Songs of Freedom gives students an educational and entertaining insight into African Diaspora culture through an interactive presentation exploring the musical contributions that people of different faiths and cultures have contributed to Black history and social justice.
An initiative of Overture with the Arts (OWTA), Songs of Freedom presents a linear narrative that explores the history of injustice and the history of music. The presentation compares and contrasts the injustices of the past with those of the present, as well as the development of musical genres through the eras. It delves into concepts of the human condition throughout history and their evolution along with music.
The program conveys that there is only one human race; there are different skin colours, hair textures and cultures. Black history is a part of the collective human history and collective heritage: the one human history.
Songs of Freedom was inspired by the power of music and a void that existed in teaching history and sociology. Too often, educators must use traditional mediums to convey serious, complicated ideas and, as a result, students often feel detached and alienated by the content they are discussing and learning. This program allows students to see themselves as part of the ongoing narrative and to demystify race, which is presented as a construct of human conflict, and a result of archaic socio-economic systems. The format incorporates critical thinking, academic focus and contemporary music to make the educational process more appealing.
February is Black History Month in Canada, but social justice issues, history lessons and community ethics need to be shared year-round. The Songs of Freedom tour enables students to take ownership of Black history as a part of their collective Canadian history, regardless of language, culture or ethnicity.
Songs of Freedom uses music to unveil the similarities in human experience and to show that 'race' is myth: humans are all one race; however, they have different cultures and complexions.
As opposed to a dramatization, the program offers historical narratives of music as a tool for communication, resistance and social justice.
Songs of Freedom describes how drum rhythms were used to communicate messages over vast distances; defines and emphasizes the importance of Negro spirituals; explains the Middle Passage of slavery and the deliberate eradication of language, literature, culture and social structure, and explains that the only surviving cultural and social thread is music. It also highlights key movements in Canadian Black history, including slavery and the Underground Railroad.
Throughout the presentations spoken word, original video and original musical performances are intertwined with archival video footage, lectures and timeless music.
Many students and educators do not even understand why there is a month dedicated to Black history; furthermore, they see it as something that emphasizes difference and allocates guilt. OWTA's goal was to do something different for Black History Month by taking these concepts and reversing them.
Songs of Freedom presents the study of Black history as a pivotal and crucial part of human history. Students from all cultural backgrounds are encouraged to take ownership of the fact that, as human beings, Black history is a hidden and ignored part of their own history. To understand the common state of politics, economy, music and social justice, one must take a look at the portion of human history concerning people of African descent.
Making a Difference
Canada is a developing mosaic founded on a unique set of values promoting respect and tolerance. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians and guarantees their freedoms.
Students are challenged through Songs of Freedom to question their civic duty and the value of their Canadian identity and to examine contributions from others who make up the mosaic.
It will embark on a national tour in 2015 and visit about 30 schools over the course of 28 days.
The main challenge of the project is to inspire students to make a difference within their communities. Other important logistical challenges include booking and coordinating performance times within each school's curriculum.
Vision for the Future
The long-term goal of Songs of Freedom is to empower youth nationally and internationally as they continue to have an intercultural dialogue and promote cultural diversity.
About Overture with the Arts
Overture with the Arts is a non-profit organization based in Montreal that offers education in music, dance, drama and vocal training. Its free and low-cost training enables young people with limited financial resources to pursue their passion for the performing arts. Through after-school programs and school tours, OWTA youth find a creative outlet for self-expression that helps build their confidence and poise.
OWTA has been giving youth in Montreal and Toronto access to the arts for five years. It received the 2014 Montreal Community Cares Award in the Community Organization Category in recognition of its work.
Best Practice Contact
Overture with the Arts
610-480 Boul. Galland
Dorval, QC H9S 5Y2