By Tia Lyons
EL DORADO — “The Rhythm of HBCUs: Right Here at Home - A Teachable Moment in Our History” kicks off at 10 a.m. today, and though there has been a change in the performance lineup, the three-day, Black History Month celebration will not miss a beat, organizer Carolyn Williams said.
The Jackson (Mississippi) State University choir is set for two performances today, one at 10 a.m. and the other at 1:30 p.m., in the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium, 100 W. Eighth.
On Friday, two other HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) choirs are set to perform in the auditorium.
One is Shorter College of North Little Rock, who will take to the stage at 1:30 p.m.
The other was to have been Bethune-Cookman University of Daytona Beach, Florida, but Williams — director/ curator of The Quilted History, a local nonprofit organization and museum that showcases artifacts and other historical pieces that highlight African American heritage and culture — said Bethune-Cookman will not be able to make it to El Dorado this year.
Williams explained that The Quilted History received a USDA grant that would cover transportation costs for the Bethune-Cookman choir.
However, she said organizers learned after the 2017 Rhythm lineup was announced that the grant would not cover lodging expenses.
She explained that the grant allowed for a request to modify the terms of the grant award, but the funds to pay for a three-night hotel stay and 10 rooms for choir members would not have been available in time for Rhythm.
“I called their director, and he said, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’ll just move it back to next year,’” she said.
It was a lesson learned for Williams, and one that she said she will keep in mind for future applications.
Another lesson Williams said she learned early in life came into play.
“You always have to be prepared. You always have to have a backup plan,” she said.
With that, Rhythm will keep rolling on Friday with a 10 a.m. performance in the municipal auditorium by Arkansas Baptist College of Little Rock.
Arkansas Baptist will join Shorter for performances at 6:30 p.m. the same day at Douglas Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, 969 Smackover Hwy.
Bethune-Cookman was also set to visit Timberlane Health and Rehabilitation, 2002 Timberwood, at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, but Williams said Arkansas Baptist will step in.
Philander Smith College, also of Little Rock, has also been added to the Rhythm itinerary.
The Philander and Arkansas Baptist choirs are slated to sing during the Rhythm of Life Awards Banquet at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday in the Econolodge Conference Center, 1920 Junction City.
“We hate that Bethune-Cookman won’t be able to be here, but we will still have HBCU choirs performing,” Williams said. “I’m glad Philander and Arkansas Baptist said they would be able to do it, and with Shorter, they’re all from home.”
Tickets for the banquet are $10, and they may be purchased in advance or at the door.
To purchase tickets in advance, call Williams at 870-881-0443, Bishop George Calloway at 870-881-1317 or Janice Bush at 870-863-4437.
All other Rhythm events are free and open to the public.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.