Detroit Symphony to premiere new Okoye work about two former neighborhoods

Posted on: March 3, 2020

“The Detroit Symphony Orchestra plans to premiere a work commemorating two historic, razed black neighborhoods in the city,” reads an unsigned Saturday (2/29) Associated Press article. “The ensemble is scheduled to perform the 22-minute ‘Black Bottom’ during performances March 6-7. The commissioned piece was composed by Nkeiru Okoye, a native New Yorker born to an African American mother and Nigerian father…. The program will also include a performance of Johnson’s ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, ‘Emperor.’ A release says ‘Black Bottom’ came out of a roughly year-long research project [and] aims to portray ‘joys, sorrows and interrelated stories’ about Paradise Valley and Black Bottom, the latter so named by French colonial settlers because of its rich soil. According to the Detroit Historical Society, Black Bottom was hit hard by the Great Depression since many of the neighborhood’s residents worked in the hard-hit auto factories. In the 1960s the city targeted the area to combat what it referred to as ‘Urban Blight.’ The areas were torn down partly to make way for a highway. Many of the former residents of the neighborhood relocated to public housing projects.” Thomas Wilkins will lead the concerts.