Tradition (queue music from Fiddler on The Roof), is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the Fisk Jubilee singers. They visited Houston this week. I forgot to RSVP for tickets at the Wortham and was very happy Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church hosted them. The performance was amazing and was a great way to end Black History Month.
Fisk was founded in 1866, six months after the Civil War. In 1871, the singers went on a fundraising tour in Europe resulting in $50,000 which was used to build Jubilee Hall. The singers even sang before the Queen of England which is where their picture was taken below.
The last time I saw a choir perform, I was overseas. It was interesting how connected I was being disconnected from the US. I remember a strong roll of tears coming down my face as we sang the Black National Anthem. Now that I am back home, my feelings are not as strong, but my analysis of the performance had a new angle.
As old negro spirtuals were sung by the choir, I couldn’t help but think how brilliant we are as a people. We were restricted by so many rules of what we could not do during slavery. We turned the one thing we were allowed to do, sing, to be the foundation of how we could break out of slavery. As the students sang, all I could help was decode the meaning. “Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus….I ain’t got long to stay here.”
We may not have much to show for our traditions due to the dismantling of our culture, I am forever grateful for oral history that has kept things apart. I am very happy I was able to take part in this tradition and share with generations to come.