California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) has received a $1.6 million gift to create an endowment that will support historic and innovative research, preservation, and performance activities hosted by the new Center for African Diaspora Sacred Music and Musicians, located in CSUDH’s College of Arts and Humanities.
The gift was donated by the Georgia and Nolan Payton Foundation. The funds will support a variety of activities hosted by the center, including the continued preservation and digitization of new collections of spirituals, a broad arrangement of music/folk songs inspired by the hardships of enslaved Africans. Other endeavors will include gallery and museum exhibitions, festivals, and performances by visiting artists, commissioning of new choral compositions, a scholars-in-residence program, and grants for faculty scholarship and research.
“Our university is honored to receive this generous donation from the Georgia and Nolan Payton Foundation. The investment in support of our Center for African Diaspora Sacred Music and Musicians is a cherished gift that will continue to give for generations to come,” said CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham. “If the challenge to current generations is to build upon and extend the legacies left by our ancestors, then this bestowal by the Payton family will help fulfill that promise.”
The Georgia and Nolan Payton Foundation has been a long-term supporter of the African Diaspora Sacred Music and Musicians (ADSMM) Program at CSUDH, which is internationally recognized for its preservation and promotion of African Diaspora music.
The foundation also helped establish the Georgia and Nolan Payton Archive of Sacred Music at CSUDH. The primary goal of the Payton Archive is to facilitate research and documentation of collections of African Diaspora sacred music created and performed by the multicultural population of Southern California.
The Payton Archive consists of music, books, periodicals, documents, audio and visual materials, and oral histories. It is also home to the works of Los Angeles-based African Diaspora musicians, beginning with the Hansonia Caldwell Special Collection, the Jester Hairston Special Collection, the Lillie Hill Jones Collection, the Dr. Don Lee White Collection, and the most recently acquired Dr. Albert J. McNeil and the Albert J. McNeil Jubilee Singers Collection.
“Over the years, the programs and materials supported by the foundation have added tremendously to the educational experience we have been able to provide the students of CSUDH,” said Professor Emerita of Music Hansonia Caldwell, who founded the African Diaspora Sacred Music and Musicians program at CSUDH. “Additionally, it has ensured the preservation and celebration of an important part of the African Diaspora cultural heritage of California. It is absolutely thrilling for the university to receive this important gift, thus furthering the mission of the archive.”
Other Projects Supported by the Payton Foundation:
The “Will the Circle Be Unbroken: The Sacred Music of the African American Diaspora” exhibition, curated from the holdings of the Georgia and Nolan Payton Archive, opened at CSUDH in February 2020.
The exhibit showcases the role sacred music plays in the cultural institutions of the African American communities of Los Angeles, as well as the ways those traditions have impacted the politics, social structures, and history of African Americans in the Los Angeles region. The exhibit has been moved online due to COVID-19: https://scalar.usc.edu/works/will-the-circle-be-unbroken/index.
To build on the ADSMM Living Legends Concert Project, which began in 2003 featuring performances by contemporary musicians, CSUDH has commissioned a composition that celebrates the life and words of Harriet Tubman. The piece was composed by celebrated music artist and educator Rosephanye Powell, who was featured in the annual Living Legends Residency and Concert. The debut of the composition was scheduled for 2020, which has been postponed due to COVID-19.