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February 8, 2019

This month, Asbury University’s Artist Series, in partnership with the University’s Black Student Alliance, will bring history to life through song. In a special Black History Month performance by Lexington singer and actor Whit Whitaker, audience members will get to walk through the journey from pain into hope through a musical exploration of the transition from slavery to freedom.

The free show is entitled “Freedom Journey” and will take place in Jameson Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15.

In the artist’s words, “Freedom Journey is a vision of freedom borne on the wings of faith, hope and strength using music as the vessel of interpretation.”

Local artist Whitaker has performed in choral ensembles and as a solo artist throughout the U.S. and Europe. His choral affiliations include the American Spiritual Ensemble, the Lexington Singers, the Kentucky Bach Choir, and the Brazeal Dennard Adult and Youth Chorales. He also performs as a dramatic actor and is the lead singer and percussionist of his band The Mercy Men.

Dr. Jill Campbell, music professor, director of the women’s choir and Artist Series committee chair, looks forward to seeing how Whitaker’s show will inspire spiritual introspection and, most of all, hope for the future.

“I hope that we can talk honestly about our history and where we’ve come from in marginalizing voices,” Campbell said. “And we can look towards a time where we can grow together more in unity, in justice and in quality of life for all people. I’m excited about it. Our world is growing. Sometimes there are growing pains, but by spending time in the arts and in the Gospel, we can make a big difference in the world.”

Freedom Journey will serve as an excellent time of reflection on an important part of American history — a part of history that Whitaker hopes we not forget, but instead use as a lesson in our culture’s collective present and future.

“With today’s racial climate, we are doomed to take steps backward and to repeat some of the unfortunate historical events from the past,” Whitaker said. “I think we’ve gotten complacent in that we tend to forget the past. In any race, if someone has a head start, no matter how hard you run, you’re not going to end up at the finish line together. I want people to gain some insight to our cause, our plight and why we fight this long battle. In the end, all this world needs and all we’re asking is that we be on an even footing, that we have a greater level of respect and honor for each other.”

For Whitaker, the show is a chance for audience members to actively engage with both the artistic mediums of song and the dramatic arts, as well as a chance to reflect on the faith lessons and deeply spiritual subject matter.

“Whenever I do programs, my ultimate goal has always been to break the fourth wall and include the audience who takes the time to come and watch and hear you,” Whitaker said. “I want them to feel included.”

Whitaker’s performance is one of several Artist Series events held throughout the academic year on Asbury’s campus. In March, cellist Ben Sollee will visit the University for the final Artist Series performance of the spring semester.

Learn more about music and art events at Asbury.