PHOTO COMPILATION: “Chester Higgins’s Life in Pictures”: Chester Higgins Jr. (b. 1946) is an American photographer whose work focuses on everyday Black life; “it is inside simple moments where I look for windows into larger meaning,” he says. He was a staff photographer for the New York Times for more than four decades, and his work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. This heavily illustrated New Yorker article is a good introduction to his oeuvre, in which religious belief and practice feature prominently. I found out about him through the photography compilation book Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Celebration of Black Prayer.
>> “El Shaddai” by Victory: On January 27 singer-songwriter Victory Boyd, who goes professionally by the mononym Victory, released her latest single, “El Shaddai.” El Shaddai is an ancient Hebrew name for God whose original meaning is unclear but which is often translated into English as “God Almighty”—although “God of the Mountains,” “the Full-Breasted God” (referring to God’s nourishment of God’s children), or “the All-Sufficient One” have also been posited. Its first appearance in the Bible is in Genesis 17:1, where God tells Abram, “’I am El Shaddai; walk before me, and be blameless.”
Read the lyrics in the YouTube video description.
>> “Come Unto Me” by Take 6: A friend recently introduced me to the American a cappella gospel sextet Take 6. Formed in 1980 on the campus of Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, and still active, they incorporate sophisticated jazz harmonies into the tradition of Black gospel “quartet” singing. They are featured on Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing soundtrack and have won ten Grammys.
This 1988 performance for a Heritage USA TV spot features the group’s six original vocalists: Claude V. McKnight III, Mark Kibble, Mervyn Warren, David Thomas, Cedric Dent, and Alvin Chea.
>> “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” by Peter Collins: I love what Peter Collins does with this African American spiritual! This video was his submission to Tyler Perry’s #HesGotTheWholeWorldChallenge from 2020 (which I featured here). It didn’t make the final cut, but I’m so glad it’s out there.
LITERARY EXCERPT from The Color Purple by Alice Walker: This short passage from Alice Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel is taken from a conversation between the protagonist, Celie, and her friend Shug, about pleasure, gratitude, and grace. Shug refers to God as “it” (“God ain’t a he or a she”), and her statement about the necessity of enjoying God’s good creation and being open to surprise provides the source of the title.
I’m embarrassed to say that although I saw and really liked the 1985 Steven Spielberg film adaptation of The Color Purple, I’ve never read the book! I plan to rectify that before December, when another film adaptation—of the 2005 stage musical based on Walker’s novel—is coming out, directed by Blitz Bazawule. It stars Fantasia, H.E.R., Colman Domingo (Euphoria), Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures), Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black), Jon Batiste, and more.
VIDEO: “Ethiopian Gospel Book”: In this six-minute instructional video, Dr. Beth Harris, executive director of Smarthistory, and Kelin Michael, a graduate curatorial intern of manuscripts at the Getty Museum, explore an early sixteenth-century Gospel book from Ethiopia. They discuss the book’s historical context and the formal qualities of its paintings, including the flatness of the figures and the colorful interlacing. They focus on a full-page illumination at the front of the Virgin and Child enthroned between two archangels, but they also touch on the book’s canon tables and its portrait of Saint John the Evangelist.
One thought on “Roundup: “El Shaddai” (new song), everyday Black life in pictures, and more”
I enjoyed the music selections. The video with Take6 – this is a very young video of this group! Thank you for your research.