CBMR Digest is a publication of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago

ISSN # 2168-3301spring 2013 | Volume 26, No. 1

CBMR Partners with the Neighborhood Writing Alliance

On April 9, 2013, the CBMR hosted an open house and writer’s workshop in partnership with the Neighborhood Writing Alliance of Chicago (NWA). NWA encourages dialogue, builds community, and promotes change by creating opportunities for adults in Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods to write, publish, and perform works about their lives. These works are published in the award-winning Journal of Ordinary Thought.

The CBMR partnered with NWA as its members explored the theme “Neighborhood Rhythms” using the CBMR Library and Archives to examine the intersections of music, history, personal identity, community, and place. CBMR staff introduced over twenty writer-participants to a wealth of materials through the use of curated, multi-media research stations. Most of the materials shared had strong connections to Chicago music history. Writers learned, for example, about the Chicago gospel music industry, about Chicago-based composer Florence Price, community activist and path-breaking soul and R&B DJ Richard Stamz, and organizations such as the National Association of Negro Musicians and its Chicago branches and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. After working in the library, the participants were greeted by CBMR Executive Director. (Note that this video clip also includes a reading by Sharon Warner of her poem “Hidden Treasure,” which she wrote during the workshop and which is reproduced below.)

Participants used the second half of the workshop to free write, reflecting on new content knowledge, but also on the essential connections between writing and research. Nearly all participants shared their writing, which was in turn poignant, funny, and insightful. Sharon Warner and David Nekimken were two NWA writers inspired by the depth of materials and knowledge housed at the CBMR:

My visit to the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College was so eye-opening and encouraging. There is so much to see, hear, and learn. I must come back again and again.

—Sharon F. Warner

Hidden Treasure

There is so much more to Black music
Than anyone ever heard.
Rhythm and blues used to be called “race music.”
Now tell me, what’s in a word?

Way back in the Sistine Chapel,
In the Michelangelo days,
Vicente Lusitano
Was composing songs of praise.

The first published book of Black music
Contained the songs of slaves.
This is the kind of treasure
That CBMR saves.

From handwritten notes of composers
To sheet music, records, and discs,
They symbolize so much talent,
So much courage and danger and risks.

The Center for Black Music Research
Has pages, recordings, and shelves.
And it’s a little-known treasure,
So much like the archives themselves.

—Sharon F. Warner (April 9, 2013)
Columbia College Chicago, M.A., 1983
Reprinted with permission of the author.

Neighborhood Music Man

Up and down the city streets
Through Southside neighborhoods
Familiar sight of Richard Stamz
Songs from Sound Merchandiser
Ads on truck for local politicians
Rooftop speakers blaring records
Of undiscovered local musicians.

Open the door, Richard
“Open the door and let me in…
Richard, why don’t you open that door”

Opening the private genius
Of innovative home musicians
From neighborhood exposure
To greater public recognition.

Richard, give ‘em soul, Richard
“Blues with a feelin’
That’s what I have today”

Sing the melodies of down and out
The struggles of the daily grind
Let those people in their Downtown suites
Hear the Southside spirit soul.

Open the door, Richard
“I got 29 ways just to get to my baby’s door…
And if the goin’ get rough I got a hole in the wall”

Daily dramas of love and romance
Plaintive cries of “done my wrong”
Triangles and broken circles
Affection from one’s caring soul.

Richard, give’ em soul, Richard
“Dry bones in the valley…
And the bones begin to rise”

Friends and family may be poor
And not enough to eat
Rich inside with inner will
To sing aloud a grateful life.

Up and down the city street
Through Southside neighborhoods
Day and night a music man
Advertising politicians
Introducing home musicians
Entertaining folks in the ’hood
Remembering a bygone era.

—David Nekimken (May 20, 2013)
Chicago, Illinois
Reprinted with permission of the author.

All song lyrics quoted in “Neighborhood Music Man” are from the following songs, in order:

  • “Open the Door, Richard” by Dusty Fletcher
  • “Blues with a Feeling” by Jacobs “Little” Walter
  • “Twenty-Nine Ways (To My Baby’s Door)” by Willie Dixon
  • “Dry Bones” by Rev. C. L. Franklin

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