WASHINGTON, DC — Washington Revels and Carpe Diem Arts have teamed up to give audiences a Daily Antidote of Song with a special end-of-August focus on “Singing for Racial Justice.”

The program initially started in early April as a respite for singers trapped at home due to the coronavirus panedmic. People from around the world are able to sign into a Zoom call at 12 noon EDT every day to participate in a sing-along. The virtual event is streamed live on FacebookLive, where videos of previous sing-alongs can also be viewed.

“One song every day on a virtual platform, people can sing along on mute, and the notion was to help people feel less isolated, less lonely,” said Jo Rasi, community engagement director for Washington Revels. “Obviously, people who sing a lot aren’t able to sing in groups during isolation time.”

When George Floyd died at the end of May while in the custody of Minneapolis police, the focus of the daily sing-along shifted to address the racial injustice that exists across the nation.

As a lead up to the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech, the Revels launched the daily “Singing for Racial Justice” program on Aug. 16.

“We have a two-week program within the daily antidote of song where every day, the song that we’re singing focuses on racial justice and the artists do some discussion with us after the song,” Rasi said.

Master storyteller, narrator, and librettist Charlotte Blake Ashton performs Aug. 30. (Washington Revels)
Master storyteller, narrator, and librettist Charlotte Blake Ashton performs Aug. 30. (Washington Revels)

The two-week program ends on Aug. 31, with beatbox performer Shodekeh Talifero and an in-depth conversation on racial justice led by Dr. Kathy Bullock of Berea College in Kentucky. Anyone who misses the 12 noon discussion can take part in a second discussion at 7 p.m. Those wishing to participate in the evening discussion must RSVP by emailing Rasi beforehand.

“Everyone will be thinking, singing and talking about racial injustice,” Rasi said.

Folksinger Dan Zanes, who will be performing with his wife Claudia on Aug. 28, appreciates the effort the Washington Revels is making in using music to foment positive change.

“What they’re doing is about music, but it’s also really about culture, and they’re trying to change the culture around the organization,” he said.

The artists performing through the remainder of the Singing for Racial Justice program are:

  • Aug. 21 – Bongani Magatyana

  • Aug.22 – Reggie Harris

  • Aug. 23 – Julilee Voices

  • Aug. 24 – Peggy Seeger

  • Aug. 25 – Munit Mesfin

  • Aug. 26 – Matlakala Bopape

  • Aug. 27 – Lea Gilmore

  • Aug. 28 – Dan & Claudia Zanes

  • Aug. 29 – Sihasin

  • Aug. 30 – Charlotte Blake Ashton

  • Aug. 31 – Kathy Bullock, plus Shodekeh Talifero

“The way the program works is we make some quick announcements and then the song leader teaches the chorus to the song,” Rasi said. “And then everyone is on mute but the song leader, but we all get to sing along with the song leader. And then afterwards we have discussion and questions, and then we usually sing the chorus of the song once more, before we say goodbye to everybody in the room.”

The daily sing-along at noon is an opportunity for people to get a little affirmation during their lunch break and connect with other people who enjoy singing.

“For people who love to sing and who do sing with people, the isolation has been really, really hard in that there is not really any way to sing,” Rasi said. “And for people who are actually isolated alone, that act of singing in a community is a very connected kind of experience.”

As a music therapist, singer Claudia Zanes sees the daily song as form of self-care during hard times.

“I think it’s really important that we do get out of our heads and have a moment where we can escape everything we’re seeing on the news and the fears and the anxiety,” she said. “So to have a safe space where you can see faces that maybe you don’t know everybody, but you know, this is a community that’s showing up for the same purpose of healing and community is a beautiful thing.”

Dan and Claudia Zanes are from Baltimore and will be performing Aug. 28. (Washington Revels)
Dan and Claudia Zanes are from Baltimore and will be performing Aug. 28. (Washington Revels)

When the Daily Antidote of Song began in April, Rasi wasn’t sure that experience could be replicated online, but it has.

“We can see everybody else’s faces as everyone is singing along, and it feels like singing in a group, even though all you hear is the leader and yourself,” she said.

Every day, between 50 and 100 come to the virtual room to sing, and another 600-700 watch the performance on FacebookLive.

“Everyone in the room agrees that we have created some kind of virtual community, some kind of family that’s based on a love of singing and a sense of wanting to be positive change makers in the world,” Rasi said.

This article originally appeared on the Washington DC Patch

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