Tribute to folk legend Odetta planned

A tribute to the late folk singer Odetta will take place Thursday, April 9, featuring a panel discussion at 4:30 p.m. in McCosh 10 and a concert at 8:30 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall.

The panel discussion, "Odetta, Folk Music and Social Activism," will feature: Albert Raboteau, the Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion at Princeton; Judith Casselberry, a fellow in Princeton's Center for African American Studies; Bernice Johnson Reagon, a cultural historian and musician; Matthew Frye Jacobson; a professor of American studies and history at Yale University; Oscar Brand, a folk musician and radio host; and Olivia Greer, a graduate student in New York University's Department of Performance Studies who is studying Odetta. The panel will be moderated by Judith Weisenfeld, a professor of religion at Princeton.

The concert will include spoken word tributes by poet Sonia Sanchez, actress Ruby Dee and choreographer Geoffrey Holder. Musicians Reagon, Guy Davis, Lizz Wright and Toshi Reagon will perform Odetta's classic songs. 

Born in Birmingham, Ala., in 1930, Odetta Holmes was known for her powerful stage presence and her ability to command the simplest instruments -- voice and clapping hands -- as well as her mastery of acoustic guitar.

Odetta rose to fame singing classic African American folk songs and spirituals. Her second album, "Folk Songs," was released in 1963 and became one of the best-selling records of the year. Through the years, Odetta's music also touched on gospel and the blues. Her powerful renditions of liberation songs made a significant cultural contribution to the civil rights movement, not only in her moving performance at the 1963 March on Washington, but at many other critical moments in the movement's history. She died on Dec. 2, 2008, at the age of 77.

Tickets are required to attend the free concert and are available at the Frist Campus Center box office or by calling University Ticketing at (609) 258-9220.

The tribute to Odetta has the following University sponsors: Center for African American Studies; University Center for Human Values; Center for the Study of Religion; Council of the Humanities; Department of History; Department of Music; Department of Religion; Graduate School's Office of Academic Affairs and Diversity; James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions; Lewis Center for the Arts; Office of Religious Life, Program in American Studies; Program in the Study of Women and Gender; University Public Lectures; and Office of the Vice President for Campus Life. The Princeton Theological Seminary also is a sponsor.

Media who would like to attend the events should RSVP to Jennifer Loessy in Princeton's Center for African American Studies no later than 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, by e-mailing or calling (609) 258-3216.

Information about the event also can be found on the Center for African American Studies website.