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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Harvey Wilhelm
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Young, Gifted and Black Gospel Choir continues gospel tradition at Grinnell

The Young, Gifted and Black Gospel Choir rehearses under the direction of Barry Jones. Photo by Shabana Gupta.

Young, Gifted and Black Gospel Choir (YGB) is a one-credit course directed by Barry Jones that meets every Wednesday from seven to eight p.m. The group was formally started in 1973 by founding members Milton Rolland and Gwendolyn Moore. Since then, it has grown and fluctuated in size, with over 30 members currently enrolled.

Over the years, YGB has evolved to welcome anybody who would like to join, regardless of race or level of identification with Christianity.

“Everyone can participate even though it’s called Young, Gifted and Black. Of course, we have to celebrate the people who started YGB and the reason they started YGB for, but now we welcome everyone to share this black space with us,” said Diana Kay Chege ’22.

“Young, Gifted and Black was created in a time when students were questioning their belonging on campus’ that were predominantly white because it had been only a few years since colleges were desegregated and so it was made to affirm the students and it still does that today.” said Kedamawit Habte ’21.

Now, it has become a space for people “to enjoy singing uplifting positive songs,” said Habte.
“In the middle of a busy week it’s nice to sit back and reflect because even in rehearsal, I feel like that’s still worship. I just really enjoy having the opportunity to be a part of a group. I look forward to it every week,” said biology professor Dr. Charvann Bailey, the only faculty member to sing with the group.

“Wednesdays would be right in the middle of the week so there would be a lot of times where I would be like ‘Oh, another week’ and I would just be so stressed and I would be mentally done. I would go at seven regardless and think, ‘You know, there is life after this.’ You get so into the Grinnell bubble that taking that break and reminding myself that … I am still loved by God and I am still a part of this larger Christian or YGB community, has been really helpful for me,” said Habte.

They expressed that YGB reminds them of experiences with the churches that they grew up in and the gospel that they listened to. “I feel more at home whenever I go on Wednesdays and also its filled with people who share things I share, culture even, maybe from afar, but still share that, so I feel like they really understand what I feel. When we sing together it’s like a piece of home.” said Chege.

“I’ve been singing in gospel choirs most of my life although I have not sung in a choir in quite a while … my first semester here they had a concert during the multicultural alumni weekend and that was amazing. It was a very emotional experience for me because it brought back all these memories of singing in a choir and I really enjoyed having that camaraderie with the people in the choir with that type of community,” said Bailey.

YGB performs at Black Church service in Herrick Chapel the second Sunday of every month.
“Come to black church, too, it’s very open. Even if you are not Christian, you could always come and listen to music.” said Chege.

Every semester, YGB has a concert in Sebring-Lewis Hall that they develop a repertoire for throughout the semester.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Chege, “We have very good soloists. I like the music because it’s very lively. Everyone is singing at the same time together that you can feel the energy of the room go up. Even if you’ve never heard it or connect with the values you’re just like, wow, the unity there is amazing.”

Habte encourages people to come out and show support regardless of religion or lack thereof.
“I feel like we really sound good so I feel like people should come and listen … I think more people should attend [because] it’s a good time and to support your fellow students on campus who are sharing their talents.” said Habte.

Young, Gifted and Black Gospel Choir’s fall concert will be held in Sebring-Lewis Hall this Saturday, Nov. 23, at 4 p.m. No tickets required.

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