Posted on: March 4, 2020 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Deana Elhit

JRN 111 Student

Music can bring a whole community together, and Damien Sneed’s multi-genre performance, “We Shall Overcome,” did just that on Feb.16 at the Dorothy Menker Theater on the Moraine Valley campus. 
Sneed’s performance, inspired by the civil rights movement, celebrated the actions and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. got people together in a nonviolent effort and walked across the Edmund Pettus bridge to protest what was going on in the South with the civil rights movement,” Sneed said. “But as you notice, everybody that walked across that bridge were not all Christian; they were not all the same faith. Some were Buddist and some Confucianists.” 
Sneed, lead vocalist, pianist, producer and musical director, explained the beauty of diversity of all people: Music itself unifies people of different religious backgrounds. Music has no religion, yet it is incorporated in all religions, he said.
The performance included traditional and modern gospel, jazz, pop, opera and musical theatre. Sneed said some people would question combining the genres together, but he did it anyway. He incorporated faith and his love for God in his choice in music, such as the song, “Everyone Has a Place in the House of God.”
Each song had a message behind it, and the electricity of the performance involved the entire audience in a spiritual high. Audience members were on their feet laughing, jumping, dancing and completely alive throughout the entire showcase. 
“It was great! I give it a ten!” said audience member Gizelle Moore.
The audience stood and sang along with Chenee Campbell, who Sneed handpicked to be part of the production, as she sang a solo for women’s rights: “Respect,” by Aretha Franklin. 
“I met Sneed when I was 18, and have been working with him since,” Campbell said.
The performers sang “I Wish I Knew How It Felt to be Free” by Nina Simone, along with “What’s Going On” and “Proud Mary.” Audience members even sang “freedom” as performers would sing “we are free” at the same time. At one point, the audience members turned on the flashlights on their phone, swaying them side to side. 
Some audience members participated on stage, some performed solos, and others danced as they listened to vocalists. 
Sneed incorporated parts of the story of his life. Born in Augusta, Georgia and adopted, Sneed said he was fortunate enough to be taught to appreciate everything in life. As a young boy, people thought he was slow or autistic, yet when he took an IQ test, he said, “The numbers were off the charts.” 
Sneed encourages people to chase after their dreams at any age and to refuse to allow others to put them in a box no matter how they are labeled or what deficiency they are diagnosed with. 
“You might be slower than others, but maybe the ones that are smart aren’t fast at anything,” he says. 
As an only child, Sneed would busy himself with music and singing. Sneed’s love for music only grew as he did. He explored different genres and brought them together, making him a multi-genre recording artist. Sneed has worked with Aretha Franklin, Steve Wonder, Wynton Marsalis and Diana Ross. 
“I love staples, but I am not a copy of anything or anybody, I am an individual,” he said. 
Other vocalists in the production included Alicia Peters-Jordan, Anitra McKinney, and Markita Knight, as well as Linny Smith, who won a Grammy award for the song “From Now On” from the soundtrack for “The Greatest Showman,” and has worked with Lin Manuel Miranda.
As he was signing autographs after the performance, Sneed explained that his goal in combining different genres of music is “to make American music that can touch and heal all walks of life.” 
The impact of Sneed’s message, “Music brings us all together,” was put into action throughout the one-of-a-kind concert, which is on its second tour. Sneed told audience members to shake hands with those next to them as a way to become familiar with new people. 
As the performance ended, all the singers gathered center stage, and everyone sang, “We Shall Overcome.”

Deana Elhit can be contacted at elhitd@student.morainevalley.edu