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Music from the Civil Rights Movement

Music from the Civil Rights Movement

To honor black history month, the White House put on a series of concerts in "Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement.” The roster of musicians included Bob Dylan, Jennifer Hudson, Smokey Robinson, and Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon. Reagon was one of the original Freedom Singers, a group of musicians that formed in the early 1960s who, through their music, organized young people and helped lay the foundation of the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Reagon is also one of the founding members of the all-women's group Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Toshi Reagon is the daughter of Bernice and, like her mother, she has pursued a meaningful music career. Toshi performs across the country and has recorded at least 10 CDs. If you can remember the last episode of S4 of TLW, Toshi sang on the beach with Kit and crew (while Jenny set sail with her dog in a life boat). Velvetpark put Toshi on the cover of our second issue way back in the day, so when I was scrolling through the WhiteHouse.gov website last week and saw Toshi singing with her mom in front of POTUS, I emailed her immediately to ask how she got there.

Our chat was a totally enlightening discussion for me, as Toshi put into perspective the meaning of the music of the Civil Rights era:

Moon: Toshi! how did you get to play for the President and the First Family at the White House?

Toshi: They have been doing a series of concerts at the White House that reflect music that has built America. I think this is the fifth one.

This concert was a celebration of music from the Civil Rights Movement. They asked my mom, and she asked me, and she told them that there were still three singers alive from the SNCC Freedom Singers.
 
Moon: Did they all go too?

Toshi: Yes, my father [Cordell Hull Reagon] was the fourth member, but he is dead. My mom brought the other two remaining members Charles Neblett and Rutha Harris.
 
Moon: What song did you perform?

Toshi: We sang "(Ain't Gonna let Nobody) Turn Me Around."

Moon: Wow... What did it mean to you — to get invited to the White House and to play for the first family and to spotlight this era of American History?