Freedom Songs
Rhetoric studies major Dorothy Mukasa '19 (at microphone) performs at last semester's Freedom Songs event in March 2017.

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Photography by Nhi Cao ’20

Freedom Songs, Whitman College's annual concert promoting racial justice, extends its reach this year to include a wider range of participants. The event, which features numbers by popular artists of color, takes place at 8 p.m. on Wednesday at Harper Joy Theatre.

"When it comes to a social movement, you can't just have minority voices in order to have change," said Dorothy Mukasa '19, the creative director. "Those voices are a great start and have to be supported, but to have change within a culture, you need to have both the voices of the minority and the majority," added the rhetoric studies major.

Kazi Joshua, vice president for diversity and inclusion, agreed. "Martin Luther King Jr. said that we are connected to each other, that whatever affects one indirectly affects another directly. So a diverse and inclusive community means everybody who is at Whitman is included," he said. By featuring students "of many backgrounds, of many religions, of many origins," Freedom Songs "captures the best of what a diverse and inclusive community can become," he continued, "in a space that is egalitarian in nature" and that doesn't make people feel "accused or defensive." The event "fits into a large trajectory of continuous engagement with difference, inclusion and equity" at Whitman.

Gavin James-Beckham '20, a member of the Testostertones, an a cappella group, appreciates the opportunity to join the musical conversation. "As a mostly white, all-male group, it's essential to show that we support the recognition of minority influences in art and the importance of diversity and the diversity of expression."

The theme for Freedom Songs this year revolves around the question: What does freedom mean to you? Performers include several a cappella groups and the Freedom Singers, among others, as well as spoken-word poets. Tunes span "Borders" by M.I.A., "Holy War" by Alicia Keys and "Black Gold" by Esperanza Spalding. Freedom Songs also incorporates dance, an "expression of freedom in a way" through "passion and energy," said Samarah Uribe Mendez '20, co-head of the Dance Team. Freedom Zine continues to accompany the show in print and online; editor in chief Esther Ra '19, an English major, also widened the range of submitters as another way "to overcome boundaries and divisions," she said.

Freedom Songs was envisioned by Joel Ponce '16 and organized by him and Jess Faunt '17. It earned a 2016 Ben Rabinowitz Award, which assists students with demonstrated leadership skills who wish to implement new projects or learning opportunities that promote compassion in politics or medicine.