Baylor Professor Robert “Bob” Darden will present “Deep River: Enduring Words of the Slave Poets,” at the HOT Poets Society’s open mic from 3-5 p.m. Saturday at the Waco Hippodrome.
Robert Darden has dedicated a large portion of his life to African American history. His passion is undeniable as he radiates his love for the sacred music of the slave gospels.
Darden glorifies God through his work and many impressive accomplishments. He was the writer for Billboard Magazine’s first Gospel Column for ten years, and later went on to write a compilation of books on the subject. His latest, 25th book is titled, “Nothing but Love in God’s Water: Volume 2: Black Sacred Music from Sit-Ins to Resurrection City”
Growing up as a United States Air Force brat, Darden was exposed to gospel music at friends’ houses at a young age, and he said there was something special about the soulful pleas that they stuck with him. He said that gospel music is not only the soundtrack of his life, but also the soundtrack of America.
“All music is important, but this music was created in blood and founded as a hurt cry for an entire people to be free, for justice, and that gives it a moral authority,” Darden said.
James E. Wallis Jr., the editor of Sojourners Magazine calls slavery “America’s Original Sin,” and Darden said he fiercely agrees with that statement.
“Part of the reason why it’s still front page news today is because we have not truly reconciled, acknowledged or responded to hundreds of years of denying our fellow Americans their equal rights under the law,” says Darden. “It’s compelling because this story doesn’t have a beginning, middle, and end. It has a beginning and middle, and we’re still in the middle.”
Darden will share his new take on these gospels by stripping away the music and focusing on the poetry of the words. Darden has spent so much of his life studying the gospels as music, so now he is taking the opportunity to delve into its poetic words–uncommonly beautiful and powerful.
Dr. Cassy Burleson, lecturer in the journalism department and long-time friend of Darden, is a founding co-sponsor of the HOT Poets Society which hosts open mic events the first Saturday of each month. She admires Darden for his fascination and dedication to black gospel music.
“Bob has spent his life studying, being enchanted by, and then giving new life to a genre of music that is not just about slaves in the United States,” Burleson said. “It’s about slavery everywhere, from the point of view of those who have been incarcerated by culture.”
Dr. Burleson strongly believes that slave gospels should not only be preserved for their symbolism, but also because they are a vital piece of America’s history.
“It’s important to keep the slave poems and gospels alive because they embody the spirit of America and they are our inheritance as a nation,” Burleson said.
Burleson anticipates a good turnout this Saturday as the HOT poets’ themed open mic events tend to draw in bigger crowds. She encourages the Waco community to come and support the arts.
“We welcome everyone; photographers, sculptures, anyone. Name your art and it would add to our group,” Burleson said.