On Feb. 11 as part of Lyons Township High School’s celebration of Black History Month, Chicago performer Maggie Brown, with the accompaniment by the school choir, performed her one-woman show “Legacy, Our Wealth in Music” in the North Campus Reber Center.
Brown, the daughter of noted singer, songwriter, playwright and activist Oscar Brown Jr., was invited to perform by Jennifer Rowe, LTHS’s new director of equity and inclusion.
Rowe has known Brown for approximately 20 years and had invited Brown to perform at Loyola Academy when Rowe taught there and in Indian Prairie School District 204 where Rowe worked before coming to LTHS at the start of this school year.
Before Brown performed the LTHS Steppers demonstrated a number of step dances. Stepping is a dance form that has long been part of the Black tradition in the United States.
Brown’s show, which was preceded by a performance by the LTHS Steppers, focused on the history of Black music, tracing its roots in Africa and its evolution in the United States from the time Africans were enslaved in this country to the modern era. She performed and spoke about spirituals, ragtime music, blues, jazz and boogie woogie.
“For our ancestors, music was a part of everyday life,” Brown said.
On some numbers Brown was accompanied by the LTHS choir. Brown came out to LTHS earlier in the week to rehearse with the choir. Emerson Eich, a senior and a member of the choir found Brown’s show educational and moving.
“I thought it was really cool to be a part of it, but also listen to it and I learned a lot of things about Black History,” Eich said.
Eich said that he discovered that a lot of popular music today is rooted in African tradition.
“It was cool to learn all about it,” Eich said.
Only a few classes were allowed in the Reber Center for each of the two periods that Brown performed. Other students were able to watch the performance from the classrooms as it was live streamed or later watch a recording.
Brown said that she hoped her show would foster understanding and compassion.
“Our legacy is not only something we inherit, but it’s also something we’re leaving and the importance of leaving the world better,” Brown said in an interview with the Landmark after her performance. “Learning how to have more compassion for each other.”
After performing at North Campus Brown went to South Campus where she conducted question-and-answer sessions over two class periods with teachers and students.