A Celebration of the African American Experience at the Oxford Community Center

In honor of Black History Month, the Oxford Community Center partnered with Carpe Diem Arts and the John Wesley Preservation Society to design a “Celebration of the African American Experience.” The event on February 8th welcomes to the stage, historian Anthony Cohen, singer/songwriter Lea Morris and gospel ensemble “Friends in Faith” who combine to create an inspired evening of historical narrative and song.

Anthony Cohen is a renowned historian-storyteller and educator. A fourth-generation descendant of a runaway slave, Cohen is a noted explorer of the American slavery experience who retraced in an epic, two-month journey, one of the possible routes of the Underground Railroad, the secret network which thousands of slaves traveled to attain their freedom. Cohen began his trek in Sandy Spring, Maryland on May 4, 1996, traveling a distance of 1,200 miles by foot, boat and rail, and was shipped part of the way inside a wooden crate like Virginia fugitive Henry “Box” Brown – to his final destination of Amherstburg, Ontario on July 7, 1996. Following the success of his first journey, Cohen embarked on a second path in 1998, traveling three months from Mobile, Alabama to Windsor, Ontario—with his story appearing in numerous radio, television and print sources.

Cohen’s journey will be chronicled in a documentary, Patrick & Me: A Personal Journey on the Underground Railroad, to be released in 2019. Cohen is President of The Menare Foundation, a non-profit preserving the legacy of the Underground Railroad, and operates the Button Farm Living History Center, a farm depicting 1850’s plantation life in Maryland.

Internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter and recording artist Lea Morris describes her music as SoulFolk, a seamless blend of gospel, jazz, country, R&B and contemporary folk. Stylistically between the earthy tones of Tracy Chapman and the urban/ethereal sound of India.Arie, her music has been featured at the Kennedy Center, The Music Center at Strathmore, as well as other venues in the US and Europe. Lea has shared the stage with Dar Williams, Anthony Hamilton, Vivian Green, Mavis Staples and the legendary Odetta.

Lea performs at a far-ranging array of venues, including arts centers, universities, festivals, and places of worship. She is consistently acknowledged by the Washington Area Music Association as one of the region’s best vocalists, songwriters and recording artists. Lea will add the soulful expression of the African American experience through careful song selection telling the experiences sometimes only a song can express.

Friends in Faith is a musical group consisting of singers from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  The group was formed four years ago to sing as a “favor” for an event and have been singing ever since. The group’s soul stirring acapella sound embodies both traditional and contemporary gospel. Friends in Faith is made up of Dana Bowser (soprano), Tory Brown (tenor/bass), Dorine Fassett (alto), Tasia Fassett (soprano), Tramaine Hines (alto/tenor) and Zita Seals (alto).

“The energy behind an event like this is what inspires me every day at the OCC,” said Liza Ledford the Executive Director of the Oxford Community Center. “When we find partners that add quality content and thoughtful event design it supports OCC’s effort to create special evenings for all who attend.”

Busy Graham from Carpe Diem Arts added, “We are looking forward to sharing in a memorable evening of compelling stories and powerful songs from the Underground Railroad and the civil rights movement, featuring the extraordinary talents of Lea Morris, Tony Cohen and the Friends in Faith gospel singers.”

John Wesley Preservation Society Board President, Paula Bell stated, “We are excited to, once again, partner with The Oxford Community Center to provide an evening of music and information about black history in recognition of the important role they play in American culture.”

The event will take place on February 8th at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $10 with light refreshments and nibbles provided. To reserve your seat, visit oxfordcc.org or call 410-226-5904.

OCC offers free and low cost programs throughout the year, thanks to the generous annual fund donors and events. 63% of all events are offered for free. The money raised by programs goes directly towards serving our greater community with new educational programs, after school activities for kids, national speakers, concerts and more. The OCC is a non-profit organization focused on education and enrichment. Learn more about the Oxford Community Center at oxfordcc.org

Carpe Diem Arts is dedicated to serving diverse audiences with quality arts experiences, representing a broad range of cultural traditions and artistic disciplines. Activities include after-school programs, summer arts and language immersion camps, community dances, concert series, monthly family sings, cultural enrichment programs and residencies in schools, ukulele classes, and performance opportunities for all ages — in both the greater Washington DC area and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Carpe Diem partners with other area non-profits to expand the organization’s reach and deepen its impact, bringing the arts to life in ways that matter and make a difference in building stronger living-learning communities. carpediemarts.org

The mission of the John Wesley Preservation Society is to restore and maintain the culturally significant church, cook shop, cemetery and grounds, and raise money to support and manage this work. The Society develops and promotes educational and cultural programs and public displays, and historical and archaeological research related to the historical significance of the site, consistent with State, Federal, local and grant guidelines and requirements for such sites. johnwesleychurch.org

This event is sponsored in part by the Dock Street Foundation and the Talbot County Arts Council, with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council.

More information about Anthony Cohen at menare.org and Lea Morris at thisislea.com

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