Dr Ruth Pauline Plummer visits Max Rayne Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem
By: Covenant Daughters Television Network
Dr. Plummer lives in Israel with her husband Bishop Glenn Plumer of the Church of God in Christ.
The hallways of the Israeli School were filled with great praise as she gave a live demonstration of the songs they were learning in class on that day. Many my ask the questions of why are Israeli children learning American History especially Negro Spirituals?
Dvir Catz, the music teacher at Hand in Hand, introduced Negro Spirituals to his music class with the classic "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." In his experience, with Africa American History, He states that much of today's music began with Americans slaves and these souls were sang while working on the American plantations in the 1700 - 1800's and even in the early 1900's.
"Everything these students hear today when they turn on a radio, or surf the internet, YouTube, Spotify – wherever they listen to music – it all has its roots in American music, specifically in things that go back about 400 years ago," Catz told ALL ISRAEL NEWS.
"It began in slavery – perhaps the darkest period in American history. But if I can say something good thing came out of that time – it's our music, because these 'work songs' developed into Gospel music. And Gospel had an influence on all music – from Gospel came blues, and from blues, rock, and roll, then jazz, then soul, rhythm and blues, funk, rap and what we see today."
What's more, these songs were deeply spiritual and drawn from the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, referencing the Jordan River and the exodus from Egypt, among other biblical narratives. These songs became the basis for music sung in many churches around the United States today.
"Many of the musicians that we know and love today learned as children to sing in church – they song in church choirs," Catz pointed out. "For example, Beyonce was a Gospel singer in a Houston Texas USA church. If it weren't for the history of the African Americans, we wouldn't have the music we have today."
Plummer began her singing in church at the age of 5 in Bastrop, Louisiana USA a small rural town in the Northeastern corner of Louisiana. But singing for and with this diverse group of Israeli and Palestinian children was a first-time experience for Plummer.
And for someone who teaches workshops at schools for Black History Month (February) in America, this was an opportunity to "use my gift of song" to bring their lessons alive in a tangible way, she said.
"To have someone who represents Black culture to come in and be able to facilitate this session will impact their lives forever as well as mine," Plummer said. "Music is a universal language – it shapes culture and helps us to understand the dynamics of humanity."
Max Rayne Hand in Hand School Music Director Dvir Catz and Principal Johaina Dakwar Salim were both excited and pleased with Dr. Plummer's partnership to expand the youth and teachers understanding of African American history.
This summer, Plummer herself was one of the Women Empowerment Honorees for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for women's advocacy and empowerment as the CEO and Founder of Covenant Daughters International. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is an African American civil rights organization founded in 1957 and is closely associated with its first president, Martin Luther King Jr.
Plummer, who was named Best New Artist by the 2006 Gospel Choice Awards and Best Female Singer 2012, is frequently invited to perform at civil rights events, including the inauguration of the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Speaking with the Jerusalem students was a way to cross cultural bridges with her message.
"They will have some knowledge of our contribution and who we are as Black Americans and our impact on the world. Music was a means of hope for us. It was a way where, when everything was dim and grim, it became our hope, our lifeline and, as a result of that, we were able to find joy in our distresses,"
And she means that literally. The slaves used codes in their songs to send messages and directions to one another about the Underground Railroad – a network of routes that slaves used to escape to freedom in the North.
For example, Harriet Tubman – a famous abolitionist who escaped slavery herself and then returned several times to save others – used the song, "Wade in the Water" to advise other slaves to walk through water in order to throw off the hounds that were used to track them.
Since the plantation masters were used to hearing the slaves sing biblical songs, they never suspected there were codes in the lyrics.
DIVERSITY COMES IN DIVERSE WAYS
Catz has been teaching music theory for 25 years and has taught at Hand in Hand for 20 years. He directs the choir and a music program in which the students have an opportunity to learn diverse instruments such as oud, mandolin, and flute.
Plummer noted that diversity in Israel looks different than in the United States. In this class in Jerusalem, Plummer encountered several languages, religions and two separate and distinct nationalities all together in one auditorium. Her lesson had to be translated into both Hebrew and Arabic for the children.
Hand in Hand is Israel's largest bilingual school with classes conducted in both Hebrew and Arabic. With six campuses around the country, Arab and Jewish children are integrated with an aim to have a 50-50% representation in each class.
"To see the class, engage and support each other says a lot about the school and the new generation regarding diversity and its acceptance of one another. I find that to be very unique," she said.