This Week on American Black Journal:

From spirituals to contemporary gospel: The history and influence of African American religious music

June marks Black Music Month, a celebration that traces its origins to 1979 when then-Jimmy Carter first proclaimed it to be African American Music Appreciation Month, as it’s formally called. The celebration acknowledges the contributions Black musicians have made to the nation’s cultural heritage, dating back to the spirituals sung by enslaved Africans. 

Several of the music genres today have transcended from religious roots, serving as a vital medium to express emotions, bridge cultural divides, and enhance mental well-being. Gospel music itself, which was born in the Black church, has evolved into a global phenomenon, blending traditional and contemporary elements while retaining its spiritual message. 

For Black Music Month, “American Black Journal” host Stephen Henderson talks with Rev. Larry Simmons of Baber Memorial AME Church and Dr. Brandon Waddles, assistant professor of choral conducting and music education at Wayne State University, about the power of music to evoke emotions, connect cultures, improve mental health, and serve as a universal language.

They also talk about the enduring influence of spirituals and gospel music on American culture, how white entertainers have been influenced by Black music, and the role of storytelling in music. 

Hundreds in attendance at 17th annual Silence the Violence march to end gun violence

In August 2023, eight-year-old Shawntaze Cameron Moore was fatally shot after he and other children got ahold of an unsecured gun at his mom’s house on Detroit’s west side. In 2016, 15-year-old Jada Rankin was killed by gun violence in Detroit. Each year, families of victims like Shawntaze and Jada, along with supporters, come together to honor loved ones lost to gun violence at the Silence the Violence march and rally. 

The 17th annual event took place on June 15 at the Church of the Messiah. Hundreds of people attended the event, which recognizes the innocent victims of gun violence and advances efforts to eradicate gun violence. Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, Detroit Police Chief James White, and Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield were also in attendance, offering their thoughts on reducing gun violence in the community. 

The event began in 2008 in the church’s Islandview neighborhood with little more than 50 people in attendance. Within a few years, the march and rally became a citywide event, and in 2022 it was recognized statewide.

American Black Journal contributor Daijah Moss joined attendees at the march and rally to talk with family members who showed up in remembrance of loved ones who lost their lives to gun violence. The event’s founder, Church of the Messiah Pastor Barry Randolph, talked about the event’s growth over the years and its influence on similar marches being held in cities across Michigan. 

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