Student Oral Historians to Conduct Research in Fairfax and Glenville

Ms. Delores Lynch, Director of Senior Outreach Services  in Fairfax, is pictured here with a painting of Langston Hughes by artist Neal Hamilton.

Ms. Delores Lynch, Director of Senior Outreach Services in Fairfax, is pictured here with a painting of writer Langston Hughes. The painting by artist Neal Hamilton hangs in the SOS reception area. (Regennia N. Williams, photographer)









I am pleased to report that I will be working with Dr. Mark Souther and three undergraduate research assistants on “Oral History, Mobile Curation, and African American Memory in Cleveland’s Fairfax and Glenville Communities” during the summer of 2014.


This Cleveland State University grant-funded project will be conducted under the auspices of the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities, for which Dr. Souther serves as director.  We held our first meeting with prospective community partners and interviewees at the Senior Outreach Services Center in Fairfax.  The Fairfax research promises to be especially fruitful, since the community recently announced plans for its year-long centennial celebration of Karamu House, where works by playwright Langston Hughes (1902-1967) and other theatre legends are frequently staged.


For more information on the work of the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities, please visit


You can also visit the Cleveland Chautauqua blog throughout the summer for updates on the oral history research.


— Dr. Regennia N. Williams


The Journal of Traditions & Beliefs Goes Digital!

I am pleased to report that, thanks to support from staff members in CSU’s Michael Schwartz Library, our online journal site is up and running.  It will take some time to publish everything in this new digital environment.    By the end of 2014, however, the following issues should be available via the EngagedScholarship@CSU website:
Volume 1,  2009              “Praying Grounds and Contested Terrain” 

                                             *Already available on the site.  Please follow this link to find out more about the publication:

Volume 2,  2010              “African Religions and Philosophy: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Dr. John S. Mbiti’s Landmark Publication”
                                                Dr. Taiwo Soneye, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, Guest Co-Editor
Volume 3,  2011               “Proceedings of the Women and Spirituality Symposium”
                                              Patricia O’Luanaigh, California Institute of Integral Studies, Guest Co-Editor
Volume 4, 2012                “Watching God and Reading Hurston: Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God
                                               Dr. Gillian Johns, Oberlin College, Guest Co-Editor
You will notice that the issue dates correspond to the dates for companion conferences or other related programs.  The Hurston issue, for example, is related to Cleveland State University’s September 2012 Hurston conference. (For more information on the Hurston conference, please visit
Dr. Regennia N. Williams

April Activities Focus on the 1960s

Dr. Nishani Frazier
Dr. Nishani Frazier


Dr. Nishani Frazier, historian and faculty member at Ohio’s Miami University, is the keynote speaker for “The Sixties and the Struggle: Battles Fought and Lessons Learned.”  


Dr. Frazier’s lecture is scheduled for Monday, April 7, 2014, 11 a.m., in Cleveland State University’s Main Classroom Auditorium.  


A reception and book signing will follow the lecture in the African American Cultural Center, which is located in room 137 of the Main Classroom Building.  Both events are free and open to the public.


Other April 2014 activities include in-class discussions for students in Dr. Regennia N. Williams’ African American history courses, a panel presentation, and screenings of “1964,” “Brother Outsider,” and footage from “Praying Grounds” oral history interviews that highlight the role of institutions and individuals in Cleveland in the larger struggle for civil rights and human dignity. 


As the title suggests, participants in this series are invited to read and discuss selected primary and secondary sources related to the Modern Civil Rights Era, including the following:


“The Ballot or the Bullet” Speech (1964) by Malcolm X / El Hajj Malik El Shabazz​


The “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” Speech (1968) by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



The “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” Speech (1967) by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.




Walking with the Wind, the award-winning memoir by Congressman John Lewis.


For more information, please contact Dr. Regennia N. Williams at (216) 523-7182 or




Spiritual Gifts to Mark 30th Anniversary with April 5th Community Concert

Dr. Regennia N. Williams prepares for her January 2013 Severance Hall choral conducting debut in this Dress Rehearsal with the Spiritual Gifts Gospel Chorus in the Reinberger Chamber Hall.

Dr. Regennia N. Williams prepares for her January 2013 Severance Hall choral conducting debut in this dress rehearsal with the Spiritual Gifts Gospel Chorus in the Reinberger Chamber Hall.


The Spiritual Gifts Gospel Chorus will celebrate its 30th Anniversary with a community concert on Saturday, April 5, 2014, 4 p.m., at Cleveland’s New Joshua Missionary Baptist Church.  A reception will follow the concert.  The church is located at 11200 Miles Avenue, and Rev. Walter Humphrey serves as pastor.  Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.



Spiritual Gifts performs and teaches others about the music of the historic African American church. Each member brings a wealth of talent, training, and performance experience to their work. Among the singers are several individuals who trace their public performances in a Cleveland State University-related ensemble to a Black Aspirations Week Gospel Choir that presented its debut concert in 1984. CSU alumnus Nathaniel Williams Jr. served as pianist/director for that choir, Messengers of Joy (a subsequent student community ensemble), the first Spiritual Gifts Gospel Choir (founded in 1994), and An Evening of Gospel Music at Severance Hall in 2003. Kevin Gibaldi, another CSU alumnus, served as Associate Director for the Messengers of Joy. In 2009, David Manning Thomas, also a CSU alumnus, directed the Spiritual Gifts Ensemble in its Community Open House performance at Severance Hall, and in December 2011, CSU alumna Beverly Brown served as Choir Master for the group’s “Colors of Christmas” performance with the Cleveland Orchestra.  Spiritual Gifts was also part of the September 2012 “Harvest Time” Concert at the Mount Zion Church of Oakwood Village, Ohio.  On January 21, 2013, the choir returned to Severance Hall for a second Community Open House performance, with Pastor Nathaniel Williams, Jr. serving as Music Director.  In September 2013, Spiritual Gifts also performed on the “Come Sunday @ 70” Duke Ellington concert at Trinity Cathedral. 


CSU alumna Lana Miller serves as the president of Spiritual Gifts and the director of the Voices of New Joshua.  Miller was also the project coordinator for New Joshua’s May 2013 live concert recording in Cleveland State University’s Drinko Recital Hall.   The audio cd from that recording will be released at the April 5th reception at New Joshua.


Spiritual Gifts works in collaboration with CSU’s Initiative for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in the History of Africa and the Diaspora (RASHAD), and Dr. Regennia N. Williams is the founder and director of Spiritual Gifts and RASHAD.  The April 5th concert is the second in RASHAD’s “Concerts Around Cleveland” series.   For more information, call 216-523-7182.

Roland Hayes and “The Music of Black Americans”

Roland Hayes, Tenor (Photo: Carl Van Vechten)

Roland Hayes, Tenor
(Photo: Carl Van Vechten)



Having witnessed the  Cleveland Play House performance of “Breath and Imagination” on March 9, 2014, I  can honestly say that the life story of legendary tenor Roland Hayes continues to inspire great performances by singers, actors, and instrumentalists alike.  I celebrate the creative genius of playwright Daniel Beaty, and I applaud the efforts of the Cleveland Play House,  as it continues to stage amazing works in the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square.


For more information about the true story that inspired the play, please see Eileen Southern’s The Music of Black Americansa book that has earned a permanent place in my personal library.


Dr. Regennia N. Williams

Pictured here are (left to right) Cleveland-based tenor Dwight Fleming and cast members Tom Frey, Daphne Gaines, native Clevelander Elijah Rock (aka Eric Myricks).

Masjid Bilal Observes International Women’s Day


Today, I had the pleasure of spending International Women’s Day with the members and friends of Cleveland’s Masjid Bilal congregation.  In addition to my presentation on the Praying Grounds Oral History Project, the program included dinner and a jazz performance by the Glenn Holmes Trio and vocalist Evelyn Wright.

Kim Scott

Kim Scott, Praying Grounds Oral History Interviewee






It was wonderful to share highlights from some of the oral history narratives for Muslims in our collection, including those for Kim Scott and Osman Ali.  In closing out my tribute to women, I invited program participants to join me in celebrating the genius of writer Margaret Walker Alexander, author of For My People and numerous other works.

Margaret Walker Alexander

Margaret Walker Alexander, 1915-1998






“For my people everywhere singing their slave songs repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an unseen power. . .”












Read more online at

Wrapping Up the 2014 Black History Month Celebration

cole book cover


Special thanks to everyone who joined me in celebrating Black History Month in 2014!  On Saturday, February 15th and 25th, I had the pleasure of participating in discussions of my co-authored book, Through the Lens of Allen E. Cole: A Photographic History of African-Americans in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Southeast Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library.  Kudos to librarian Sylvia Johnson for  organizing these events.  If you have not already done so, please try to check-out a copy of this book, and learn more about this amazing photographer.




Three cheers for the amazing women of The National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc., including the Rev. Dr. Leatrice Joy Emeruwa, poet extraordinaire!  On Saturday, February 22nd, I shared information on my oral history research and my edited book, Homegoings, Crossings, and Passings: Life and Death in the African Diaspora,  during a chapter meeting at the Warrensville Heights Homegoings Cover July 2013Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, and I couldn’t have asked for a more appreciative audience.


Remember, the official month-long celebration ends on February 28th this year, but black history and culture are meant to be enjoyed throughout the year!



Dr. Regennia N. Williams



Happy Black History Month!

William Grant Still, Composer

William Grant Still, Composer

We are in the midst of a wonderful Black History Month celebration!  If your schedule permits, please join us for a special concert featuring works by William Grant Still, George Gershwin, and others on Sunday, February 9, 2014, 3 p.m., at Downtown Cleveland’s Trinity Cathedral.  You can read all about it at:

Dr. Regennia N. Williams

Duke Ellington (c.1933)

Duke Ellington (c.1933)


From Grace Cathedral to Trinity Cathedral and Beyond:

Concert Settings of Jazz and Related Events

Presented by

The Initiative for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in the History of Africa and the Diaspora (RASHAD)

Dr. Regennia N. Williams, Founder and Director



The program will include the following components:

  •  A free choral and instrumental concert performance, featuring the workshop choir and jazz quintet, on Saturday, September 28, 2013, at 6.p.m., at Trinity Cathedral, Euclid Avenue at East 22nd Street, in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.  
  • A jazz concert performance at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 29, 2013, featuring the Drene Ivy and Dr. Sharon Brown Cheston piano duo at the First Unitarian Church, Shaker Boulevard at Belvoir Circle, in Shaker Heights, Ohio.
  • Dr. Charles Hersch, Professor and Chair of  CSU’s Political Science Department, will present a free public lecture-discussion and book-signing on Subversive Sounds: Race and the Birth of Jazz in New  Orleans, at 12:00 p.m. on October 22, 2013, in CSU’s Michael Schwartz Library, 2121 Euclid, in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Mounting a Duke Ellington exhibition for the CSU Michael Schwartz Library  (September 20 – 30, 2013)

For more information, call (216) 523-7182, or write to

Happy Jazz Appreciation Month!

Duke Ellington in Cleveland, Ohio (1960). Cleveland Press Photo, Courtesy of Library Special Collections, Cleveland State University.

Duke Ellington in Cleveland, Ohio (1960). Cleveland Press Photo, Courtesy of Library Special Collections, Cleveland State University.


April is Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), so it is time to appreciate and celebrate America’s “classical music” and music makers.  According to information on the Smithsonian Jazz website, “The Spirit and Rhythms of Jazz is the 2013 Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) theme highlighting jazz cultural history, musical performance and stories, programs and productions this April. JAM and UNESCO’s International Jazz Day April 30 provide rich platforms for individuals and communities to explore jazz principles of freedom, inclusion and creativity to learn how jazz has transformed America and inspired the world.”   Of all the jazz greats, my personal favorite is Duke Ellington, and I am making big plans for an Ellington birthday bash on April 29, 2013.  For more ideas on how you can join the celebration, visit