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Boise

Where You'd Least Expect It

 June 2023

 

The Black Legacy Project travels to Boise, Idaho in June 2023 to highlight the lesser known history of Black Americans and Black and White race-relations in the state. In contrast to the national attention Idaho has gained over the past four decades as a site for White supremacy,  the state has a relatively progressive history when it comes to the treatment of Black Americans. No Black person was ever lynched in Idaho. The state has had integrated schools since 1870. Civil rights legislation was passed in Idaho three years before it was passed nationally. Black folks had homesteading rights in Idaho, a right that was denied to them even in the neighboring state of Oregon. During the same year where race massacres and riots occurred across the nation – most notably in Tulsa, OK in 1921 – Black Idahoans felt safe enough to establish Boise’s historic Black church (St. Paul Baptist Church). This unexpected yet significant history of Black and White solidarity is what draws the Black LP to Boise. 

The theme for the Black LP BOISE is Where You’d Least Expect It. During this time of growing polarization and hate-based violence, the Black LP BOISE engages Black and White Idahoans in roundtable discussions and musical collaborations where they can revisit and reclaim this history of interracial solidarity (in a state where it is unexpected by many) and discuss the steps that they can take to advance greater belonging in Idaho for present and future generations. To explore this theme, local Idaho musicians will reimagine the works “How to Help America” by Dr. Keith L. Anderson and “Beat the Drum” by Eilen Jewell. 

"How to Help America” is an excerpt from Dr. Keith L. Anderson’s speech at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in Boise, ID titled "Many Paths to Peace.”  Dr. Anderson, a leading Anti-Racist educator, community leader, singer-songwriter, and Boise State University professor, was called upon by the City of Boise to give this speech in the aftermath of the hate-based violence that occurred at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pennsylvania  and a Kroger store in Kentucky. Dr. Anderson’s goal in his words was “to teach people that, ‘Love needs to defeat hatred’! The message I gave was, the best way to defeat acts of racial hatred, is for people to unite. We must show no fear and fight, using the number one tool of the human race, love.” “How to Help America” was released on Dr. Anderson’s 2020 album “Love Conquers Hate: Spoken Word, Songs, and Poems by Dr. Keith Anderson.” The speech powerfully speaks to the importance of practicing love, solidarity, and belonging (practices that need to be reclaimed from Boise’s past) in order to prevent hate and racial violence in Boise and across the nation.

 

“Beat the Drum” is a powerful call to action on Eilen Jewell's 2019 album, Gypsy. A Boise native, Jewell is a singer-songwriter who is hailed as “one of America’s most intriguing, creative, and idiosyncratic voices.” Since her first album in 2006, Jewell has used her music to not only bring light to the hardships of life, but the growth, power, and light one can create from it. Written in a climate of deep polarization in the country, “Beat the Drum” calls upon people to join in solidarity to speak up, stand up, make noise, and fight against injustice and oppression. 

Both “How to Help America” and “Beat the Drum” serve as a call and response to the theme of "Where You’d Least Expect It”. Both works paired together showcase how the act of building bridges and honoring our shared humanity across divides is the fuel that leads us to work in solidarity to build communities where everyone belongs. During the Black LP BOISE, local White artists will reimagine “How to Help America” and local Black artists will reimagine “Beat the Drum.” Upon completion, local Black and White artists will work together to write and record a song that offers actionable steps for cultivating interracial solidarity and building communities of belonging. 

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