Peace Fellows Come Together to Host Unity Concert

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Team Coordinator

On Sunday, March 20th, five of our Chicago Peace Fellows came together to hold a Unity Concert. The event was filled with the sounds of singers and musicians from all sides of Chicago, dancing that made you move, and spoken word performances that touched your soul. Margaret Murphy-Webb, Marvinetta Woodley-Penn, Gloria Smith, Pastor Victoria Brady, and Angelina Zayas created this event through the Mutual Aid Collaborative.

Along with my colleague Yusuph Masanja, I recently sat down with the ladies of the Unity Concert to hear more about their experiences putting together this incredible concert.

Cree Noble: The Unity Concert is a part of the Mutual Aid Collaborative, what was your inspiration to create a concert and support the collaborative?

Margaret Murphy-Webb: The right music unifies people and speaks to anybody, any age, any background, no matter where you come from, the right kind of music will touch your heart, and it brings people together.

Gloria Smith: For me it was just an opportunity to work with these amazing folks.

Pastor Victoria Brady: I would say that all of us who did this, particularly Margaret, Marvinetta, and myself, all run arts programming and we know the power of music. Music is universal, music speaks peace, the music picks up where life leaves off. And so it makes sense that we would use music as a way to bring people together in a safe, nurturing, caring and fun celebratory environment. So it was a natural gravitation for us to use the power of music to promote unity, which is something that we were already doing anyway, and so by bringing those things together we ended up with the unity concert.

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Cree Noble: How were you able to get everyone to come out to the event?

Marvinetta Woodley-Penn: You choose the right people with the right energy and the right spirit, and people who want to be a part of something. And artists, particularly performing artists, to me are the best people in the world. And then you choose among those creatives to get the ones that have integrity so that's what we did.

Pastor Victoria Brady: Because of the city's restrictions and the COVID-19 situation we had to live-stream, but we did have some people attend in-person. Of course some of the performers were present, and Angelina Zayas did a great job making sure each organization that performed had their own sections, and we assured the performers that all safety precautions were in place. We really did everything we could think of to keep people safe, so I think the performance felt comfortable. And the audience was able to join us virtually, enjoying the music from their homes via Facebook, which is still available for people to view.

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Cree Noble: How is it working with Chicago legends like the legendary jazz singer Bobby Wilson (who performed at the Unity Concert) to also working with young people and upcoming stars. How was it working with both of those types of groups?

Marvinetta Woodley-Penn: It’s the intergenerational aspect. So for example, one of the young performers, Eva, said she as a little girl grew up in a global world. But for us the intergenerational thing is something that is part of our history, it is black culture which unfortunately we are losing amongst young people.

Gloria Smith: I agree intergenerational engagement is so important and exposing these young people to these artists. You know just planting seeds and giving them the opportunity to be in the same room, so that they can be exposed to all of this greatness.

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Cree Noble: Would you do this concert again and what would you do differently?

Margaret Murphy-Webb: This one was not as polished as I would have liked it to be. It'd be nice if we have that video from Africa as part of it.

Gloria Smith: I would love to do it again and I was just thinking...maybe we could do something around Kwanzaa.*

Pastor Victoria Brady: I think doing just a little bit more around unity itself; like every song has to be about unity or every song has to be about peace. I think the concert was beautiful. Though next time around we could take a little bit more time to talk about unity and what it really looks like. How do we promote unity and peace in the community? So maybe a little more narrative around that. And also hopefully being able to do it in person, when it's safe to do so.

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* Kwanzaa is an annual weeklong celebration held in the United States which celebrates and honors African heritage in African-American culture

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