It’s been more than 60 years since the Supreme Court ended “separate but equal” schools with the landmark Brown versus Board of Education decision. This year, the co-sponsors plan to create a special musical festival to commemorate the decision as well as Topeka’s prominent role in the modern civil rights movement.
The Brown Foundation (formally known as the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research), Go Topeka and Washburn University have gathered a number of partners to create Voices of Freedom: Now is the Time – a free, family-friendly musical event. Other partners for the event include Capital Federal Bank, Westar Energy, the Mulvane Art Museum, JHP Advertising, Sonic Music and the Washburn University Foundation.
“Topekans have marked the Brown v Board decision every May since 1954,” said Cheryl Brown Henderson, founding president of the Brown Foundation. “But we’ve never really incorporated music into such an ambitious celebration of both the milestone and the role the city and its citizens played in helping to end legal racial segregation.
“What’s more,” Brown Henderson said, “we realized that this anniversary also gave us a perfect opportunity to celebrate the rich mix of cultures in Topeka – a mix we thought we could celebrate best through music.”
The outgrowth is Voices of Freedom which is scheduled for May 20 on Kansas Ave in Downtown Topeka. The event will center on the block between 7th and 8th streets – coincidentally the block which is home to a statue of Ichabod Washburn, the benefactor and namesake of Washburn University.
“From its founding, Washburn University was determined to offer educational opportunities to the underserved – particularly women and African-Americans,” said Bruce Mactavish, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We agreed that it was time that more people in the community understood the history of this decision and how it’s connected with Topeka.
“And we also want to celebrate the value of diversity, inclusion and understanding of the cultural heritage of all Topekans,” he said.
The festival, which the sponsors hope to make an annual affair, will start at 2 p.m. and feature a variety of performances including folk, blues, gospel and rock interspersed with poetry and other readings.
Kelley Hunt, a native of Kansas City and an acclaimed singer/songwriter/musician will be the headliner with additional performances by Maria the Mexican, Isaac Cates & Ordained and Injunuity.
“I'm thrilled to be part of this event that celebrates this pivotal Supreme Court Decision," said Hunt. "Brown v Board's legacy is woven permanently into the fabric of our society and songwriters historically have sought to raise their voices and our collective consciousness on the great social issues.
"If I can give any positive voice in support of unity, diversity and equality embodied in Brown v. Board, I consider it a privilege," she said.
Kansas Avenue will be blocked off for the event and the stage will be set with the Capital Building as a backdrop. Those planning to attend are encouraged to bring lawn chairs so they can relax and enjoy the music, which is expected to last until 7 p.m. Alcohol will not be permitted within the festival area.
Ed Note – For more information, please visit the event page on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/events/444827372531524/
For information about the performers, you can go to their websites at:
Kelley Hunt – www.kelleyhunt.com
Maria the Mexican – www.mariathemexican.com
Isaac Cates & Ordained – www.isaaccatesmusic.com
Injunuity -- www.injunuity.net