• Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

I’ll Never Look at Country Music The Same

Sinclair’s Diversity on Campus team has done it yet again! Their DeFord Bailey presentation was truly insightful and honestly a little shocking. I personally do not think of a Black man with a harmonica when someone mentions country music. Yet, Deford Bailey was a remarkable trailblazer in Country and Blues music. He was actually the first African American to be on the Grand Ole Opry stage and one of their most popular performers.

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Photo Credit: April Littleton

In the midst of racial tensions to say the least, Deford Bailey found a way to capture the hearts of Blacks and whites alike with his music. I think even more inspiring than the racial hurdles Deford Bailey overcame is the health obstacles he endured.

At the young age of 3, Deford Bailey was stricken with polio and confined to a bed for nearly a year. That ordeal left DeFord Bailey with a slightly deformed back and stunted his growth. Maxing out at nearly 4 feet 10 inches and less than 100 pounds, DeFord Bailey didn’t allow his stature to stop him from working several jobs while also pursuing his passion for music. 

All the time I’m just playing, I’m talking, but most people don’t understand it. In blowing a harp, it’s just like going to school to learn foreign languages. You got to learn how to make it talk in all sorts of ways. I can make it say whatever I want to.

DeFord Bailey

It was that same work ethic and tenacity that allowed DeFord Bailey to transition from a successful musician to an equally successful entrepreneur of a shoe shinning business when he was caught in the middle of the Copyright Conflict and released from Grand Ole Opry in 1941.

If you didn’t get a chance to attend this wonderful event, put on by Michael Carter, Sinclair’s Chief Diversity Officer or you just need a little shot of inspiration, here is my advice to you:

  1. Check out the PBS website to watch the two short documentaries shared on Deford Bailey.
  2. Visit Sinclair’s Diversity on Campus website to make sure you do not miss another amazing event happening at Sinclair.

Not only was the subject of this event empowering, but the conversation that followed was just as stimulating. So, if you have the opportunity to attend one of these events, please do so. Share the gift of your presence and experiences with others and be blessed in the process by the presence and insights of others. Let’s grow together!

 AJ Owen, an employee in Student Affairs, graced me with an interview after the event and he put it this way:

“There’s a lot of different perspectives that I’m not aware of. I think that’s one of the things about coming to the diversity presentations, as you always take something away that [you] never would have thought of. Multiple perspectives from a wide variety of different experiences,” he said.

April Littleton, Reporter

(Featured Image from University of Illinois Press)