On November 16, Syracuse University’s Black Celestial Chorale Ensemble (BCCE) teamed up with multiple gospel music giants at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta for a one-of-a-kind gospel music explosion that attracted more than 400.
The benefit concert, co-sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Advancement and Hendricks Chapel in collaboration with The Alumni Group of the Black Celestial Choral Ensemble (TAG-BCCE), was intended in part to honor the shared history between Syracuse University and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who visited Syracuse University twice between 1961 and 1965, while raising money to benefit the TAG-BCCE Living Legacy Fund.
The concert featured student members of BCCE, alumni members of TAG-BCCE, solo artist Sheimyrah Mighty, Grammy-nominated Jeff Roberson and Nulife, and multiple award-winners Kurt Carr and Byron Cage. “The audience was so engaged with each performance; you don’t get that at every concert,” says Choir Director Ashleigh Brown ’14. “I believe everyone left with a better understanding of the purpose of the BCCE and was blessed from each performance.”
Although the current church building stands across the street from the original structure, Ebenezer Baptist Church is well known as the church where Dr. King served as pastor while leading the civil rights movement. For Brown, the opportunity to perform there was a standout experience. “To be singing—even just standing—in the church associated with Dr. King definitely brought on a sense of homage. I was overcome with gratitude. It was an honor,” she says.
The concert capped a three-day cultural trip that included a civil rights tour of Atlanta, including visits to Dr. King’s childhood home and the home he shared with his wife and children, a tour of the Atlanta History Center, Sunday morning worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and a Friends and Family Dinner reception the night before the concert, sponsored by Monica Houston ’90 and the Rev. Dr. Charles Houston ’90 at the Riverside EpiCenter.
“The event was wonderful,” says Miko Horn ’95, director of alumni events in the Office of Multicultural Advancement. “The historic location made the concert particularly special and meaningful to the Syracuse students and alumni. At the same time, many of those in attendance were simply gospel music lovers with no connection to Syracuse University, so it was a wonderful way to expose a new audience to BCCE while raising money to support the longevity of the organization.”
BCCE was created at Syracuse University in 1977, and for more than four decades has provided members with spiritual nourishment and a sense of home while they pursue academic excellence and foster social change. Through the presentation of their gospel music in competitions and concerts, BCCE members serve as ambassadors for the University. TAG-BCCE was created by Laurie Kingsberry (Asst. Director, 1982) and BCCE co-founder Seretta C. McKnight. Together they created the Living Legacy Fund, an endowment to ensure BCCE of Syracuse University at Hendricks Chapel has funding in perpetuity.