ABOUT UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Unfinished Business is an ethnographic research project using a multimodal approach.

The live and filmed storytelling comprise an engrossing compilation of societal and cultural knowledge from African American elders from historic Black churches and community organizations. Their oral history interviews are being augmented by keeping ethnographic diaries of the participants. These diaries include photos, letters, and journals, as well as other primary or secondary sources.

This musical documentary portion of this work offers a creative interactive approach to documenting oral histories of African American elders. The musical documentary engages the audience and provides a powerful storyline that is followed by courageous and compassionate conversations to call audiences to remember our past and consider our “unfinished business” related to racial identity, race relations, and systemic racism.

This new project will draw from several sources and most prominently from the Baylor University’s Black Gospel Music Restoration ProjectCarnegie Museum’s Teenie Harris Collection, the Pittsburgh Courier, the Heinz History Center library & archive, and the Library of Congress.

This project is inspired by the life, work, and wisdom of Professor Louis H. Carter and Delores Inez Pollard Carter; Elwin Green; Roy Taft and Mary Anna Dixon Taft; and Clinton McCoy Boddie. Their lives echo this truth:

You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been. - Maya Angelou

Charles Wiggins at 101 years old

 

"I never thought there’d be a Black President of the United States. Never. The fact is, we had the congressman before President, up in New England. I forget his name right now. We were lucky to have him in there. And he served a wonderful term. I look today, I still say we’re blessed to have whatever, how far we have gone, but we haven’t gone far enough. We have a long way to go. We have a lot of obstacles in our way. Every day there’s obstacles out there. We have to say it’s going to take a lot more yet to overcome them. And I think education is number one because we got to know what’s going on through education to keep up with what’s going on. If you get behind it they’re not going to give it to you. I am not one of these smart people to learn all that. But there’s youngsters out there who are great. They’ll get it. Might not be in my time. But they’ll get it."  

This is just one of the stories captured from the new project, Unfinished Business: Pittsburgh’s Great Migration and the Movement of Black Lives. This project unpacks and showcases the untold stories of Black elders and the ways the distinctive history of Pittsburgh’s Great Migration (1916-1970) connects to contemporary Black social movements. This work leaves audiences to wrestle with the profitability of justice and their role to address our “unfinished business” of race.

This work further highlights the entrepreneurial spirit of Blacks in Pittsburgh, as they faced persistent discrimination and systematic racism on the job in the city’s steel and iron mills, at the polls, and in everyday life. Thousands of elders migrated to Pittsburgh in two major waves before and after World War I from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. 

Unfinished Business contributes to the scholarship and art of the African Diaspora, connecting themes of relocation, resistance, remembering, resilience, and resplendence that have passed from the silent revolution of the Great Migration to the louder contemporary movements of Black Lives Matter. These themes echo the voices of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marian Anderson, Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Black sacred music, and the many movements of Black Lives. 

This new project will draw from several sources and most prominently from the Baylor University’s Black Gospel Music Restoration ProjectCarnegie Museum’s Teenie Harris Collection, the Pittsburgh Courier, the Heinz History Center library & archive, and the Library of Congress.

ABOUT THE SCHOLAR & ARTIST

“Angelic and mesmerizing” are words that have been used to describe my singing voice. As an artist, I am more than my voice. I am a singer, storyteller, scholar, and social worker. Music and oral history bridge my love for storytelling and scholarship. Both require listening with the heart and transcending the typical binary black and white or us versus them type of thinking. My intention as an artist is to combine my vocal skills and interest in Negro Spirituals, the lives of Black elders, and the Black community, addressing structural inequities to create a multi-media event.

 

I design my artistic works to help audience members reclaim our sacred memories and hidden history in ways that move us toward purposeful action, wholeness, and racial healing for all people regardless of their race and ethnicity.

THANK YOU TO OUR PARTNERS

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Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch

contact us at unfinishedbusiness16@gmail.com

©2019 by Unfinished Business