Building the Beloved Community
In April 2023, the Black Legacy Project travels home to Atlanta, exploring the rich history of race-relations in what many historians consider the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, dating as far back as 1880. The city lives and breathes Black and civil rights history and is or was home to some of the most influential icons and organizations of the U.S. civil rights movement, including Ambassador Andrew Young, Congressman John Lewis, and Ralph D. Abernathy to name just a few. Atlanta’s historic ‘Sweet Auburn’ district, was named “the richest Negro street in the world” byFortune in 1956. Sweet Auburn is the birth and resting place of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the home of Dr. King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, the headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and WERD - the first Black owned radio station in North America. The Southern School Book Building, constructed in 1910, housed the offices of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), chaired by future Congressman John Lewis and currently hosts the offices of Music in Common and the Black Legacy Project. The direct throughlines of Dr. King, the civil rights movement, and interracial solidarity to the Black Legacy Project’s mission and to the history of U.S. race-relations as a whole makes Atlanta a powerful location for the Black LP.
The theme for the Black LP ATLANTA is Building the Beloved Community. In the roundtable discussions and musical interpretations, Black and White community members will explore the question of what it looks like to carry on Dr. King’s dream of building the beloved community. To explore this question, the project will examine and create present-day musical interpretations of the song “Each Generation” by Arrested Development and “Let it Be Me” by the Indigo Girls.
“Each Generation” is a musical call-to-action by the trailblazing Atlanta-based hip-hop group Arrested Development. Championing consciousness and empowerment since 1993, and sharing the stage with civil rights icons like Nelson Mandela, Arrested Development are legendary artivists (artists + activists) who use their music and influence to advance social, economic, and racial justice. “Each Generation” serves as a reminder that each generation stands on the shoulders of the activists who came before them, but has their own responsibility to take the baton and build a better world. Furthermore, the song argues that we can build this better world by committing to and practicing love, truth, and peace as a collective. This resonates with Dr. King’s belief that the beloved community - a global society founded on the pillars of peace, love, justice, and nonviolence - can be achieved by a critical mass of people being committed to and practicing nonviolence.
“Let It Be Me” is a powerful protest song written by Emily Sailers, and performed by the Indigo Girls. A folk-rock group from Atlanta, the Indigo Girls are also exemplary “artivists,” using their music and influence to advance social and environmental justice. Standing on the shoulders of Atlanta’s civil rights heroes, the duo sings “Let It Be Me” as a cry to carry the torch and address the injustices, wars, and conflicts plaguing the world by living a life grounded in love, compassion, nonviolence, and justice. Almost as if it’s an allusion to Dr. King’s quote “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,” the Indigo Girls sing in the chorus, “This is not a fighting song…not a wrong for a wrong…If the world is night, shine my life like a light.”
“Each Generation” and “Let It Be Me” serve as a call-and-response demonstrating the act of carrying on the legacy of past civil rights activists and living a life dedicated to peace and social justice. These works analyzed in tandem with each other lead local musicians and community members alike to explore how this generation and generations to come can continue the freedom struggle from past generations so we can truly get to the “mountaintop” of freedom, equality, and belonging for all.
Local White artists will reimagine “Each Generation” and local Black artists will reimagine “Let it Be Me”. Upon completion, local Black and White artists will work together to write and record a song that offers actionable steps for building the beloved community. The Black Legacy Project ATLANTA launch will kick off with a community roundtable on April 3, 2023, the 55th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, and conclude on April 9, the 55th anniversary of Dr. King’s funeral.