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Freedom! A Juneteenth Celebration

The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM) is collaborating with the Classical Music Institute, the San Antonio Gospel Heritage Choir, and friends to present “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed” by composer Joel Thompson, finishing with a classic by Richard Smallwood. This event also features an original work by Billy Ray Sheppard and V. Michael McKay with the Houston Gospel Legends.

Seven Last Words of the Unarmed is a choral composition by Atlanta-based composer Joel Thompson. The piece contains seven movements, each of which quotes the last words of an unarmed Black man before he was killed. Thompson has said that in composing the piece, he “used the liturgical format in Haydn‘s The Seven Last Words of Christ in an effort to humanize these men and to reckon with my identity as a Black man in this country in relation to this specific scourge of police brutality.” He was also inspired by the illustrations of Iranian-American artist Shirin Barghi.

Total Praise‘ is more than a gospel classic; it’s a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Richard Smallwood, amidst the challenges of caring for a sick mother and a terminally ill godbrother, found solace in his music. In October 1995, he composed this iconic piece, a shining example of the power of music to uplift and inspire, even in the darkest of times.

Reserved seating is only $10. The event is sponsored by Bexar County and the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in partnership with SAAACAM. To learn more, visit (

Ebony Huerta Wells has over 25 years of writing and media experience. She was a former business journalist with a major newspaper and worked for other niche publications.

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