Detroit Youth Choir aims to inspire change with song

The music video was filmed at several Detroit landmarks

Members of the Detroit Youth Choir are using their voices to let the community know they support the Black Lives Matter movement.

DETROIT – Members of the Detroit Youth Choir are using their voices to let the community know they support the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We did a cover of Glory by Common and John Legend because of everything that is going on in the world. There has been a lot of police brutality and everything like that so it is just a way to uplift spirits,” said Grace Franklin, a choir member.

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“We want people to understand where we are coming from when we sing this song, said choir member Shelby-Ariel Williams. “How we want glory. We want everyone to know that we want glory and they should want it to for everybody.”

The Detroit Youth Choir and their families feel the same pain many in the community have felt following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others as well as the impact COVID-19 has had on the black community.

“It’s opened my eyes to seeing these kids really do care about social issues and social injustices,” said Anthony White, the choir’s artistic director. “They been seeing things on the news and over the Internet and to come together and see each other in a positive manner it’s just a dream come true.”

The academy-award winning song Glory was written by John Legend, Common and Rhymefest for the movie Selma. The movie tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s fight for voting rights for African Americans.

The Detroit Youth Choir put their own twist on it and involved 40 of its members. The song also included new rap lyrics created by former DYC member and rapper IndigoYaj (aka Jayla Smalls). According to the news release, a special edition of the track was released featuring rapper Kid Jay, giving an opportunity for others to put their own voice behind the song and it’s message. The choir hopes to collaborate with other artists as well to bring more voices of positivity to the Black Lives Matter Movement.

The idea for the choir to do a cover of Glory came from the creative agency Imagination Detroit.

Alistair Wilson, the managing director of Imagination Detroit, was inspired by a school friend David Oyelowo who played Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie Selma.

“My team and I were moved to act by something David said: “Black people didn’t create this situation we find ourselves in, therefore, it can’t be on us to change it. It’s going to be down to all of us.”

As for the choir, Wilson said the kids have such an incredible voice and an incredible spirit.

“What really resonates with me is these kids have such a, you know, such a lot to gain by being their own teacher by being able to turn the tide of this systemic racism that exists in this country and across the world. Really, it was an opportunity to give them a platform to express themselves and to give their voice in a really positive way, and one of unity, but one that will hopefully fuel momentum behind this really, really important matter,” Wilson said.

“This rendition of ‘Glory’ by DYC moves me to my core. As it did in our film Selma, this version captures our historical and daily cry for justice and equality as Black people in America,” said David Oyelowo about the Detroit Youth Choir version of Glory.

On Twitter, John Legend shared the video of DYC’s song and said “Beautiful. Powerful. Thank you.”

“I think especially with them creating their version of glory with their own words, and then coming up with the concept. It’s actually giving the children, a moment to say what they really feel and I feel like especially in this time, where their voices may not be getting heard as much as they need to be,” said Stefania Walkowiak, senior producer with Imagination Detroit.

The choir recorded the song at the New Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church in Ferndale and Ferndale and YESSIAN’s recording studios in Farmington Hills. The music video was filmed at several Detroit landmarks including the Power to the People mural on Woodward Avenue, the Joe Louis Fist and the Spirit of Detroit.

“Though we are in a time where some people may think hope is lost. I think DYC has the opportunity to be a voice of hope,” said Daniel Valentine of the Detroit Youth Choir. “DYC, as an organization who serves 100 percent black and brown kids, I think it was, it was really important to us to make sure we made a statement in solidarity to everything that’s going on.”

“These are all issues that they are facing, so for them to be able to do this project and be able to be a positive, you know, something positive during these times is awesome,” said Ashia Lee, choreographer for the Detroit Youth Choir. “It’s such a great experience for them to participate in.”

Franklin said of her experience that she wanted to spark change and maybe change the way they think about what is going on in the world.

“The lyrics are saying now the war is not over, victory isn’t won, but we will fight on to the finish and when it’s all done, so basically not everything is over yet, but we want it to be over and we are crying out for glory,” Williams said.

In light of COVID-19, health precautions were taken for the production including daily health screenings, social distancing during rehearsals and recording, and wearing masks when filming and recording were not in progress.

There were many others involved in the project including Grammy award-winning mixer and producer Gerard Smerek and Scotty Gatteno from YESSIAN to develop the arrangement with DYC’s Artistic Director, Anthony T. White and Music Director, Donnell Mosley. The music video was created by Detroit based Film Director Everett Stewart, Executive Producers Ashley Carey and Stefania Walkowiak with Director of Photography Corey Gipperich, Art Director Mike Dryden, Photographer Rohan Makhecha and Murad A, VFX Supervisor Zack Jacobs, Colourist Davis Nixon, Assistant Editor Michael Delgado, and Emmy Award winning Editor, Nicholas Sullivan

To see the video, click here.

You can see behind the scenes of the making of the production here.

The song will soon be available on iTunes and major streaming platforms. Proceeds will support the Detroit Youth Choir with DYC committing to donate a portion of any proceeds towards Black Lives Matter initiatives.

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About the Authors:

You can watch Kimberly Gill weekdays anchoring Local 4 News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and streaming live at 10 p.m. on Local 4+. She's an award-winning journalist who finally called Detroit home in 2014. Kim has won Regional Emmy Awards, and was part of the team that won the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast in 2022.