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Soul of Southside kicks off with live gospel music and worship

A man in a dark suit stands with a microphone as two women stand behind him singing.
Valerie Crowder
WFSU Public Media
This year's Soul of Southside Arts and Humanities Festival kicked off a week of community cultural events with gospel music at Jacob Chapel Baptist Church in Tallahassee on Sunday, May 16, 2022.

The second annual Soul of Southside Arts and Humanities Festival kicked off at Jacob Chapel Baptist Church with a roughly two-hour worship service that featured local gospel choirs, contemporary singers and a dance ministry.

"These are all local, phenomenal groups, singers, musicians that have come together," said Anita Franklin, who organized the festival's Inspirational Kickoff event. "We came together in a very phenomenal way, and it was just really, really, really a blessing."

The event featured a lineup of eight performances, starting with an African drum line and ending with a gospel music choir.

"We went from the past and just brought it on up to where we are. We went from hymnals, spirituals, traditional sounds and contemporary sounds," Franklin said. "That's where our heritage is so we're excited about it."

Franklin says traditional spirituals and gospel music are closely tied to the African American experience. “Through those years of our ancestors who have suffered and have died and have been abused, but they had that spiritual part that kept them, just embracing who God is to keep them strong through those times of going through just torture, just going through lynchings, through families being broken apart," Franklin said. "Those were the songs of freedom."

Organizers expect a bigger festival this year, with more events planned throughout the week. Some of those include: a spoken word open mic night hosted by Black on Black Rhyme on Tuesday, a jazz concert at Jazz Signature Lounge on Wednesday and 45-minute neighborhood narrative tours throughout the day on Saturday.

On the schedule again this year is a senior drive-by fish fry on Thursday from noon until 2:30 p.m. at Lake Anita Plaza, where up to 600 seniors can get a free lunch.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.