Posted by: Through the Eyes of Women | February 22, 2016

February 22, 2016 guest host Lorna Bryant and Elizabeth Smith discuss the impact and importance of music to African Americans in honor of Black History Month

11402844_10207121140335565_334333764904993751_nFebruary is Black History month. In honor of the annual celebration of culture, people and history of African Americans in the United States I invited longtime Eureka, CA resident, Elizabeth Smith, to explore the impact and importance of music to African Americans – from slavery, to the civil rights movement, to rap music, to present day.

Liz is active in the community as the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Redwoods; vice president of the Eureka branch of the NAACP; elder at Eureka First  Presbyterian Church; and she’s a member of several community choirs.

In February 2015 she presented Power of Song. The program gives a musical history of the power of the Negro spiritual. The program was first created over 20 years ago by HSU Professors Emeritus Nathan Smith and Valgene Phillips. Smith, Liz’s father, was a professor of African-American studies 1986-2001 and former chair of the now-defunct ethnic studies department. Phillips was a music professor 1967-2004. Together, the elder Smith and Phillips presented a historical program through song about the power of the Negro Spiritual, its history of providing encouragement, empowerment and connection for African Americans from slavery to today. Liz revived the program to offer healing after learning former Humboldt Co. resident and HSU alum, Joseph Waters, took his life December 2014.

Liz Smith looked to song as a form of healing when tragedy struck once again – this time at a national level. Liz called on the assistance of world-renowned singing activist Melanie DeMore to use song as comfort, healing and unity for our community in the wake of the Charleston South Carolina racially motivated mass shooting in July 2015. The community event, Lifted in Love, allowed people to, “sing together and break bread together and heal together.”20150222_112521

Smith is still open and eager to present the 30-minute historical and musical program through the power of the Negro Spiritual. Smith will travel anywhere in Humboldt County to present the program to any group, organization or church congregation. She can be contacted via email at

To listen to and/or download Lorna’s conversation with Liz Smith click the following link: TTEOW 2-22 Liz Smith

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