The 105 Voices of History HBCU National Concert Choir and Orchestra paid a special tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The event was held June 22 at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Northwest D.C. Guest artist Ben Tankard, the “Godfather of Gospel Jazz,” was the evening’s host.105v

The pioneering efforts of Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock Nine; BJ Penn, former assistant secretary of the Navy; and Kent Amos, founder of Community Public Charter Schools in Northwest D.C. were honored in the performance. Lincoln University in Pennsylvania was also honored. “I think what [young people] should take away is the history, but also that it’s important in today’s political issues,” Green told the AFRO. “Voter registration is still important. They’re trying to take away many of the other rights activity that we fought for in the last 50, 60 years. All of this is important.”

The Heritage Salute Via Our Voices concert featured 50 students from the 105 HBCUs throughout the country. The ensemble performed spiritual, gospel, Jazz, and Motown songs such as “Just Walk With Thee” and “We Shall Overcome,” lifting their voices for leadership, development, health, and economic empowerment.

“105 Voices of History is a national platform to train to showcase HBCU student talent (vocal and instrumental) as one voice collectively,” Renata ‘Toni’ Roy, founder and executive director of the national concert choir and orchestra said.

A team of conductors, including James Sexton, assistant director of bands at Tennessee State University; Horace R. Carney Jr., department chair at Alabama A&M University; A. Jan Taylor, director of choral music activities at Prairie View A&M University in Houston; and others led the ensemble.

The event was made possible through the efforts of Partners Achieving Success CDC in Capitol Heights, Md., and the event’s sponsors including Aetna, Delta, and Northrop Grumman.

During the reception, Aetna gave the ensemble a $30,000 check.

Northrop Grumman along with the Loudon County Chapter of Girlfriends Inc., and Partners Achieving Success CDC gave three $5,000 scholarships, one $1,500 scholarship, and one $1,000 scholarship to selected students in the ensemble. Lincoln University also received $1,500 for its choir program.

“First of all, I think that students need to be well-rounded, and while I come from an engineering background and my company is an aerospace company, I think it takes a well-rounded individual to actually be a successful employee,” Gloria Pualani, director of government relations at Northrop Grumman told the AFRO. “I think that being in the arts as well as math and science helps to round those individuals out. My support of this activity and my company’s support of this activity are important in growing our company as well as our country.”

For more information on the HBCU concert choir and orchestra, visit