The O'Shaughnessy auditorium filled up swiftly on October 16. The audience quickly quieted as a smooth, sultry voice came over the speakers asking people to turn off their cell phones and walkmans and every listening device created before and after, as Sweet Honey will be taking the stage soon and she doesn't like to share her stage time with any device. Sister Florence dutifully reached down into her purse for her phone, while my mother laughed as I asked her what on earth a walkman was.
Several moments later the five members of Sweet Honey in the Rock vocalized their way on stage, swaying gracefully in their carefully coordinated accessories. After their first number, they took seats in center stage and proceeded to remove every troublesome accessory that wasn't clipped on to them. They were all about business. Then Sweet Honey talked with the audience.
She talked about when she had been first formed and why, she talked about the civil turmoil of each civil movement she'd sung her way through, she talked about the movements of today and her appreciation for everyone in the audience that day.
"You're welcome," Sister Florence answered.
Then Sweet Honey sang. She sang freedom songs from her beginning, pained songs from today and political songs from her middle. A pure-toned and high bird-like voice wafted around Sister Florence as she sang along with nearly every freedom song. On my other side, my mother danced beyond what her chair really wanted to allow. Sweet Honey sang one song into another, stopping only to say she thought we could sing along better and we'd better try harder. "Show me those St. Paul trumpets!"
Afterwards, I stayed in my seat as my mother and Sister Florence talked over me.
"You've got quite a lot of rhythm in your bones," Sister Florence said in slight wonderment.
My mother laughed.
As they chattered, I thought of all the stories and movies I'd seen of "Gospel worshipping" and "worship through song" and such. I thought of the political and religious bent Sweet Honey's songs had had. I thought about the thought that I'd never gone to a church for a service, mass or anything else in my whole life. I thought of the religious assumptions people make based on whether you went to a church or not. The assumptions some people have that everyone who's white and middle class is some form of Christian. The assumptions about your attitude and personal life if you don't go to Church. The general sense of other-ness some people exhibit when faced with a difference of religion. I thought of the concepts of sacred and holy places and who they were meant for and the concepts of fraud and trespassing. I thought of America's attempt to control slaves before the Civil War through religion. I thought of my ancestry as a little white girl from the Midwest. I thought of the obvious invitation and expectation of energy Sweet Honey exhibited.
"Did I just go to church?" I asked Sister Florence, not sure how I felt about the thought.