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“Black Music in The Fight For Civil Rights” to be performed

Damani Phillips will perform on the saxophone and vocals. contributed photo

by Mayo Sueta

Damani Phillips will perform on the saxophone and vocals. contributed photo

On Monday Feb. 26 from 8 to 9 p.m., the Harris Cinema will be featuring “Black Music in The Fight for Civil Rights,” a musical performance and presentation addressing the relationship between African American music and the Civil Rights movement.

Damani Phillips, associate professor at the University of Iowa School of Music, came up with the idea for this program when the Office of Communications at the University of Iowa requested “a program that discussed how jazz intersected with the fight for civil rights in the United States” for their MLK day celebration in 2014. Then, Katy Zart, program adviser at the Office of Intercultural Affairs at the College, stumbled across the performance at a conference and decided that the program would be a great one to bring on campus. 

“I was at a conference, actually, around civil rights in Iowa, and Damani had performed … so [the performance on Feb. 26 will be] the same exact performance that I saw back in October, and I thought it was really cool and I thought it would be perfect for Black History month, and so I reached out to Damani and it was really awesome because … he used to work here at Grinnell College. … He told me … he would be thrilled to come back and do this performance,” Zart said.

Phillips believes that examining African American music when thinking about significant African American cultural movements, such as the Civil Rights movement, is essential.

“While commonly thought of as separate, yet connected entities, Af-Am culture and Af-Am music are legitimately one and the same,” Phillips wrote in an email to The S&B. “To truly gain an understanding of one, it is absolutely essential that the other is closely examined. In that sense, it is difficult to examine any major elements of Af-Am culture or its major cultural movements without, too, examining the trajectory and nature of the music being produced at the same time.”

He hopes that the audience leave with “a different kind of ‘ear’” that is able to understand that music is not only a source of entertainment but also a reflection of “the culture from which it emanates.”

“If all goes as I hope, that new ‘ear’ will be extended to the music we listen to in contemporary society as well; and perhaps come to shape our expectations for the music and musicians we currently choose to listen to,” he wrote.

Phillips will give a presentation and then perform on the saxophone and vocals along with Rob Ankum, vocals and guitar; David Altemeier, bass; and Mike Woods, drums. With all the ingredients to make a great performance, this is one not to miss.

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