On Feb. 28, the Brubecks, Arturo O’Farrill, Tonality, and a host of other artists take the stage at historic Holman United Methodist Church for a second performance of the entire Music and Justice concert program featuring Dave Brubeck’s The Gates of Justice. These extraordinary artists will be joined by a very special guest: Peggy Trotter Dammond Preacely, a civil rights activist who participated in the Freedom Rides of the 1960s.
Ms. Preacely will perform a recitation of her poem “Just Leaving: 1961” with Dr. Diane-White Clayton, director of the African American Music Ensemble at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, accompanying.
“The Freedom Riders were one of the greatest examples of resilience in our nation’s history,” said White-Clayton. “We owe them a great debt of gratitude.” The concert also includes a performance of White-Clayton’s new piece, “Dear Freedom Rider,” a work for eleven voices, cello, and piano.
Freedom riders were exposed to tremendous violence for challenging southern segregation laws in 1961. Southern police arrested them. Mobs attacked them. Still, the Freedom Riders kept coming.
Ms. Preacely’s activism continued, too. She participated in the sit-ins, another form of direct action where students across the south occupied seats in restaurants and at lunch counters that refused to serve People of Color. The students in turn refused to leave until they were served, often prompting their arrest. Ms. Preacely spent time in jail in both Georgia and Maryland as the result of her protest of unjust segregation laws.
Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Ms. Preaceley in jail.
Ms. Preacely was an original member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the very same organization founded by, among others, civil rights legends John Lewis and Julian Bond. She worked on voter registration drives in the rural south and participated in the 1963 March on Washington, D.C.
Ms. Preacely and her generation had inaugurated a new form of bold, direct-action protest. They defied unjust laws. They refused bail when arrested. They filled the jails. They brought the nation’s attention to southern segregation and forced a national response. Their actions have been credited for helping secure passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Ms. Preaceley’s activism did not end with the establishment of new federal laws protecting civil and human rights. She went on to protest the Vietnam War, and to advocate for the desegregation of schools in Boston. Although Massachusetts (and other northern jurisdictions) did not have segregation laws, neighborhood segregation was often worse than it was in southern states.
Ms. Preacely holds a Master’s in Public Health from California State University, Long Beach, and has worked in the public health sector for over forty-five years. She has lived in Los Angeles since 1982 and attends Holman United Methodist Church. In 2015, the Reverend James M. Lawson of Holman presented Ms. Preacely with the SCLC-SC Rosa Parks Humanitarian Award.
And, on Feb. 28, 2023, at Holman United Methodist Church, concert attendees will have the opportunity to see a living legend embodying the power of art and activism.
Tickets are free. Join us on Tuesday, February 28, at 7:30 p.m.
Holman United Methodist Church, 3320 West Adams Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90018