Racism, Reconciliation, and the Blues

A lecture and concert featuring Phil Wiggins and George Kilby Jr.

Read recommendations from educators that have utilized this program in their curriculum

Though Phil and George reside on the East Coast, they were raised in the South; and their families’ Southern traditions are a big part of who they are today.    Both the Wiggins and the Kilby families originate from the state of Alabama.  Spending much of their respective childhoods there during the civil rights era gave Phil and George a unique perspective on racism which made a lasting impression.   However, they are certainly proud of their heritage and formative years in the deep South and its rich creative culture.  With their music and this Lecture/Concert, the artists are are writing the next chapter in the story of the birthplace of the blues, jazz, and early rock and roll.

Phil and George are proud to present a program of music, American history, Racism, and an insightful look at their Southern heritage. Included in the program are early American work songs and a discussion of the African influence on early music.  They take a close look at the blues and how it developed from “Race Music” to Rock and Roll. This leads to a discussion on racism and our divisive nature, citing both cultural factors and the power of our fear of the unknown.  As well, the artists perform and discuss their own music.   They feel that music can be a healing factor and a key factor in the reconciling our differences, whether they are racial, political or cultural.

Songs:
1.  Lining Track (Traditional) or Take this Hammer (Leadbelly)
2. Baby, please Don’t Go (Muddy Waters)
3. Big Boss Man (Jimmy Reed)
4. Nadine  (Chuck Berry)
5.  Black Man on the Corner  (George Kilby Jr)
6. You Never See the Hand throw the Stone (George Kilby Jr)
7.  Forgiveness  (Phil Wiggins)

Synopsis of Spoken Word:

Field Hollers and work songs are the beginnings of true American music. The a cappella nature of these songs mirrors African tradition.  The African influence and the emphasis on the bent or “blue” note underscores the difference between the way European ears and African ears heard music. This was one reason for the development of “white” and “black” music.  The 12-blues form as well as the relationship of tonic, sub dominant, and dominant chords became the basis for rock and roll.  Social themes of songs from this period are discussed.

The background of each artist is individually related.  The artists were born into fairly typical Southern families.  In Kilby’s case, his upbringing could create racist tendencies,  whereas separatism and resentment might result from a background like that of Wiggins.  Personal examples from their early years are discussed.  While economics and politics were a definite factor, the division between Black and White, like that of Christian and Muslim, often result from our fear of the unknown.  Social and spiritual leaders such as MLK and the Buddah and discussed, citing their processes of reconciliation by listening to, understanding, and having compassion for those who are different.  The artists conclude by discussing how listening and learning from others is so important, but often difficult in the age of digital media.  When we understand how to listen an learn from each other, we can begin to forgive each other and ourselves, and work toward the end of racism.