OMAHA PERFORMING ARTS

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Watching Summer of Soul and Thinking About a New Season at O-pa

Posted On Sep 1, 2021, 13:58 PM by Sarah Kosch

We’ll admit it: there’s a hint of fall in the air, but we’re still enjoying every bit of summer we can. In fact, we’re watching Summer of Soul on Hulu. The footage of the epic 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival in this new documentary directed by Questlove calls to mind a few things about our own season.

Of course we can’t think outdoor music without thinking about Holland Center Outdoors, where St. Paul & The Broken Bones will be playing their own version of soul music on Sept. 15 and jazz icon Raul Midón will take us on an electric adventure on Sept. 24. The gospel music in the documentary calls to mind shows like Joyful Noise and the Latin jazz portion reminds us of Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra.

But most importantly, it reminds us off our hopes and goals for Voices AMPLIFIED! — the multidisciplinary arts and social justice initiative we launched in 2020 to amplify the voices of diverse artists and showcase the richness of cultures that have been historically marginalized.

The Harlem Cultural Festival was long overshadowed by Woodstock in the history books, and the footage of the festival was nearly forgotten. Questlove saw an opportunity to correct history through filmmaking. In an interview about Summer of Soul, Questlove talks about how important the festival video footage is because it showcases a side of history that is all too easily overlooked when people think about the cultural shifts and conflicts of the civil rights movement.

“It’s Black joy,” he says. “There are different facets of our lives that need to be shown as well.”

Watching legends like Gladys Knight, Sly and the Family Stone or 19-year old Stevie Wonder coming into his own, the joy is undeniable. This treasure could have continued unseen, and what a loss that would have been.

We hope our work with Voices AMPLIFIED! can do similar work to elevate artists and their work in social justice through live music, dance, and spoken word. The 21/22 Season will be focused on Black and Latinx voices and kicks off on Sept. 16 with a free celebration of Mexican Independence Day.

The series will feature a free community event with local and national touring artists every month through June 2022 such as a viewing of another important documentary — 20 Feet From Stardom along with a panel discussion about the unsung stories of legendary Black backup singers like Lisa Fischer, who made a powerful contribution to the music of Sting, the Rolling Stones and others. Lisa Fischer will also be taking center stage at the Holland Center on May 26, 2022 to share her heartfelt music live! Explore the Voices AMPLIFIED! lineup and stay tuned for more details as the season upfolds. It may be the end of summer, but there is plenty more to look forward to and to celebrate.