Save the Date – details coming for SUNY Geneseo’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration
Dear Campus Community,
I am very pleased that Dr. Ysaye Barnwell ’67, ’68 will be returning to Geneseo to lead a Community Sing on Feb. 27, 6pm for our annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration.
As you may know, Dr. Barnwell was one of the few African American students on campus in the mid- to late-1960s and has gone on to a very distinguished career. Barnwell, who completed B.S. and M.S. degrees at Geneseo is a musician, composer, arranger, singer, member of Sweet Honey in the Rock (emerita), and master teacher and choral clinician in African American cultural performance. In 2001 she was among the distinguished alumni featured in Proudly Geneseo. As a student, she was very active and involved, performing with the Chamber Singers and as a solo folksinger; acting in numerous plays; spearheading invitations to visiting performers (including the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and Andre Watts); tutoring migrant workers, joining the Northern Student Movement organization, and working with other students and faculty to support the Civil Rights Movement. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, Barnwell was completing work on her Geneseo master’s degree and was asked to sing at Geneseo’s first memorial commemoration for Dr. King. Dr. King’s violent death also inspired her to seek a teaching position at an HBCU (Historical Black Colleges and Universities), leading to her first appointment at Howard University.
In addition to her Geneseo degrees, Barnwell has a PhD in Speech Pathology from the University of Pittsburgh, an M.S. in Public Health from Howard University, and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from alma mater, Geneseo. Her career as musician, actor and writer follows twelve years as professor at the College of Dentistry, Howard University, and work as Project Director on community health, technology, and art projects. Barnwell has been a commissioned composer on numerous choral, film, video, dance, and theatrical projects. For example, in 2003, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, D.C. premiered Truth Pressed to Earth Shall Rise, a choral work, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2009 the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra (Waterbury, CT) premiered a musical setting, composed by Barnwell, for Marilyn Nelson’s epic poem Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem. This led to several extensive community-based projects. More recently, she arranged the National Anthem to bring in the African American tradition. You can hear the arrangement and Barnwell discussing the project here.
Professor of History
Coordinator of Black Studies
Sturges Hall 13L
1 College Circle
Geneseo, NY 14454