Traveling Civil Rights education and arts outreach program No Tears Project makes its way to Memphis

What’s happening: The civil rights education and arts outreach program No Tears Project is coming to Memphis, a multi-day residency featuring conversation, community concerts, and youth education events. The series largely takes place at a number of Memphis Public Library sites, the local organization responsible for presenting the program in concert with its primary presenters at Oxford American and National Park Service.

What it is: The No Tears Project began in 2017 with pianist/composer Christropher Parker and vocalist and native Memphian Kelley Hurt partnering with nonprofit arts organization Oxford American to produce a series of concerts inspired by Parker and Hurt’s original music composition honoring the Little Rock Nine. It has since evolved into a touring outreach program, marrying conversations and concerts to engage communities in the history and legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.

What’s planned: No Tears Project Memphis will incorporate Memphis’ place in the Civil Rights Movement with those in Jackson, Miss., and Little Rock. A free panel discussion featuring local and national civil rights heroes and activists will discuss Memphians’ work in integrating public spaces, the Memphis 13, and student protest movements at LeMoyne and Owen Junior College in 1960. Several free concerts are planned, including the No Tears Project ensemble performing Parker and Hurt’s civil rights-inspired repertoire and the world premiere of new work from Memphis native and jazz saxophonist Robert “Bobby LaVell” Garner.

Why it’s important: “It’s an honor to do this work with these people and organizations in Memphis in the footsteps of so many giants of the Civil Rights Movement,” says Ryan Harris, No Tears Project Director and consultant to Oxford American. “We sincerely hope that the dialogue created through this music and these conversations can play a small role in forging a deeper understanding of each other with the goal of creating a better future.”

Where and when: Each event is free and open to the public, save for a music workshop intended for Memphis Jazz Workshop students on Monday, June 12.

Free and open to the public is a concert at Cossitt Library on Saturday, June 10, which features live performances from No Tears Project ensemble members interspersed with clips from civil rights activists from Memphis, Little Rock, and Jackson; a reprise performance is also scheduled for Sunday, June 11, at Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.

The Parker and Hurt-led performance from the No Tears Project ensemble is scheduled for Saturday, June 10, at Cossitt Library, featuring an array of high-profile guests and collaborators.

The Recognition Before Reconciliation panel discussion is scheduled for Tuesday, June 13, at Cossitt Library and features Memphis 13 member Dwania Kyles; Little Rock Nine member Elizabeth Eckford; and Reena Evers-Everette, daughter of Medgar and Myrlie Evers. Elizabeth Eckford also leads a Story Time event for young people and families on Wednesday, June 14, at Cossitt Library.

What they’re saying: "We are so excited to have the No Tears Project come to Memphis. Given our city's history in the Civil Rights Movement and the Cossitt Library's place in history when it comes to the desegregation of public libraries, it is fitting that it will be the location for this event," says Memphis Public Libraries Director Keenon McCloy.

Visit Oxford American online for a complete breakdown of performances, guests, dates, and locations. Many of the events, though free, require advance registration, which is also available online.
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