Black Heritage and Community Through Gospel Music - Humboldt State Now

Black Heritage and Community Through Gospel Music

Blending her cultural heritage, love of music, and call to serve the community, HSU student Valetta Molofsky organized the first Harvest Event at the Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir (AIGC) in November. A celebration of black cultural awareness, the event paid homage to the heritage of black gospel while celebrating Humboldt County’s multicultural community. (WITH VIDEO)

12-12-12-AIGCVideo_LARGE.jpg Humboldt State University student Valetta Molofsky is choir director of the Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir. Molofsky and AIGC members are seen practicing for the Harvest Event (VIDEO).

The word gospel inspires a vision of faith, unity, and togetherness. Literally meaning “good news,” gospel means even more to Humboldt State University graduate student Valetta Molofsky--it’s her ancestry.

The daughter of a Texas minister, Molofsky started singing traditional black gospel music at age three and was directing her first choir by 12. Today, Molofsky is a second-year student in the Masters of Social Work (MSW) program at HSU. Blending her cultural heritage, love of music, and call to serve the community, Molofsky organized the first Harvest Event at the Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir (AIGC) in November. A celebration of black cultural awareness, the event paid homage to the heritage of black gospel while celebrating Humboldt County’s multicultural community.

After being named the AIGC Choir Director this August, Molofsky quickly noticed a unique platform for her community thesis project, a requirement of the MSW program. A nonprofit organization without religious affiliation, the choir’s mission is to promote unity, equality, and hope in the community. The event was also inspired by Molofsky’s graduate research on Terrance Kelly, the artistic director for the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, who is known for his service to community and justice.

“My professor at HSU explained that the main goal in the MSW program this year is to leave a legacy in the community,” says Molofsky. “So that’s what I did.”

At the event in Arcata last month, Molofsky invited a Nigerian conga drummer, a djembe drummer from Zimbabwe, and singers from the local black community to sing gospel songs that date back to slavery. “We played ‘We Are Family,’ Al Green songs, and sang ‘Every Praise’ by Hezekiah Walker,” says Molofsky. “It was amazing to have so many people of color singing together in one room.”

As part of her research, Molofsky reached out to elders, local residents, and people of African descent to share cultural knowledge at the Harvest Event. Careful to call gospel music “gatherings” instead of performances, Molofsky hoped the singers and those in the audience would experience the healing of gospel music.

With an emphasis on decolonization and collaboration, Molofsky also invited members of Black Humboldt, who along with local students, performed a dance choreographed by Molfsky honoring black heritage by using symbolic movements representing slave resistance and solidarity. Other community agencies represented included the Celebrate Recovery, the NAACP, AmeriCorps, and “HSU’s Legacy club”:https://orgsync.com/161467/chapter. Indigenous foods from around the world were served and Devi Mukta shared African clothing from Senegal.

For Molofsky, the goal of her project was to change the narrative on how the community perceives black gospel music and to share multicultural perspectives through social work. Since the November event, Molofsky has already made strides with the formation of an all-black choir and plans to collaborate with multiple community groups including the Galilee Baptist Church, and “HSU’s African-American Center for Academic Excellence”:https://aacae.humboldt.edu/ and Black Student Union. 

The AIGC will perform joyous songs at their *Holiday Concert at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14*, led by Molofsky. For more information, visit the “Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir”:https://arcatainterfaithgospelchoir.org and the HSU Masters of Social Work program.