A Modern Cabaret Of Protest Song – Sunday, December 8, at 4:00 p.m.
By Raymond Ward, The New 411
From Robeson To Brown – A Modern Cabaret Of Protest Music, with the Freedom Song Leaders and Maggie and Africa Brown, and Miguel de la Cerna is the capstone concert in our “On Whose Shoulders” series that will honor two stalwarts of protest music – Paul Robeson and Oscar Brown Jr.
The concert program will feature The Freedom Song Leaders (Shanta Nurullah, Zahra Baker, Wanda Bishop, Africa Brown and Toni Assante Lightfoot), and Maggie Brown and Africa Brown with Miguel de la Cerna and will take place on December 8, 2019, at 4:00 p.m.
The Freedom Song Leaders will perform new concert material for this occasion based on the theme Washington Park Forum: Soap Box Activism.
The program will also raise funds for the Rosenberg Fund for Children. Rosenberg Fund Executive Director Jenn Meeropol will make remarks at the concert.
The program will take place in The Reva And David Logan Center For The Arts. 915 E. 60th St. in the 9th Floor Penthouse. Tickets are $20 and available through www.Hothouse.net.
Shanta Nurullah has distinguished herself as a sitarist and bassist exploring African-American improvisational music. A member of the legendary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Nurullah co-founded the all-women’s bands Sojourner and Samana, and her current projects include the bands Sitarsys and Classic Black; the duo ShaZah; and Freedom Song Leaders, a vocal ensemble.
Zahra Baker is an accomplished performer, recognized for her work as a folk and jazz vocalist, dramatic actor, and an engaging storyteller. Her performance history includes “In the Spirit” (Storytelling duo of African American stories and songs), Freedom Song Leaders (Co-founder), David Boykin’s Outet (Jazz Vocal Improvisation), Othello at Shakespeare Repertory Theater (Vocalist/Actor), and Classic Black (Jazz and Storytelling Ensemble).
Maggie Brown, singer, songwriter, actress, producer and director is said to be “one of the most fiercely committed artists in Chicago” by Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich. Maggie grew up tuning into her father’s methods on stage, at the typewriter and in the director’s chair. One of seven children of singer, songwriter and playwright Oscar Brown, Jr., Maggie started acting professionally at age 15.
Africa Pace Brown was born in the show business spotlight. The daughter of music performers and cultural icons Oscar Brown, Jr., and Jean Pace, the announcement of her birth, and the intended political statement of her name, made the cover of JET Magazine.
Growing up on the road with her parents, it was not long before Africa made an early start in professional theater. At the tender age of eight, she not only began performing, Africa Pace Brown also became an award-winning actress for her originating role of Eve in her Dad’s musical “In De Beginning.” Her childhood acting days were followed by several years singing vocals with her late brother, bassist Oscar Brown, III, and sister, popular Chicago vocalist Maggie Brown, along with their father. It was during these teenage years that Africa returned to theater and was a cast member in the musical “Great Nitty Gritty” at Drury Lane, McCormick Place.
Miguel de la Cerna, Chicago pianist, grew up on the South Side, when the sound of jazz and blues, gospel and funk, R&B and soul was everywhere. It blasted out of clubs and apartments, car radios and storefronts, inspiring a kid growing up near 41st Street and Berkeley Avenue to build his life in music.
Jennifer Meeropol is the Executive Director of the Rosenberg Fund for Children (RFC) and the granddaughter of both Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and Abel Meeropol (known for writing the anti-lynching anthem “Strange Fruit.”). The RFC is a public foundation created in 1990 by Jenn’s father Robert, to honor her grandparents.
The Washington Park Forum: The outpouring of speech and writing that accompanied the rise of North America’s large industrial cities was diverse in its political orientation, form, and content. But much of it was offensive to the people who controlled society’s political, economic and cultural institutions. The conflict between advocates for change and defenders of the status quo would shape the possibilities for free speech and redefine the limits of government power over Americans’ political debate and private behavior.
Radical and religious speakers leveled their appeals to passers-by on street corners and at factory gates. On the South Side, near the University of Chicago, the congregation of speakers in Washington Park called itself the “Bug Club.” Marcus Garvey, Malcom X and other leaders in the emancipatory struggle for justice made the Washington Park Forum and the soap box there their pulpit for activism. The Freedom Song Leaders concert on December 8 celebrates this history.