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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

History, performance and culture by Mary D. Williams
Two performances at Gantt Center
Published Friday, January 18, 2019 2:32 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Mary D. Williams, who describes herself as a performing historian, will perform twice on Jan. 21 at the Harvey B. Gantt Center is part of the Martin Luther King Holiday celebration.

Nothing teaches like music.

Mary D. Williams considers herself a performing historian. She will share history through two performances at the Harvey B. Gantt Center’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 21 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Each performance will be an hour.

“I love this history that connects itself to our state, as well as to our nation,” Williams said. “In doing that, I can talk about the context of that history, but then the music that is applied to that, I can actually perform it.”

Williams will transport attendees to back in time, to days long before King.

“We are going to talk about and sing some songs that started in the context of the enslaved, and how that music navigated itself all the way up to the civil rights movement,” Williams said. “Without the music, there was no movement. We will get a chance to talk about how that music was applied, and how it was transformative for the individuals who participated—whether they participated in the music as individuals, or whether it brought them together collectively.”

Williams will also examine how music brings people together across time.

“They used the wheelhouse of music that actually came from the enslaved to actually guard and shield them from many of the afflictions and injustices that they experienced, whether they were riding the buses, boycotting the buses—whatever the situation may have been, music may have been,” she said.
Much of her performance will incorporate audience participation.

“I am going to get the audience members to actually sing with me,” Williams said. “I am going to entice them to take a moment to become absorbed in the music.”
For some, the civil rights movement remains a vivid memory that’s passed on to younger generations. Gathering families together for events such as this provides a deeper contextual understanding.

“It takes that younger person to a place in history that gives them an opportunity to learn about things that they have heard about, but then they get to experience the music as it was exchanged,” Williams said.

“These songs were shared in meetings, rallies and churches in a community setting, in a crowd, a mixed setting with different age ranges, and because of some of the social issues we face today, the songs are still applicable.”


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