Step it Up: A Concert for Social Transformation

On April 23, 2017 Step It Up: A Concert for Social Transformation took place at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck due a generous contribution from Cindy Simon-Skodjt. The event was a collaboration between the DTC, Saving Orphans through Healthcare and Outreach, Congregation Beth-El Zedeck and Women4Change Indiana. Waseema Ali, Managing Director of the Desmond Tutu Center; and Cynthia Prime, CEO of Saving Orphans through Healthcare and Outreach served as hosts for the event. The concert featured artists using music, spoken word and dance to engage the community in becoming more aware of and involved in social justice advocacy.

The first performer Angela Brown, a Grammy award winning soloist, opened up the concert with an inspiring rendition of America the Beautiful, The song itself celebrates America’s historical past and evokes its future potential. Following Ms. Brown’s performance was Beth-El Zedeck’s own Shir Ami Youth Choir directed by Cantor Melissa Cohen, who sang a mashup of Jewish artist Matisyahu’s One Day with the Beatles classic Let it Be, as well as Ben Mosh Ali’s Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu which translates from Hebrew to mean “Peace will come upon us , yet”. These songs together expressed hope for an end to the troubles of the world and encouraged a new era of peace and understanding. Paula Dione Ingram lended her talented voice to the proceedings next with her performance of If You Believe, from the soundtrack of the 1975 Broadway production, “The Wiz”. The song speaks about self-confidence and inspires one to take control of their own destiny.

Providing a change of pace performing spoken word our fourth performer was Amina Dzananovic. She performed two pieces, one her artistic response to a recent personal experience of Islamophobia and another a touching tribute to her mother, who escaped the Bosnian genocide and covered her struggles adapting to life in the United States. Amina’s works brought light to the struggles that religious and racial minorities face here on a daily basis while highlighting the strength and perseverance of her and her mother.

The fifth act was Wesley Bryant, a Butler University student and member of the DTC who performed his original piece called I Know. The lyrical symbolism presented throughout the song suggests that a person is lost in a state of confusion and can’t find their way in life. However, one part of the verse “Run, find, home” suggests that there are loved ones who will help the person deal with their own personal situation of being lost. The chorus “I know I’m not alone, I know” suggests that the person doesn’t have to deal with those struggles alone.

The sixth act featured Dawn Batson and Murray Mast performing two pieces on steel pan, Hammer by David Rudder and Three Little Birds by Bob Marley. During the performance of Hammer Batson projected lyrics on the screen and led the audience in a spirited sing-along on the piece. Afterwards, Rabbi Sandy Sasso, Senior Rabbi Emerita of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck and Co-founder of Women4Change, came to the stage to speak of Women4Change’s mission to protect the dignity and safety of all people in the state of Indiana and the world, and their mission to empower women to take the lead in making powerful social and political changes in their communities.

The seventh act saw Angela Brown and Paula Dione Ingram both returning to stage to perform a duet of He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands and was followed by the concert’s second spoken word artist Caroline Rothstein, who traveled all the way from New York to share her message of hope and empowerment. Rothstein performed three of her pieces, taking a break between each one to talk about herself and to offer context behind each piece. Her first act “You Could be Next”  addressed the racism and fear that she had both witnessed and experienced in the aftermath of September 11th. This piece’s relevance to our current political and social context shows very poignantly the need for social transformation. Rothstein’s other two pieces Fierce this House and Holy on My Own spoke to the importance of self-love and confidence in one’s own self in overcoming adversity throughout our lives.

The ninth act featured Synergy Dance Company performing a number they called Speak Out Speak Loud. The dancers performed with duct tape on their mouths, symbolizing the forced silence of those who are oppressed throughout the world. In the number’s conclusion the dancers triumphantly ripped the tape off their mouths, expressing the overcoming of oppression and the power of giving a voice to the voiceless.

The last performance of the concert was provided by Edward Strickling, a Broad Ripple High School Chorus member who sung The Greatest Love of All by Michael Masser and Linda Creed. The song addresses the limitless potential for the future generation, they will grow up one day and help change the world in a positive direction. This song also talks about self-dependence and not focusing on the approval of others.

The Concert for Social Transformation provided a wonderful afternoon of empowering performances that encouraged attendees to be strong in the face of social injustice and oppression, whether that be fighting injustices that are visited upon themselves or speaking out and defending those without the power, political or otherwise, to advocate for their own dignity and inherent worth. We are deeply thankful to our two sponsors for the concert, Cindy Simon Skjodt and the Indianapolis Chapter of The Links, Inc. Without their support and the hard work of our event partners such a wonderful event as this would never have been possible.


Written by: Wesley Bryant

Sponsors: Cindy Simon Skjodt, Indianapolis Chapter of The Links, Inc

Partners: Saving Orphans Through Healthcare and Outreach, Women4Change Indiana, Congregation Beth-El Zedeck

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