Octavia Butler memorial, June 2006

Dr. Reagon speaking at the New York Public Library’s Tribute to Octavia Butler, June 2006 Photo: Lydia Mann

I used the term songtalk for the first time in 1975 to name the genre of a theater work, A Day, A Life, A People. It was not a musical everything was sung, even the prose. I wanted a term that would be closer to the ground than opera, so I came up with songtalkto describe a music genre capable of all levels of spoken communication.

Then in 1978, when I formed my music company, I naturally named it Songtalk Publishing Co. and used it to describe what I do and who I am when I rise as singer/orator/poet: I rise with communication in mind, a dialogue, weaving talk and song into a offering to those who gather in the sound of my voice.

Honoring the congregational tradition in which I was raised where all gatherings began in singing, I stretch the initial songtalk concept to name what I do when I come before an audience or congregation in a live solo presentation. I come as songtalker balancing talk and song in the construction of a live performance conversation.

I especially like being invited to come to a gathering creating a songtalk that supports the themes and issues that calls the gathering into being.

Participants embark on a chronological song journey from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement’s repertoire of freedom, struggle, and justice
Stories from and about women whose lives define Black womanhood in both personal and universal ways
Playing with her daughter's band, BIGLovelyACROSS GENERATIONS…
Bernice Johnson Reagon also performs with her daughter, Toshi Reagon – an accomplished guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and producer. In concert, they share their life experiences in a cross-generational concert performance – creating space for future generations and those who came before us.
Toshi Reagon integrates her commitment to social justice into her own spirited blend of sounds, expressed through her fierce guitar playing and dynamic voice. An engaged and compelling performing artist, Toshi Reagon is a powerhouse, and—she ROCKS!
Based on growing up in southwest Georgia with a cappella singing traditions in school and church, coming of age singing gospel and European classical concert and at the same time performing new understandings of music as a songleader in the Civil Rights Movement
Perspectives on the importance of keeping our principles intact as we build coalitions in combating racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of injustice as a struggle for the future of humanity and not just for our own survival

Keynote Address: Unsettling Memories Conference, June 16-20, 2004

This thank you is for the amazing way that you held the soul and spirit of the conference and fed to it the voice of the ancestors and lifted us all into a world of life and breath and remembering…

…thank you for pushing me to see the limits and the possibilities of my actions, to reflect on the state of my soul, to think again about how I want to use my energies in this lifetime and to know that we who believe in freedom”

—Professor Rebecca Mark, Conference Organizer, Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Murders of Civil Rights Organizers James Cheney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Swerner
Tulane University, Jackson State University, New Orleans, LA