To the Creator, responsible for everything that is, for every sound we have ever heard and for every sound we will one day hear.
The Creator, the original note we hear in our heads and in our hearts.
To the Creator’s creations: the air, the earth, the sky, darkness, light…
…beauty, speech, order, melody, and harmony, those energies that reflect all that is and all that will ever be.
To our ancestors, builders of societies, purveyors of culture, carriers of the first lessons of what it meant to be human.
To those ancestors that reflected the best of the Creator by building Heaven on Earth. It is because of their memory that we know what we know, it is because of their example that we strive to become the best of ourselves.
To their descendants–our direct forbears–who were taken, who saw the worlds they made in the image of the creator upturned. To those who were uprooted, packed into vessels named for Gods they did not recognize; who forced to exist for another, rejected those terms in the only way that they could–through sound: yelling, humming, rattling, thumping. Yes, our new worlds were met by the dirges from the worlds we left, but worlds that would never leave us.
So we transported its message. The field holler punctured the eardrums of those made to dehumanize us; the spirituals cracked the logic of the God used to justify a system of enslavement; the blues made sense out of nonsense and reminded us that trouble will not last always; “jazz”– a word we did not create– resolved the unresolvable, made chaos orderly so that our ancestors could hear us and we them; gospel returned our God to us, reminded us that we were never alienated from that presence; soul and funk became the grammars of a world still coming into existence; reggae, soca, and calypso were the languages spoken to organize our memories; hip hop made us remember that we always spoke truths unapologetically.
To those ancestors that made sure that these connections were never severed, many whose names we will never know, but many that we do. We call their names, evoking their presence: Childers, Byrd, Hathaway.
Samuel Floyd. Eileen Southern.
Thomas Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson, Bessie Smith, James Brown, Thelonious Monk, Abbey Lincoln.
We speak affirmations that this Center will represent the genius that has always marked our peoples and everything that we do. And to remind our people that may have forgotten that there is something lodged in our musical traditions that the best academic logic can never understand. And that is that something that connects us to the unseen, that something that makes and keeps us alive.
The singers and the players.