Remembering, reclaiming and reconnecting.
That’s the theme of this year’s annual Black History Month concert by the Chicago Children’s Choir.
The virtual concert will feature a number of African songs that explore the history of African American culture in the U.S. They’re taking concert goers on a sankofa journey, a word from Ghana which means to return or retrieve what was lost.
“It’s a chance to educate all people about Black history and how it goes beyond just slavery,” said featured choir member Anyiah Chase Mayfield. “In many institutions, Black history always starts at slavery, but what people need to recognize is way before that we were kings and queens with our own empires and a very prosperous and rich country. The music we sing reflects that.”
From Nigeria to Jamaica, the songs featured in this year’s concert come from multiple countries. Former choir member Sanita Jackson says it’s that commitment to diversity that makes the Chicago Children’s Choir so special.
“We’ve gone beyond cultural appropriation to cultural appreciation,” Jackson said. “These young people sing these African-inspired songs because they’re a part of them. Because I think that as Americans, we are finally beginning to embrace that we are African, Indigenous, European, Asian, everything. So it is not unusual, thankfully, for these children to be singing all kinds of music and it’s where we ought to be. They’ve left us behind and gone into the new world, and we encourage it.”
Sanita’s mother, Jacqueline Jackson, agrees.
“Children are held hostage by the madness of adults,” Jacqueline Jackson said. “When children have freedom of expression, they know the truth and sing the truth even if it’s painful. Adults need to listen. They are the future and a reflection of ourselves.”
Whether it be “Lift Every Voice and Sing” or a gospel song sung in Yoruba, choir members hope their voices will bring about change that the world can hear.
The Chicago Children’s Choir’s concert debuts Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. For more information, visit the choir’s website.