By Liz Lennox, WPAUMC Communications Staff
Nearly 80 people gathered at Dutilh UMC in Cranberry Twp. on Feb. 28 for I Go On Singing: Paul Robeson’s Life in His Words and Songs, a multimedia musical presentation written by Andrew Flack and performed by Anthony Brown. Brown’s rich baritone voice combined with piano accompaniment, narration, and photo/video archival footage made for an entertaining yet profoundly moving look at the life of singer, actor, and activist Paul Robeson.
Anthony Brown is a Western Pennsylvania native and member of the ecumenical Wrestling with Racism group formed by members of Warren UMC and First Church UMC in Pittsburgh. For more than a decade, Brown has performed this show all over the world to promote peace and reconciliation through his music, but despite his Pittsburgh area roots, he had never been invited to perform the show in Western Pennsylvania.
This knowledge prompted the Pittsburgh District Antiracism Team to invite Brown to perform his show during Black History Month. Thanks to a generous donation from the Don, Sr. and Louise Blinn Family Trust, the team was able to sponsor the event.
“Pittsburgh ART strategically decided to use a variety of mediums this year to promote antiracist behaviors and assist in the charge to dismantle racism in our district and conference,” explained co-chair Jay Pendleton. “The team believed that I Go On Singing... would provide an out of the box experience that would both educate and entertain potential attendees.”
On his website, Anthony Brown explains his passion for telling Paul Robeson’s story.
I Go On Singing follows the life of Paul Robeson from birth to death, not only highlighting his numerous achievements and capabilities but also his struggles. Despite his meteoric rise to fame, Robeson endured racist violence and government retribution in response to his activism. Brown uniquely tells Robeson's story by pairing popular songs such as "Ol' Man River" and "Wade in the Water" with spoken narration, enriching historical fact with deep emotion.
"Paul Robeson has been an inspiration to me since my childhood years. Our home came alive with the sound of his recordings, and my parents would speak of this man in such glowing and heartfelt ways that conveyed their greatest admiration and deepest respect. When I was old enough to question things on my own, my opinion of him was only strengthened. Here was an African American man, "the tallest tree in the forest," who had not only the intellect and command of language, but also the courage to stand up and speak out for what he believed. He paid a dear price for his actions, but his courageous life would pave the way for the emergence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and many others. In fact, as I now travel the world singing and speaking out for peace and justice, I am reminded that Paul Robeson paved the way for me."
Critical Race Theory (CRT) has increasingly found itself in the forefront of political and race conversations over the past two years. Opponents and proponents of the theory have created divisive spaces as they have attempted to provide their respective stakeholders with a tangible understanding of what CRT is--and what it is not. To commemorate Women's History Month and highlight two of CRT's theoretical tenets, namely the importance of intersectionality and the power of storytelling, a mother and son duo will collaborate to provide a lasting object lesson on the applied goals and outcomes of the interdisciplinary framework.
Please join Pittsburgh ART as we work to unpack and demystify the current tensions between Critical Race Theory and the education system in the United States.