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Four-day musical event planned to honor sacrifices, ongoing work for justice

by The Black Wall Street Times
no tears suite fayetteville

“No Tears Suite” at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

FAYETTEVILLE, AR.– Oxford American, in collaboration with Fayetteville Roots, University of Arkansas Center for Multicultural & Diversity Education, Tulsa’s Vernon AME Church, and The Woody Guthrie Center announced a four-day community experience culminating around two live performances of the No Tears Suite in Fayetteville, AR and Tulsa, OK on September 23 – 26, 2021.

All events are free to attend. Registration information and event times will be announced in early September.

Events in Fayetteville and Tulsa

The events begin in Fayetteville, AR on Thursday, September 23, with an evening community workshop and panel discussion at the Fayetteville Public Library moderated by staff from the University of Arkansas Center for Multicultural & Diversity Education. On Friday, September 24, musicians from the No Tears Suite ensemble will host a morning music master class at the Fayetteville Public Library for University of Arkansas and area high school music and jazz students. That evening, the No Tears Suite will be performed at the Fayetteville Public Library.

On Saturday, September 25, on the 64th anniversary of Little Rock Central High School’s desegregation, the event will relocate to Tulsa, OK for a community potluck at Vernon AME Church in the Greenwood Community of Tulsa. Hosted by the Rev. Dr. Robert Turner, the potluck will be an outdoor affair on the lawn of Vernon AME followed by a performance of No Tears Suite in the historic sanctuary. On Sunday, September 26, a panel discussion and workshop, “Teaching Truth to Power,” will be held at the Woody Guthrie Center. 

No Tears Suite

Presented originally in 2017 by Oxford American, the No Tears Suite, written by Little Rock jazz pianist Christopher Parker and vocalist Kelley Hurt, is a monumental ode to the Little Rock Nine and was performed at Central High School National Historic Site in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Little Rock Central High School’s integration. In this reprisal, Parker and Hurt will be joined by five exceptional jazz artists, including GRAMMY-winning jazz drummer Brian Blade, in addition to Bobby LaVell (tenor saxophone), Roland Guerin (bass), Marc Franklin (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Chad Fowler (baritone and alto saxophone). The Suite honors the sacrifices and ongoing work of all those who strive to build a more just and equal society.

“I’m humbled that the No Tears Suite and residency programs will be presented in Fayetteville and Tulsa in 2021, especially in collaboration with such meaningful partners,” said Ryan Harris of the Oxford American. “While we never imagined that five years after conception we would still be presenting this project, No Tears’ enduring appeal speaks to a deeper importance in the music’s message—one that transcends mere entertainment.”

About Oxford American

Founded in 1992, the Oxford American (OA) is a nonprofit arts organization whose mission is to explore the complexity and vitality of the American South through exceptional writing, music, and visual art. Visit OxfordAmerican.org for more information.

“The Suite’s power lies in its ability to synthesize the past with the present. The programs bring communities together in a non-threatening way—in this case, using history and music—to facilitate the sometimes difficult personal reflection and conversations about civil rights that can inspire us all to keep working towards equality,” Harris added.

“The No Tears Suite immediately drew me in because of its power to tell the Little Rock Nine story through song. It was immediately clear to me that Chris Parker and Kelley Hurt and the team at Oxford American had created an important musical narrative of the Little Rock Nine and their heroic efforts to desegregate Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The original piece of music is not only vital to the Little Rock community but will impact Northwest Arkansas and beyond,” said Bryan Hembree, Co-Founder of Fayetteville Roots & Director of Arts & Culture for the UA Center for Multicultural & Diversity Education.

Fayetteville Roots

Fayetteville Roots is a 501(c)3 organization with a mission to connect community through music and food. It produces the Fayetteville Roots Festival, operates the Roots HQ (a historic venue on the Fayetteville Square), fosters support opportunities for musicians and the music community, and leads year-round music and food community and educational programming in Northwest Arkansas and beyond.

“In the Multicultural Center and Student Affairs we are thrilled to engage in this collaboration that commemorates the Little Rock Nine and celebrates the bravery and dignity of those young leaders who pursued justice in education. This is a dynamic programming and events series that creates wonderful opportunities for our students and community to honor the rich voice of jazz music in civil rights activism, past and present,” said Leslie Yingling, Associate Dean of Students and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Success and Multicultural Initiatives, Division of Student Affairs.

Vernon AME

“I am honored to have Vernon AME host this concert in September and to collaborate with so many community partners and organizations. Music is a healing balm and has been an important pillar of our church from our earliest congregations to today.  The tone and timbre of No Tears Suite will resonate in our sanctuary and in our community,” said Reverend Dr. Robert Turner of Vernon AME.

“Woody knew the power that comes from building a positive, supportive community. We are proud to join with our friends from Arkansas and Greenwood to unify our communities and honor the young freedom fighters who fearlessly integrated Central High School,” said Deana McCloud, Woody Guthrie Center Executive Director.

A comprehensive event schedule and ticketing details will be released in early September and can be found at fayettevilleroots.org. In addition to the collaborative presenting organizations, this free event series is made possible through the in-kind, community support of North Arkansas Jazz Society, Greenwood Cultural Center, and Fayetteville Public Library. No Tears Suite’s creation and ongoing artistic presentation is supported by these generous funding organizations: Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative, National Park Service, and Central High School National Historic Site.

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