Spirit and Struggle: Landmarks of Black Sacred Song

Feb 24

12:00 pm - 1:15 pm

Zoom Webinar

The sounds of gospel music, a touchstone of African American religious life and culture, swell through the films by Micah Ariel Watson (UVA ’18). Join us for a screening and conversation between the filmmaker and Ashon Crawley, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and of African American Studies at the University of Virginia.


40th & State (2018), the 2019 Best Documentary winner at Black Web Fest, is an homage to Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, the Pentecostal congregation on Chicago’s south side which hosted the 1955 funeral for young lynching victim Emmett Till, a pivotal event in launching the Civil Rights Movement.

Barky’s (2019) turns a lens on Barky’s Spiritual Record Store, a gospel music retailer in the heart of gentrifying Richmond, Virginia.

Presented by UVA Democracy Initiative‘s Memory Project and the Religion, Race & Democracy Lab.

(Above: still from 40th & State, courtesy the artist.)


Micah Ariel Watson

Micah Ariel Watson (MFA, NYU Tisch School of the Arts) is a filmmaker and award-winning playwright whose work centers upon the blurred lines between the sacred and the secular in Black Culture. She is currently the artist-in-residence for the Memory Project. Her films have been screened at numerous film festivals, and she is the writer and director of Black Enough, a web series streaming on YouTube. Watson is a 2018 graduate of the University of Virginia, where she majored in Drama and African American Studies, and founded, produced, and directed The Black Monologues, an annual theatrical production. Her short film, 40th & State was Watson’s UVA undergraduate thesis project; Barky’s was produced with support from the Religion, Race and Democracy Lab.


Ashon Crawley

Scholar and artist Ashon Crawley, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and of African American Studies at the University of Virginia, specializes in the study of Black Pentecostalism, and performance and sound studies. He is author of the book Blackpentecostal Breath, and is also a poet and former choir director in the Church of God in Christ. His current book project investigates the role of the Hammond Organ in African American sacred music.