Orange Alert

Performance Discussion series Music and Activism launches Jan. 31

Local and regional performers will showcase the power of art in social change.

Jan. 24, 2018, by Amy Manley

Storyteller Vanessa Johnson
Storyteller Vanessa Johnson

Acclaimed artist and storyteller Vanessa Johnson and hip-hop artist World Be Free will open the first-ever Music and Activism series at Syracuse University on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 2:30 p.m. in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons at Bird Library.

Born from her Music and Activism class (HOM 400) this semester, the performance and discussion series is the creation of Sydney Hutchinson, associate professor of music history and cultures in the College of Arts and Sciences. Hutchinson was looking for an opportunity to give not only her students, but others in the Syracuse community, the chance to interact with activist musicians and to contemplate how music can influence social change around the world.

Musicians in the series draw from deeply rooted, culturally specific genres from hip-hop and spoken word to nueva canción and American folk music. Each part of the series will pair Syracuse students with the invited artist to explore the how their art form can inspire critical social debate, foster democratic participation and tell the stories of oppressed and subjugated peoples.

“Musical activism isn’t limited to particular kinds of sounds or people; it has a long history in many communities and different countries,” explains Hutchinson. “I hope audiences will be energized by the music and the discussion and come away eager to help create change.”

All of the sessions are free and open to the public. For more information, or for accommodations, email Sydney Hutchinson at

The schedule is as follows:

Vanessa Johnson (Griot) and World Be Free (Hip-Hop)
Wednesday, Jan 31, 2:30 p.m.
Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, Bird Library

Signature Soul (Spoken Word)
Wednesday, Feb 28, 2:30 p.m.
Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, Bird Library

Dream Freedom Resistance (Folk/Musical Theater)
Wednesday, March 28, 2:30 p.m.
Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, Bird Library

Colleen Kattau (Latin American Music)
Wednesday, April 25, 2:30 p.m.
Life Sciences Complex, Room 105

The Music and Activism series is co-sponsored by the Humanities Center and the department of Art and Music Histories, the Latino/Latin American Studies program, and the department of Women’s and Gender Studies.

Media Contact

Robert M Enslin