Women’s History Month 2014: Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon

14 Mar

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to one of my personal heroes, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon.  In 1973, Reagon founded the  a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock. Johnson Reagon started her music/social work career before Sweet Honey in the Rock.  She was a type of community organizer and performed with The Freedom Singers in her hometown of Albany, Georgia. The Freedom Singers was, in part, formed by Johnson Reagon’s husband, Cordell Reagon. How amazing and lovely that Cordell and Bernice were friends with Pete Seeger, who helped to support the founding of The Freedom Singers.

I was first introduced to Sweet Honey in the Rock in 1991 at the Black Arts Festival at Piedmont Park, in Atlanta, Georgia. After hearing them perform Ella’s SongI went out and bought all of their albums and went to every concert when they came to Atlanta. Reagon earned her doctorate at Howard University and became a strong voice in the Civil Rights movement. Reagon has dedicated her life to issues of social justice and the intersections of oppression. Reagon, through her music, addresses issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, and the intersections of oppression.  She reached many of us dedicated to civil rights through song:

I learned that if you bring black people together, you bring them together with a song. To this day, I don’t understand how people think they can bring anybody together without a song…I came out of the Civil Rights Movement, and I had a different kind of focus than most people who have just the academic background as their primary training experience.

I am fortunate enough to stand on the shoulders of greatness, including Dr. Johnson Reagon.  Her work and the music of Sweet Honey in the Rock inform how I live my life and how I teach.

For me, Dr. Johnson Reagon is a musical social worker: “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”

8 Responses to “Women’s History Month 2014: Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon”

  1. momshieb March 14, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

    Oh, how I love “Sweet Honey in the Rock”!!! My fifth graders listen to them almost every day. That beautiful, deep, rich, harmonic message. We agree with you: a woman (and women) to be greatly admired!

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt March 14, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

      It warms my heart to know that your fifth graders are listening and appreciating Sweet Honey in the Rock! Peace, Michael.

  2. Central Oregon Coast NOW March 14, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

    Reblogged this on Central Oregon Coast NOW.

  3. IdealisticRebel March 14, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    Reblogged this on idealisticrebel.

  4. IdealisticRebel March 14, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

    You have a powerful post here. I also look forward to getting to know you better. Hugs, Barbara

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt March 15, 2014 at 7:33 am #

      Thank you, Barbara. I look forward to getting to knowing you better as well. Peace, Michael

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