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Celebrating African American History With Song In Boston

BOSTON (CBS) - Celebrating African American history in song.

It's a Black History Month event courtesy of the Hawthorne Community Chorus in Roxbury. For four months this intergenerational group of amateur singers has been getting ready for a very special performance, and learning a history lesson they want to share.

The idea is to invite volunteers without a lot of singing experience to learn songs that commemorate and celebrate the Black experience, from Africa, through slavery, to the songs of freedom. There are no professionals, just earnest voices wanting to be heard.

"We're coming together as a community, young and old alike," says Deborah Jones, one of the volunteers.

When we met them, the chorus was rehearsing in a cramped room at the Dudley Branch Library. They've met every week since October.

"It makes me want to learn more and learn more about the songs," says Jeffrey Huggins.

"I like everything about it. I like meeting the people, singing. I get a history lesson plus singing and learning new songs," adds Patricia Hecker.

They're preparing 10 songs that they'll perform at a special Black History Month concert. Songs including Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Follow the Drinking Gourd, I'm On My Way and We Shall Overcome.

"I don't call it just black history. I call it American history, but with the influence of the African culture," says Barbara Sanford Epps, the director of the group. "The music needs to be kept alive and remembered. There's a message of hope, a message of unity, a message of a better life that we all deserve," she adds.

"We want to project the spirit that we're feeling onto the audience as well as teaching them about the meaning behind these songs," says chorus member Deborah Jones.

The Hawthorne Community Chorus will show us all what they've learned in a concert on Saturday, Feb. 16, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Dudley Branch of the Boston Public Library. The event is free and also features a community conversation about the songs.

The Hawthorne Community Center can be reached here, at 617-427-0613

For a listing of other Black History Month events in Boston, check the website.

If you know about people making a difference in their communities, let us know. Email Ken Tucci at


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