BERNICE JOHNSON REAGON has been a major cultural voice for freedom and justice for more than a half-century. As artist, singer/composer/producer, as author, as a cultural historian with a specialty in the history of African-American culture; and as a teacher: in live solo presentations, in the classroom, as a museum curator, and in her documentary productions in radio, films and audio recording, Reagon has helped to shape the field of public history. Born in southwest Georgia, the third of eight children, her parents Rev Jesse and Beatrice Johnson grounded their family with a linked partnership of home, school and church. While in college during the early 1960s, Reagon's activism as a student leader during the Albany civil rights movement resulted in her being jailed and expelled from school. Her singing power came to attention as a song leader in the Albany, Georgia mass meetings; she joined the first national tour of the SNCC Freedom Singers, organized by Cordell H. Reagon. Completing her studies at Spelman College, with graduate work at Howard University, she formed the internationally renowned African-American women's a cappella ensemble, Sweet Honey in the Rock.
She led this group for 30 years until retirement in early 2004. She is curator emeritus at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and professor emeritus of history at American University. Reagon's work as a scholar, producer and score composer includes a number of documentary projects: Reagon was music consultant to the Emmy Award-winning series "Eyes on the Prize" (Blackside/PBS); "We Shall Overcome" (Ginger Productions), and conceptual producer and host for Peabody Award-winning radio series, "Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music History" (National Public Radio and the Smithsonian Institution). Reagon composed the score for Peabody Award-winning film series on slavery: "Africans in America"(PBS/WGBH-TV), and is composer and librettist for Robert Wilson's opera, "The Temptation of St. Anthony," (2003 premiere in Germany). Reagon, with her daughter and strongest collaborator, composer/bandleader/singer Toshi Reagon, and jazz pianist/composer Jeri Allen, composed the score for HBO's Peabody Award-winning film "Beah: A Black Woman Speaks," produced by Jonathan Demme and Lisa Gay Hamilton.
Reagon's pioneering work as a scholar, teacher, author and artist have been recognized with the Heinz Award for the Arts and Humanities (2003), the Leeway National Award for Women in the Arts (2000), the Presidential Medal for contribution to public understanding of the humanities (1995), the MacArthur Fellowship (1989), and the 2009 Howard University Distinguished Alumni Award in Humanities, Music, and Civil Rights.
TOSHI REAGON is a talented, versatile singer, composer and musician with a profound ear for sonic Americana: from folk to funk, blues to rock. She masters each of these genres with vocal strategies that spiral and swoop from the expressively sinuous to the hard-charging with a combination of warmth and mischief.
While her career has taken her to residence at Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden, she has also performed in music festivals, intimate venues and local clubs. She has worked with Lizz Wright, Ani DiFranco, Carl Hancock Rux, Nona Hendrix, Pete Seeger, Chocolate Genius and many other artists. She performs solo and with BIGLovely, her band of all-stars featuring Fred Cash, Robert Burke and Adam Widoff.
She has collaborated as composer and music director with Urban Bush Women for "Bones and Ashes," with Jane Comfort and Company for "Underground River" and "Asphalt," with LAVA for "We Become," and with Robert Wilson and Bernice Johnson Reagon for "The Temptation of St. Anthony."
Reagon has been the recipient of a NYFA award for Music Composition and The Black Lily Music and Film Festival Award for Outstanding Performance. She is a National Women's History Month Honoree, and the recipient of OutMusic's Heritage Award (2010), and the Stonewall Honors Award (2012).
Reagon's latest release is "There and Back Again." More information: www.toshireagon.com
JACQUELINE WOODSON is a three-time Newbery Honor-winner - in 2006 for "Show Way;" in 2008 for "Feathers;" and in 2009 for "After Tupac and D Foster." "Hush" and "Locomotion" were both National Book Award finalists. Woodson has been recognized by the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee for "I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This," "From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun," and "Locomotion," all Coretta Scott King Honor Books. "From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun" and "I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This" both received Jane Addams Peace Award Honors, and Woodson's highly-acclaimed novel "Miracle's Boys" won the Coretta Scott King Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and aired as a mini-series directed by Spike Lee, among others. Her work has appeared on numerous Best Book and Notable lists.
In 2006, Woodson became the youngest person ever to win the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Young Adult Library Services Association. Her citation for that award states, "Woodson's sensitive and lyrical books reveal and give voice to outsiders often invisible to mainstream America." Her other lifetime achievement awards include the 2004 ALAN Award, the 2010 St. Katharine Drexel Award and the 2012 Anne V. Zarrow Award.
In 2009, she adapted her award-winning novel, "Locomotion," for the stage. The play was presented by the Performances for Young Audiences Family Theatre at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. October 23 through November 4th 2010.