White Michigan University Choir Under Fire For Singing Negro Spirituals
The choir director allegedly said, “These songs don’t belong to one race.”
February 21, 2020 at 9:35 pm
A largely white choir from Western Michigan University is under fire after one Black student posted a video of the group performing negro spirituals on Wednesday.
Shaylee Faught, a Black fourth-year student at the university, shared a video of the foolishness and even wrote that the instructor, John Wesley Wright, said: “These songs don’t belong to one race,” WKZO reported. Another report from Western Herald stated Wright, who is also Black, told the majority white audience that the songs were “for everyone” and “have no ethnicity.”
So apparently Western Michigan University thinks it’s ok for WHITE peoples to sing negro spirituals while the instructor talking bout “these songs don’t belong to one race”. They sure as hell DO. pic.twitter.com/BDfvdFppgh— Shayy.marieee (@shayy_marieeeDT) February 20, 2020
Since some of y’all don’t believe me 🤷🏽♀️ the instructor was BLACK and sounded uneducated and ignorant with some of the stuff he said all while allowing them to sing about “freedoms” and “segregation” like slavery was a joke. pic.twitter.com/dK27uQWfOG— Shayy.marieee (@shayy_marieeeDT) February 21, 2020
Faught later said she sent a letter to the school's dean complaining about the event and how offensive it was.
"While I understand the importance of education, I think there is a fine line between appreciation and appropriation, and the concert last night seemed very inappropriate. As a black woman, Negro Spirituals are apart of my history and my culture, and it signifies the struggle and hardships my ancestors went through. The way the program last night was portrayed is that it is all fun and games and is merely entertainment," she wrote.
I didn’t leave because it was for a class credit and honestly I wanted to see how it played out and get the full story before I start cutting up on people. Y’all can read my letter to the dean tho 😌— Shayy.marieee (@shayy_marieeeDT) February 21, 2020
The Western Michigan University’s School of Music’s event, titled “Spirituals: From Ship to Shore,” included songs sung by Black slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries.
“If I wasn’t there I guarantee no one would’ve said anything. Being a music major, there’s not a lot of black people… Since I was a freshman it’s always made me feel weird,” Faught said in an interview with the Western Herald on Thursday.
“It was primarily white parents and students, and you’re trying to get the audience to join in and sing and it felt so wrong. I was heated just sitting there. It felt like it was all for entertainment and this is not for entertainment, this is part of somebody’s culture and history and you have no idea what it means,” Faught added.
The Western Herald reported that one member of the choir, freshman Allison Rousseau, who is white, told other singers that she had concerns about the group singing songs originally created by Black slaves.
“I really don’t want to do this,” Rosseau told the other singers after they rehearsed the songs.
“It’s one thing to appreciate someone else’s culture and learn about it, but it's another to be disrespectful and take away from something that is so sacred. Our instructor was African American and he said it was okay because the songs aren’t just (Black) culture. It was just so conflicting to be a part of that. I’m upset that I didn't say something before because I didn't know how many people felt the same way that I did,” Rousseau told the Western Herald.
Wright and other school officials declined to comment. The school's Black Student Union sent out a statement on Friday afternoon calling for an apology from everyone involved.
"We as a collective are appalled that this took place on our campus. This is a further example and reflection of the racial insensitivity and ignorance that has been allowed to occur on Western Michigan's campus," the group said.