What started as a thesis project at Humboldt State University has turned into this area’s newest choir.
HSU Master of Social Work student Valetta Molofsky’s thesis delves into decolonization and collaboration. The work led her to found the HC (Humboldt County) Black Music and Arts Association, a soon-to-be chapter of the 100-year-old National Association of Negro Musicians which, according to its website (nanm.org), is dedicated to the preservation, encouragement and advocacy of all genres of the music of African Americans.
Last November, Molofsky co-founded the HC (Healing and Compassion) Spiritual Singers and B.E. (Black Empowerment) Dance Troupe — also known together as the People of Color Choir. The groups, as well as the Sista’ Prayer Circle and Women in Spirit, fall under the umbrella of the HC Black Music and Arts Association, said Molofsky, who serves as president of the HC Black Music and Arts Association and artistic cultural director for the People of Color Choir.
“Members in the black community wanted to sing black gospel spirituals the way their past ancestors and families sang them,” she said. “I just assisted them in reaching their goal. As a social work student, I was concerned about sustainability, so I contacted NANM and formed the chapter here so we would have African American representation and support. Also, NANM believes in educating the youth in black history through culture.”
Currently, there are 12 people participating in HC Spiritual Singers — the youngest is 15 and the oldest, 70. For now, enrollment is closed for the HC Spiritual Singers. Enrollment is open, however, for the B.E. Dance Troupe, which has seven members right now. The HC Black Music and Arts Association will launch a youth program in the fall, with Lorenza Simmons Phillips serving as youth music director. Applications are now being accepted for the youth program.
The People of Color Choir performs a wide variety of music, from Negro spirituals and black gospel music to gospel rap and spoken word that promotes healing and resiliency, Molofsky said. Members of the dance troupe, she said, use their bodies “as a way of language and music as well.”
“Being the artistic cultural director for these two programs is such a blessing,” she said, “because I get a chance to listen, learn and grow from my people, as well as give back to the black community.”
The People of Color Choir will present its next public performance at the March 15 “Justice for Josiah 35th Month Vigil” on the Arcata Plaza at 6:30 p.m.
To get involved with the HC Black Music and Arts Association or to book a gig with the People of Color Choir, contact events coordinator Zera Starchild at HCblackmusicnarts@gmail.com.