Tinner Hill Blues Festival Finale Covers How Music Spurs Change

By Adam Rosenfeld

MUSICIAN DARYL DAVIS has persuaded over 200 Ku Klux Klan members to leave the hate group. Davis will be speaking at the “A Message in Music” event this Sunday. (Photo: Courtesy Daryl Davis).

This weekend’s Tinner Hill Blues Festival will cap off its three-day celebration a bit differently from years past, this time with its first-ever “Social Justice Sunday,” a day of discussion with civil rights icons and members of the Washington, D.C. community.

To wrap up the weekend, the event titled, “A Message in the Music,” will examine how music is intertwined with and can inspire social change.

“The music is a hook; it’s a universal language,” Nikki Graves Henderson, Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation’s history program director, said. “Music stimulates emotion in a way that a conversation can’t.”

Most emblematic of this idea is blues icon and event speaker Daryl Davis. While touring the country, his music created an avenue for dialogue on broader cultural issues. His music’s reach paved the way for him to successfully convince 200 KKK members to leave the group. Davis now travels the world lecturing on how music can affect social justice.

Running from 1 – 5:30 p.m. and moderated by Dr. Dwan Reece, curator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the event will include speakers, social justice showcases and various workshops spread out throughout Cherry Hill Park.

This is the first event being organized by the Social Justice Committee of Falls Church & Vicinity, a local activist group. The committee, which was first started in response to the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, is using this platform to bring people of different ethnicities, religions and cultures together through music.

It might seem like an unconventional ending to a concert filled weekend, but Graves Henderson, a founding member of the committee, said that this gives attendees a unique forum in which to understand the theme of the weekend.

“Normally the weekend ends with a gospel concert,” Graves Henderson said. “But we decided to work with Tinner Hill and use this Sunday to look at the role music has played in social justice, and it was a match made in heaven.”  

Following the weekend of festivities, one goal of the final program is to create a dialogue surrounding race in the community. This fits into the mission of the Tinner Hill Foundation which seeks to educate the public on African-American history and promote the importance of respect and unity.

“We feel that it’s possible and necessary in our community to talk about race publicly, safely, respectfully,” Gerson Sher, a member of the committee said. “And we feel that this will have a deep and lasting impact on the quality of the community.”

The musicians and speakers alike will be presenting how they feel music plays an integral role in societal change.

Chicago-native Davis said that one of his missions now is to make sure that music programs stay in school curricula.

“Whenever the economy tanks or the budget gets crunched, the first thing in schools that get cut are the arts,” Davis said. “But, we need the arts and having a music program is a necessity.”

By the end of the weekend, Davis said that he hopes people will leave with the belief that music is a tool that can bring people together.

“I want people to take away that we have a lot more in common than we realize and music is one of those unifiers, Davis said. “It’s just the tip of the iceberg, but it is definitely a unifier.”   

This is one of many upcoming events that the Social Justice Committee will be organizing, and the group hopes to grow in size by fostering meaningful relationships within the community.

Admission to the event is $1 or free with a festival wristband and will take place in Cherry Hill Park at 312 Park Ave., Falls Church.