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Notre Dame College is crowning Black History Month with a free choral concert featuring African American composers, presented live via social media.

The College’s choral ensembles will present the free online concert “Voices of America,” a performance presented in honor of Black History Month on Saturday, February 27, at 7 p.m., livestreamed and available after the event on the Notre Dame Performing Arts Facebook page at The show will feature the works of R. Nathaniel Dett, Rosephanye Powell and Undine Smith Moore, among other Black Indigenous People of Color.

Black History Month education does not stop after February, especially not at Notre Dame. The College’s Abrahamic Center continues to offer informational resources for campus and community members throughout the year. Sr. Carol Ziegler, SND, Ph.D., executive director of the Abrahamic Center, has shared a webinar presented by the International Thomas Merton Society and the Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union that proposes how Catholics may engage with the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement for social justice.

Registration is required to view the free and open seminar called, “Merton, Malcolm X, and Catholic Engagement with Black Lives Matter” with Bryan Massingale on Tuesday, March 9, at 8 p.m. online at The session examines how the American Trappist Monk Thomas Merton, a scholar of comparative religion, engaged with Malcolm X and radical Black thought. Massingale is a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the current president-elect of the Society of Christian Ethics. He is the James and Nancy Buckman Chair in Applied Christian Ethics at Fordham University and a past convener of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium and former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

Notre Dame also is supporting programming from its Black Student Union, sharing informational resources and making its recent Abrahamic Center Lecture available online throughout Black History Month as part of its ongoing mission to promote diversity, education and responsibility.

Value of the Celebration

The value of Black History Month is that the celebration calls for attention to the heroes, the leaders, the ordinary women and men who overcame multiple obstacles in their personal lives, civic lives and in political lives as they struggled for voice, freedom and equal opportunity.

“While it is impossible to acknowledge the scope of Black History and all the contributions Blacks have made to our society in one short month, we should also remember the purpose of the month,” said Judy West, director of human resources at the College. “As a community, we should strive to eliminate racism and dedicate every day to healing our past that has included horrific transgressions to a people.”

In 1926, a week called Negro History, that connected with the birthday of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglass, an American abolitionist, on February 20, and was celebrated in the 1800s later grew to what the U.S. recognizes as Black History Month.

The month is a time to celebrate the many achievements of African American and Black artists, politicians, sports figures, actors, authors and so many more who have walked the walk and lived their talk with hope and perseverance offering their gifts to all today.

“At the same time, the purpose includes valuing and celebrating every one’s life and purpose. Whatever differences any individual brings, the College mission reminds us to respect the dignity and uniqueness of each one,” West continued.

Abrahamic Center Lecture

Notre Dame will make a video of its 2020 Abrahamic Center Lecture, “Living When I Can’t Breathe,” available in the coming weeks on the College YouTube channel in honor of Black History Month.

The College’s Annual Abrahamic Lecture for 2020 highlights the voices, resilience and dreams of Notre Dame College students, alumni and staff who serve as panel discussion members. The event reflects how Notre Dame President J. Michael Pressimone, Ed.D., has called the College to be “a model community engaged in thoughtful, civil discourse about racism in America today.”

Notre Dame’s Abrahamic Center develops educational programs for the College and the Greater Cleveland community fostering mutual respect among all peoples, and celebrating religious, racial and cultural diversity. The initiative is a direct outgrowth of the innovative work of Notre Dame College’s Tolerance Resource Center, which has provided significant opportunities for research, outreach and education on the Holocaust, anti-bias issues and diversity for more than 20 years.

Shared Sources

In addition to the International Thomas Merton Society and the Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union webinar, the College is sharing educational and historical programming that includes a PBS special on Black churches. The two-part video series available online features Henry Louis Gates Jr., who serves as the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

The first episode explores the roots of African American religion. The second episode shows how the Black church expanded its reach to address social inequality.

Black Student Union Programming

Members of the College’s Black Student Union have been celebrating Black History Month with events, ranging from a presentation on mental health issues for Black men; a dialogue about colorism, the value of Black unity and toxic language; and an information session on different hair types. All have been presented on the Black Student Union Instagram page.

The student organization also will offer a panel discussion about Black Greek letter associations in-person at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 25, in the Performing Arts Center on the ground floor of the Administration Building of the College campus.

Choral Concert Composers

R. Nathaniel Dett often utilized African-American spirituals as themes in his piano, vocal, and choral published works. His ancestors included slaves who escaped to the North and settled in the slave-founded town of Drummondsville, Ontario, in Canada. Dett earned a Bachelor of Music. degree, winning Phi Beta Kappa honors, and then a completed a Master of Music degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. He also studied at Harvard University and the American Conservatory in Fountainebleau at Chaumont, N.Y. He also was a conductor, poet and essayist.

An educator, performer and conductor, Rosephanye Powell composes sacred and secular choral works for mixed chorus, women’s chorus, men’s chorus and children’s voices. A professor of voice at Auburn University, her research focuses on the art of the African-American spiritual and voice care concerns for voice professionals. She also has served on the faculties of Philander Smith College in Arkansas and Georgia Southern University. Powell hold a D.M. in vocal performance from Florida State University; an M.M. in vocal performance and pedagogy from Westminster Choir College; and a B.M.E. from Alabama State University. She also has served on the faculties of Philander Smith College in Arkansas and Georgia Southern University.

Undine Smith Moore‘s compositions are based on African American sources, including some on the works of Martin Luther King Jr., which were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Moore received the first scholarship from the Juilliard Graduate School to study music at Fisk University. She served as supervisor of music in the Goldsboro, N.C., public schools and as a faculty member at Virginia State University. She received numerous awards, including the National Association of Negro Musicians Distinguished Achievement Award and the Virginia Governor’s Award in the Arts. In 1977, Moore was named music laureate of Virginia. She died in 1989.

February 2021


About Notre Dame College

For almost a century, Notre Dame College has educated a diverse population in the liberal arts for personal, professional and global responsibility. Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1922, the College has grown strategically to keep pace with the rapidly changing needs of students and the dramatic changes in higher education. But it has never lost sight of its emphasis on teaching students not only how to make a good living but also how to live a good life.

Today, the College offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 disciplines plus a variety of master’s degrees, certification programs and continuing and professional development programs for adult learners on campus and online. Notre Dame College offers NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs for men and women and is located in a picturesque residential neighborhood just 25 minutes from the heart of Cleveland. Hallmarks of the Notre Dame experience include stimulating academics, personalized attention of dedicated faculty and staff, and small class sizes.

Notre Dame College is located at 4545 College Road in South Euclid. For further information, contact