The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) kicked off Black History Month with a Celebration of Gospel. Students gathered in the Cook-DeWitt center Monday, Feb. 10 to learn more about the history and impact of this style of worship.
Gospel music developed as a genre of American Protestant music in the late 19th century and early 20th century, however, it’s origins can be traced all the way back to the 17th century. Not only is it a popular genre of music, but it is a cultural staple in protestant churches throughout America.
These songs performed by a worshiping community on Sunday mornings have become a tradition that represents the African American experience. During the program, a GVSU student shared a brief history of gospel to the audience.
The Celebration of Gospel is just one of the events for Black history month at GVSU. The theme for this year’s Black History Month on campus is “Our Roots Run Deep.” This theme is addressed throughout the program and revisited across the different performances and speeches. Founder and Director of Voices of GVSU Cassonya Carter compared the roots to the student’s ancestors.
“These are the songs that helped a lot of our parents and forefathers get through some of the bad times,” Carter said. “Even if I’m having a bad day, there is nothing like a song to ease the pain.”
In addition to the program’s student and guest speakers, Voices of GVSU performed a set for the audience.
The student organization Voices of GVSU is a choir of students who share a passion for gospel music and the connections made in its presence. The choir was founded over 30 years ago by Carter and a group of close friends. Carter is a GVSU alumna and a current faculty member at GVSU, working as a senior academic advisor for the Kirkhof College of Nursing. She said she is a true Laker for a lifetime.
Carter said the Voices of GVSU has strived to give its members a second family to help guide them through their college experience and beyond. Just as family members are there for each other, Carter and the students treat each other the same way. There is the unspoken expectation that they are there for each other through good and bad times. Students even gave Carter the nickname “Mama Cece.”
GVSU student Faith Erby said after seeing the Voices of GVSU booth at campus life night, she was drawn to the choir because of her religion and passion for singing.
“I would choose it over any other organization because everyone truly loves you,” Erby said. “(In the organization), each person individually cares for you.”
Students in the audience of the Celebration of Gospel event were able to experience the uplifting energy of the Voices of GVSU during their set.
The event began at 7 p.m. and lasted until around 8:30 p.m. Following the program, OMA provided refreshments for the audience and encouraged students to engage in conversation with their peers about the event.