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. 

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Watch American Black Journal on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on Detroit PBS, WTVS-Channel 56.