The Black Legacy Project is using music to create a safe space to talk race
The late civil rights leader, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words “I have a dream” will be commemorated this summer. August 28 marks the 60th anniversary of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 in Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, closer to home, King's words on the beloved community have been on the hearts and minds of musicians.
Recently, the Black Legacy Project brought together Black and white artists in the Atlanta area to record present-day interpretations of songs central to the Black American experience. The project, produced by the nonprofit Music in Common, has been traveling to several cities in the country to create music.
The Black Legacy Project is the brainchild of Trey Carlisle and Todd Mack.
“We worked with some fantastic local musicians, and they were tasked with re-imagining two songs written by local artists,” Mack said. “One song is called 'Let It Be Me' by the Indigo Girls, and the other is 'Each Generation' by Arrested Development. The theme in Atlanta was building 'the beloved community,' and the project launched took place around the 55th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination and funeral. And we were looking at how you build the beloved community that he envisioned, 55 years after his passing. Some really meaningful conversations came out of those roundtable discussions. And the musicians really brought some new light to the songs that really spoke to the theme in very powerful ways.”
As this country continues to battle its way through race and culture wars, Mack and Carlisle say these workshops are a safe space to talk using the universal language of music.
“I feel like part of the reason there are these culture wars and race wars is because there are two sides basically chanting their mantra and not actually listening to the other side,” Mack said. “I think if you can provide a space where people can feel heard and can communicate their thoughts in a way that is respectful, it actually helps people see their shared humanity and their common ground.”
The Black Legacy Project co-creator Carlisle, a rapper, singer and songwriter who plays guitar, drums and piano, said he is always moved by watching diverse musicians come together.
“Watching musicians who have never worked with each other before," he said, "being able to express not only their calls and their desires for change but interpret these songs and calls for change that have been written by songwriters and activists over time, it's been really beautiful to see these musicians be deeply moved by these songs.”
Trey Carlisle and Todd Mack are the creators of the Black Legacy Project. The music that was created in Atlanta will be available early next year.