By Fredara Mareva Hadley, Visiting Assistant Professor of Musicology, Oberlin College
[Editor’s Note: The following post is part of American Masters’ #InspiringWomanPBS campaign, which highlights the powerful, creative, and innovative women in our lives. Visit the Inspiring Woman page to join the campaign and submit the story of a woman who inspires you.]
The first and most essential instrument is the voice. While this instrument is something humans carry inside, it also reaches and resonates beyond our own bodies and beyond our individual lives. This is an important reminder when discussing the impact of the a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock.
Founded in 1973 by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon in Washington, D.C., Sweet Honey in the Rock has harnessed the power of Black women’s voices to carry messages of love, laughter, and life from inner cities to far-flung nations. Sweet Honey in the Rock is no mere “singing group” – they are an institution through which Black women virtuosos channel their own lives through their voices. Their voices help pull back the curtain on who we are.