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Founded in 1988
In 1988, The Kansas Committee for the Humanites (KCH) awarded a grant to the Urban League of Kansas for the purpose of educatng the public on the history and significance of the Negro Spiritual (Also known as African-American Spiritual). Prentice Lewis, Urban League’s Program Director enlisted the aid of veteran Educator/Musician, Mrs. Josephine Pace Brown to recruit a group of scholars who would team up to develop a curriculum and travel throughout the state of Kansas, sharing with audiences the rich heritage and impact of spirituals. The scholars were Drs. Evies and Sharon Cranford, Dr. John Gaston, Dr. John Poe, Cherrie Baldon and Rachel Norwood. A comprehensive anthology on Spirituals entitled The Negro Spiritual: The Message and the Music was also completed through this initiative.
After a year of successful teaching tours throughout Kansas, the grant ended, however Mrs. Brown continued to receive requests from people from all cultures wanting to learn about and sing more spirituals. A series of meetings with the scholars ensued, and a new determination to educate and cultivate continued interest in Spirituals emerged. Dr. Sharon Cranford advanced the acronym A.R.I.S.E. (African-Americans Renewing Interest in Spirituals Ensemble) to honor the African-American forefathers and mothers who created spirituals, and to shine a light on how spirituals can continue to unify and uplift. Twenty charter members were then added to present concerts throughout the state. In 2009, ARISE became a 501c3 arts education organization, enabling it to reach more audiences, especially children and youth.
From 1988 to 2010, Mrs. Brown led ARISE to great acclaim, before retiring as president/director emeritus. For one year, Huron Breaux was Interim Director. In 2011, Mr. Shawn Chastain, Director of Fine Arts for the Wichita Public Schools took the helm as Choral director, ensuring that ARISE continues its mission and vision. June Faucette-Huff is the chartering accompanist. Consisting of a culturally diverse, non-partisan board of directors and ensemble of thirty-five plus members, ARISE continues to arise and illuminate the power of spirituals to touch peoples’ lives, inspire hope and promote freedom as they were created to do.
Arise and Shine, for the Light of the World is come!
ARISE and Dr. Brandon Boyd (center front) taking
a break from rehearsing to take a photo.
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