The catastrophe of violent deaths in cities across America has led many to seek peace, but less prominent is the emotional damage that families—and especially mothers—have endured through the loss of their children’s lives.
Morgan State University (MSU) music directors will shine a spotlight on those losses with “Mother’s Lament,” a multimedia tribute highlighting families who have lost their sons due to violence. Organized by the Freedom, Love and Light Project, an organization which seeks to use creativity and artistry to assist community members who have experienced tragic loss, the orchestrated musical will take place at MSU’s Murphy Fine Arts Center on Saturday, Sept. 17.
International opera star Marquita Lister is a guest soloist in ‘Mother’s Lament.’ (Courtesy Photo)
The performance will showcase a series of visual artwork, musical performances from highly-acclaimed opera and bass-baritone singers, university choirs, poetry and documentary clips of families telling stories of how they lost their sons in violent acts.
“Mother’s Lament” was created by Vincent Dion Stringer, Morgan State’s coordinator of vocal studies and opera director, and James Lee III, an associate professor of theory. The event is Stringer and Lee’s first attempt to spread awareness about the loss of young lives.
While the concert’s subject includes the deaths of all children, it focuses particularly on young Black males who face police brutality, Black-on-Black crimes, hate crimes and more.
Lee said unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray unsettled him and brought to the forefront a need to find a resolution. After discussing the events with Stringer, both knew the most positive way to bring the community together would be through music and vivid art expressions.
“Opposing voices coming together, working through and struggling through the difficulties, ultimately finding a way to connect our common existence and common cost,” said Stringer. “That’s the work that we have to do.”
Both Stringer and Lee have collaborated in the past on lyrics and poetry; one of their compositions entitled “Songs of Love and Loss” will be performed during “Mother’s Lament” by bass-baritone soloist Robert Cantrell.
The event’s featured piece, “Mother’s Lament,” is a poem Stringer wrote and recorded. It will be performed by Marquita Lister, Morgan State’s coordinator of voice and international opera.
“When James talked to me about doing this piece, we talked about the concept of this one soprano,” said Stringer. “I couldn’t think of anybody else that I wanted to have do that than Marquita. She has the right temperament, she has the right spirit and I wanted to honor her in this way to have her perform this. It was written for her…for her voice.”
Stringer talked with Morgan State University families who have experienced the loss of a loved one, but whose stories didn’t reach national news. Two people who inspired Stringer to create his poem “Mother’s Lament” were Debbi Blackwell-Cook and Morgan State production manager, Dwight R.B. Cook. Their son, D’Roderick Cook, attended MSU and was killed in 2013.
Several mothers whose stories contributed to “Mother’s Lament” have created their own organizations which seek change in their communities and an end to violence. They will share their stories at the event, hoping to honor their children by sharing their loss.
“These are stories of people who have gone through adversity and they’ve taken it and turned it into something of purpose,” Stringer said. “It’s also a means of them getting up.”
Stringer feels that underprivileged communities where children are prone to violence often are the ones who possess the most artistic talent.
“They can draw, they can write, they can do spoken word,” he said. “Imagine if we can create an opportunity for them to build something and to find that as the valuable means on which they can conduct their lives and make a living.”
Choir performances will be performed by the Morgan State University choir, the Boys Choir of Powhatan, Singing Sensations Choir, and the choirs of Delaware State University, Lincoln University and Ohio University.
“Making beautiful music is one of the healthiest forms to standing up to violence,” said Julien Benichou, conductor of the Mid-Atlantic Symphony.
While the concert is the Freedom, Light and Love Project’s first showcase, Stringer hopes it will grow into a resource to help educate the youth in all communities.
“This is a movement to bring artists together to create opportunities for creativity to guide the way to the dialogue,” said Stringer.
To purchase tickets to the concert visit motherslament.net or Ticketmaster.