Royalties for Negro Spirituals

On Sunday, April 30 at the 10 am worship service there will be a Celebration of Negro Spirituals and a new faith-based racial justice initiative will be introduced to the BCCUCC congregation. This initiative is called Royalties for Negro Spirituals and it recognizes the deep biblical connection between justice and worship, and acknowledges that congregations have been blessed by hearing and singing Negro Spirituals for centuries. The original creators of this music were never compensated for their work, and the initiatives seek to right this injustice, albeit in a small way, by paying this debt forward to local organizations that support musicians and artists of color. Accordingly, a voluntary offering will be collected periodically, when BCCUCC sings Negro Spirituals.

Though this is a national movement, it is being introduced to local houses of worship through the leadership of Barrington Interfaith Partners. Our church’s Mission and Justice Team recommended that our church participate in this initiative, and with the support of Dale and Racquel, as well as Church Council, we are the first house of worship to devote a service to Negro Spirituals. Other houses of worship in the East Bay and in Providence plan to follow suit over the coming months.

Two additional points of clarification are necessary. First off, the use of the term Negro Spiritual requires some explanation. Why not African American Spirituals? Though the use of the term Negro is sometimes used in a derogatory sense, in this context it is appropriate and is the term preferred by Black churches. The people who wrote the spirituals were enslaved and were not considered to be Americans. In fact, they were considered property and the spirituals were created to express pain and suffering, as well as hope for freedom. Spirituals also carried hidden messages between enslaved people and helped them carry out the horrific work they were forced to do.

The second point of clarification is the organization to receive the royalties collected from the congregation. The organization is Community Music Works. It is important to note that the royalties are paid with no strings attached and are to be dispensed at the sole discretion of Community Music Works.