“ROOTS Vol. 1” is a performance that follows the evolution of Black music from Africa to modern times. Curated by actress and singer, Greta Oglesby, the event features the sounds of the South during slavery, the emergence of jazz and blues, and the evolution of gospel. She says the performance acknowledges cultural classics that paved the way for Black folks to experience joy through moments of trial and tribulation. Oglesby says it serves as a reminder that Black storytelling is a potent form of healing and liberation.
“It's like, look where we were, but look where we are now,” she said. “And not that we don't still have a long way to go. But we have made some enormous strides.”
Oglesby says her desire to use her artistry to serve the community grew stronger in the wake of the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd. She asked herself, “Where is the joy?”
“A lot of times with such tragedies, such good comes out of it,” Oglesby reflected. “You harken back to the days of the civil rights movement, and how crazy and tough those times were. All the rioting, all the carting folks off the jail, it was just a horrific time for humanity. But some beautiful things came out of that.”
Ogelsby says creative expression is an act of love in Black culture that incorporates affirmation, reflection, and forgiveness. Oglesby says storytelling is the beauty within the pain of the Black experience.
“I thought, well, music is always powerful and transformative and healing and universal. And it always has a way of just kind of bringing folks together during times of difficulty and trauma.”
Roots, Vol. 1 will feature classic songs like Harry Burleigh’s “Motherless Child,” Abel Meeropol’s “Strange Fruit,” Billie Holiday’s “Lady Sings the Blues,” and more. Sanford Moore is the show’s music director. The event will also feature historical visuals from lighting director Cathy Matthew, a spiritual dance performance by Mercedes McCoy, and the Kingdom Life gospel ensemble. Oglesby says the gospel is a tribute to a childhood love of hers - the midnight musical.
“I grew up in church, my dad was a pastor. And I'm also married to a pastor, Dennis Oglesby. So growing up, we would go to something called a midnight musical. And we lived for those midnight musicals! The ensemble is going to process down the aisle with their robes on and I just think people are going to love it.”
The event starts at 2pm on June 24 and 4pm on June 25 at the Capri Theater in North Minneapolis.