers; The revolution will be live. -- Gil Scott-Heron, 1970

The assassination of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X)—and the related rise in Black Nationalism, Amiri Baraka’s founding of the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership role in the Selma to Montgomery March, the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the world premiere of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert, and other bold experiments in music, visual arts, and literature are all associated with 1965. In the history of a decade characterized by seismic shifts in Black thought, 1965 marked a watershed, and the revolutionary spirit of that year continued beyond the 1960s. The Journal of Traditions & Beliefs (JTB) invites submissions for its Spring 2017 issue, The Revolution Is Now Being Televised and Tweeted: Black Protest, Preaching, and Cultural (Re)Presentations, From the Black Arts Movement to #BlackLivesMatter, c.1965-2016. Publishable manuscripts will reflect scholars’ and artists’ diverse viewpoints on the evolving role of various religious, spiritual, and cultural traditions in the digital age—especially when considered in relationship to Black church history, political thought, the arts (including the legacies of Amiri Baraka and Gil Scott-Heron), and ongoing debates about education, human rights, and social justice. JTB, a peer-reviewed open access journal, publishes scholarly articles, essays, creative writing, book reviews, and K-12 curriculum materials. Manuscripts for articles and essays should be typewritten, singlespaced, no more than 15 pages in length (including Turabian-style footnotes and bibliography), and prepared using A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (University of Chicago Press, 7th Edition or later). Poems, book reviews, and the introductions to lesson plans should not exceed 750 words. For consideration, please submit all manuscripts by October 15 , 2016 via the journal’s official website, (The creation of a password protected account is required.) Authors will be notified of final decisions by December 15, 2016. If you are interested in writing a book review or have other questions or concerns, please review the information in the “Policies” section of the JTB website, and contact Dr. Regennia N. Williams at 7



Meet the 2016 RASHAD Advisory Board! Ms. Sherlynn Allen-Harris, The Western Reserve Historical Society Ms. Serreta Archer, Cleveland State University Dr. Sharon Brown Cheston, Tiamoyo Arts Dr. Leonne Hudson, Kent State University Dr. Mbaye Lo, Duke University The Rev. Dr. Marvin A. McMickle, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School Dr. Leonard N. Moore, University of Texas (Austin)

Read the Journal Online:

Search the Praying Grounds Archive at:

*Grateful acknowledgment is hereby given to Cleveland Sate University’s Michael Schwartz Library for its support of RASHAD’s educational activities.

The RASHAD Center, Inc. Home of The Initiative for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in the History of Africa and the Diaspora (RASHAD), The Praying Grounds Oral History Project, and Spiritual Gifts International 7903 Indian Head Highway, #202 Oxon Hill, Maryland 20745 (216) 244-6630, Phone