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A Publication of the Initiative for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in the History of Africa and the Diaspora (RASHAD) Volume 10, Issue 1, Winter 2016

A Gift of the Spirit! This issue of Traditions & Beliefs – my first post-Cleveland State University issue– is dedicated to Spiritual Gifts, the 501 (C)(3) arts education organization whose members are pictured on the right. It is my great please to serve as the Executive Director for this choir and to share with you the exciting news about their December 2015 educational, cultural, and concert tours of Vienna, Austria and Paris, France. Under the leadership of Maestro Glenn A. Brackens, the choir performed at numerous venues, including Vienna’s City Hall and on the grounds of the Cathedral de Notre Dame in Paris. The activities in Vienna were part of Music Contact International’s 2015 Advent Sing, and they are featured in the choir’s educational DVD, “A Gift of the Spirit.” We look forward to sharing the DVD and other gifts with you in the future. Photos (Below, clockwise from top left): Glenn A. Brackens; Ernestine M. Davis and Irma J. Williams with Santa, and Regennia N. Williams. *All photos in this publication courtesy Regennia N. Williams and Music Contact International.

Finding Your Voice, Speaking and Singing Out Regennia N. Williams, PhD, Executive Director & Editor | In 2014, I decided to exchange the life of an academician for that of an independent public scholar and consultant. In 2015, my work with Spiritual Gifts made it possible for me to have the best of both worlds, as I pursued professional development in nonprofit administration and leadership and continued the work that has long been associated with the Initiative for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in the History of Africa and the Diaspora (RASHAD) that I launched in 2007. By fall 2016, when the National Museum of African American History and Culture opens in Washington, D.C., my professional transformation should be complete. As someone with a deep appreciation for the arts and the humanities, I found my professional voice through RASHAD. This publication, RASHAD’s scholarly Journal of Traditions & Beliefs, and Spiritual Gifts continue to support artists and scholars who are speaking out, singing out, and sharing their work with academic and non-academic audiences alike.

Save These Dates for the Jubilees to Jazz Workshop at Cleveland Public Library, 325 Superior Ave., “The People’s University!” Friday, January 22 3:30 – 5:30 pm

Saturday, January 23 10:30 am – 5:30 pm

Registration, introduction, and overview for a workshop focusing on Black sacred music –at home and abroad

Lectures, discussions, films, group activities, and a closing performance

Free Admission! Optional professional development credit for teachers through CSU. (Additional fees apply.) For more information, call (216) 623-2818 or (216) 244-6630.

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Packing Up, Getting Ready to Go! In 2015, members and friends of Spiritual Gifts prepared for their first international tour, having received their 501(c)(3) final determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service in September and paid—thanks to donations, sponsorships, group fundraisers, personal sacrifice, and smart financing—more than $80,000 to cover travel costs. (This is more than the combined revenue totals for all previous fiscal years since the group’s incorporation in 2009!) Needless to say, it was quite an undertaking. Special thanks to Cleveland’s Gethsemane Baptist Church, our patrons, and the following participants for making this trip a success:

Photos: (Top, left to right) J. Mark Thompson, Pamela L. Mendez and Glenn A. Brackens, Geraldine Hardin Washington and Eleanor Jackson (back) and Lana J. Miller (front). (Bottom, clockwise from top) Carlisa R. Burge and Zachary Marbury, Kevin Gibaldi, and Babette Reid Harrell.

Glenn A. Brackens Robert L. Brown Carlisa R. Burge James Catledge Viola Catledge Ernestine M. Davis Kevin Gibaldi Brandi Q. Hancock Lillie B. Harris Eleanor J. Jackson

Meryl Trimble Johnson Zachary Marbury Pamela L. Mendez Lana J. Miller Babette Reid Harrell Mattie Williams Reid Karen Yancey Sutton J. Mark Thompson Geraldine C. Hardin Washington Irma J. Williams --RNW

The Reason for the Season and Paris on My Mind In the midst of finalizing our plans for singing, sightseeing, and shopping in Europe; it occurred to me that we would be remiss if we did not pause to consider the reason for the season, and reflect upon the significance of our participation in Music Contact International’s 2015 Advent Sing. During the era of my Missionary Baptist upbringing —which included lots of wonderful holiday and family traditions, I don’t remember hearing much about Advent. 2

Today, children have only to conduct a quick Google search to discover that “Advent” is: 1: the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting; and 2a : the coming of Christ at the Incarnation (Continued on page 4)



Bon Voyage . . .

From airports to concert halls, museums, and churches, this was the trip of a lifetime! Above (left to right) are the group and Viola and James Catledge in the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and Babette Reid Harrell (seated at piano), Pamela L. Mendez (standing right) and fellow travelers after Pamela’s solo performance of “Ave Maria” in the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France. Below (Clockwise from top left) Regennia N. Williams, Irma J. Williams, and Lana J. Miller; members of Spiritual Gifts’ Executive Board: (back row, left to right) Lana j. Miller, Kevin Gibaldi, and Ernestine Davis (front row, left to right) Carlisa R. Burge, James Catledge, and Regennia N. Williams; Maestro Glenn A. Brackens, Pamela L. Mendez, the Melk Abbey, Dr. Barnabas Kunsch at the Trinitatis Austrian Lutheran Church, and J. Mark Thompson.




. . . Au Revoir! (Continued from page 2)

Photos (From top): Spiritual Gifts at the Melk Abbey in Austria, with Les Lyrides, Châtel-Guyon in Vienna’s City Hall, and at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

For more information: Spiritual Gifts P.O. Box 18683 Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118, USA *Please like our page on Facebook!

With this in mind, I was inspired to invite singers of all faiths—in the Americas and in Europe—to join us in singing two songs that remind listeners of what Christians believe: Christ is the reason for the season. I learned the first song when I began to study French as a fourth grader in Cleveland. “Il Est Né Le Divin Enfant” (He Is Born, the Divine Infant / Christ Child) is, like many African American spirituals, a “traditional” song, with lots of popular arrangements available in print and various digital formats. I believe I first heard the second song, “I Can’t Thank Him Enough,” in 2003, when pianist-composer Brenda E. Johnson performed it during “An Evening of Gospel Music at Severance Hall” at the invitation of the producer, Pastor Nathaniel Williams, Jr. In 2010, Brenda gave me permission to translate the song into Yoruba, teach it to the choir at All Souls Chapel, and perform it with them in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. I also had a chance to sing it with students in South Africa in 2012. During the December 2015 activities at Vienna’s City Hall, Spiritual Gifts sang “Il Est Né Le Divin Enfant” – with Les Lyrides, Châtel-Guyon from France—and “I Can’t Thank Him Enough,” with Zachary Marbury and Irma J. Williams providing the lead vocals. At another venue, our French colleagues asked us to sing Edwin Hawkins’ gospel version of “Oh Happy Day” with them, and Lana J. Miller sang the lead! As the 2015 attacks in Paris demonstrated, people across the globe are still divided along religious, cultural, political, racial, ethnic, class, and ideological lines. For several eventful days during the Advent season, however, Spiritual Gifts joined singers from Asia, the Americas, and Europe in building bridges of understanding and bringing people together. One leg of our journey has ended, but we still have a long way to go.-- RNW

Traditions & beliefs winter 2016, sg with rmw email  

This issue chronicles the activities associated with the first international tours (in Vienna, Austria and Paris, France) for Spiritual Gift...

Traditions & beliefs winter 2016, sg with rmw email  

This issue chronicles the activities associated with the first international tours (in Vienna, Austria and Paris, France) for Spiritual Gift...