Hello my name is Mikalia Bradberry and Happy Black History Month! I’m so glad to be able to share some works with you that are near and dear to my heart. Each of these works either represents a portion of the many facets of Black culture or is represented by an individual who has broken barriers on behalf of the Black Community. Every single item on this list has resonated and influenced my black experience. I am eternally grateful.
This is a brief introduction to the reality that Black Americans face everyday especially in the workplace in order to survive. I will let Ms. Angelou take it from here.
For over 60 years the Alvin AIley American Dance theatre has celebrated not only dance but a precious piece of the Black Experience, especially through Mr. Ailey’s signature and widely renowned work “Revelations”. Alvin Ailey is to the black community what peanut butter is to jelly, a necessary and perfect fit. I rarely come in contact with black people who are unfamiliar with Alvin AIley due the impact the company has had on the black community as a whole. This particular excerpt from the collection is near and dear to my heart as a Christian and as a black woman. It reminds me of my ancestors who for over 450 years depended on the faith and strength they had in God to see them through so that I may sit here and write these words.
When I think of Black Joy this is what crosses my mind! This poem is often incorrectly attributed to Maya Angelou and Countee Cullen but was in fact written by Useni Eugene Perkins in the 1970’s. The poem was originally written as a song in Perkins’ play The Black Fairy. Oftentimes when we think of the Black Experience we think of struggle, pain, and despair. I wanted to make sure to include some works in this list that serve as a reminder to us all that we are more than our suffering, more than our pain and more than the pain others have inflicted upon us.
This recording is near and dear to my heart. I remember the day I recorded this piece and how difficult it was to do so following the tragic murder of George Floyd. I was blessed to have the opportunity to share my voice following this tragedy through Kelly Turpin’s wonderful company An Opera Theatre and the special curation of their project We Out. To be honest it’s not one of my greatest vocal moments but I’m more proud of this recording than any other I’ve done. It’s raw and it’s real. I’m grateful for Dr. Mary Trotter being at my side and sharing tears with me time and time again over this piece. I’m grateful to Mr. Hughes for the words and Ms. Bonds for the melody. I’m grateful to my ancestors for fighting to survive and for those who are proud to stand and say that Black Lives Matter.
"The narrator of “Minstrel Man ''reveals the suffering endured by a minstrel performer whose survival depends on his ability to mask his pain before an ignorant, uncaring audience. The suffering he endures serves as a metaphor for the long, relentless oppression of an entire people group - an oppression that still continues today. - Dr. Mary J. Trotter" - “I Too, Sing America : the collaboration and friendship of Margaret Bonds and Langston Hughes”. Lecture presented at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN, April 5, 2020.
Jessye Norman is a shining example of what it means to be an artist. The beauty of her dark skin is elevated by her mastery of expression, her voice elevated through the melodies of the greats. Her mastery of German Lied is portrayed here in one of my favorite art songs by the legendary Richard Strauss.
NOTE: The Aria begins at 3:07
As a classical musician and a vocal performer, Leontyne Price is the cream of the crop. The fact that she happens to be Black is a blessing to the millions of us black people who long to see ourselves portrayed in the beauty of the human experience, who long to see ourselves represented as all of the wonderful things we are able to be, and who long to see ourselves excel in spaces where we were originally barred and banned. She is an icon, a shining star,a pioneer, a legend and happens to be the reason I decided to become an Opera Singer. In regards to her legacy and artistry, we all are forever in her debt.
Interview with Leontyne Price - “It’s never been the Black artists’ problem. It has been other peoples’ problem, which makes it a total bore…because it’s ridiculous.” - Leontyne Price
In my opinion, Hazel Scott is one of the most talented yet least known performers in the world. A child prodigy born from a piano playing mother, she was accepted to the Juilliard School of Music at the tender age of 8 with Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C sharp Minor”. It was professor Oscar Wagner who stated after hearing her audition “I am in the presence of a genius”. It was Hazel’s pride and tenacity that rattled Hollywood due to the fact that she refused to be treated less than what she deserved. It was for these same reasons that she captured the world with her beautiful grace and talent.
Chilton, Shirley. “Hazel Scott : the pioneering journey of a jazz pianist from Cafe Society to Hollywood to HUAC”. Michigan, Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 2008.
Jazz always has and always will have a special place in my life. I remember in elementary school discovering Wynton Marsalis in my music class and falling completely in love with the genre. Gospel, jazz, pop and hip hop were my first experiences with music. As an old soul, I find jazz most comforting and hope to be able to sing this particular song with a fraction of the beauty Ms. Hyman portrays here.
There are performances in life that in fact are not performances at all. In this particular case, the Color Purple Cast of 2017’s curtain call performance of Richard Smallwood’s “Total Praise” was nothing short of a worship ceremony. This experience transcends the stage as they were not lifting their voices to an audience of people but to an audience of One. You can hear the gratitude pour out from their hearts and see the overwhelming feeling of blessing exude from their bodies. My words do this no justice. Enjoy.