CCC Choir Takes on Tokyo, Japan

CCC Choir Takes Japan

The Coahoma Community College Choir recently traveled to Tokyo, Japan, for the Legacy
Foundation of Japan’s Juneteenth Gala on Saturday, June 17th, 2023.

The Legacy Foundation Japan held its 2nd Annual Juneteenth Gala, commemorating the
emancipation of enslaved African Americans. This year’s theme, “Seeds of Hope,” honored
the significance of education following the ending of slavery.

As a part of this celebration which endeavored to share seeds of hope, the Legacy
Foundation Japan invited CCC Concert Choir to come and spread their musical gifts
with the citizens of Japan in honor of Juneteenth and American Black Music Month.

Co-Owner of Soul Food House in Tokyo, Japan, and Executive Director of the Legacy
Foundation Japan, LaTonya Whitaker, is responsible for booking the CCC Choir for this
memorable occasion.

Whitaker was home for her late mother’s funeral. While back in the States, she visited
the CCC campus, and it was suggested that she listen to the choir. She knew then that
the CCC Choir would be perfect for the upcoming event.

“Once I heard these amazing individuals in the choir sing, I knew that they would
honor Juneteenth with their voices and live out my mom’s dream that eagles really
do fly in Mississippi,” said Whitaker.

By bringing the choir to Tokyo, she felt that this would honor her mom, Bobbie DeShazer,
who was a Career-Tech instructor at CCC for 20 years.

Whitaker loved the heart the students had for singing. She had an opportunity to bond
with them and learn how amazing they were. Because of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,
students were able to gain various opportunities and an experience of a lifetime.
Whitaker said that the organization wants to ensure that CCC students continue to
grow and flourish.

“We have officially started the Seeds of Hope Scholarship for the next time Coahoma
Community College or any other HBCU would like to come (to Japan). This scholarship
will help towards the cost of the trip,” she said.

The Legacy Foundation Japan is committed to bridging communities for positive change
and growth. The organization is dedicated to connecting, investing, and empowering
the future of African Americans and people of African descent in Japan.

Jowani JapanJo’Wani Jones, a recent 2023 graduate of CCC and Clarksdale, Mississippi native, shared
her experience of attending a wonderful opportunity. She is thankful to have been
included in the adventure.

“I was overjoyed to learn that the choir had been invited to Tokyo, Japan, and even
happier to learn that our trip had been approved,” said Jones. “I was excited to have
the ability to view the world through a whole new perspective.”

Jones loved the atmosphere of Tokyo, and she expressed that the locals were friendly.
She also shared that experiencing a foreign culture was a fantastic experience.

“Although it significantly differed from the U.S., the difference was for the better.
The people, cars, food, and surroundings were all unique,” said Jones. “We were on
an entirely different day and schedule, so the only thing I found slightly challenging
was connecting with relatives and friends back home because Japan is one day ahead
of Mississippi.”

As the CCC Choir excitedly displayed their talent at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, they
gave a performance of a lifetime.

“Everyone at each function was so moved by us that they cried happy tears or smiled
widely,” said Jones. “Not only has the Coahoma Community College Choir pioneered the
way for the institution, but also for all HBCUs, Mississippi JUCOs, and the United
States of America as a whole!”

Dr. Kelvin Towers, Music Department chair and choir director, shared that the choir
earned this opportunity. He is thrilled that the group received this experience.

“Latonya Whitaker reached out to Dr. Towner inquiring about providing an opportunity
for one of our music ensembles to travel and perform in Japan. She then met with faculty
members of our music department and attended a rehearsal, and from there, she was
locked in on bringing our choir,” he said.  

Towers also shared the importance of traveling abroad, the experience it provides
for students, and how he prepared the choir to attend this joyous event. 

“This is the first group to travel internationally from CCC, and traveling abroad
showcases a different worldview for these students,” said Towers. “It is very valuable
for students to see and experience people of other cultures and ethnicities to develop
a deeper appreciation and respect for multiculturalism within our society.”

Towers said, “Preparing was the easy part! Thanks to Dr. Towner and our local communities,
we had several engagements to help set the stage for our choir in terms of preparation.”
He continued, “However, I will admit that we never had to prepare for four consecutive
shows. One of the performances was sketched out by Mr. Carter (Assistant Choir Director)
and me while on a train ride.”

The choir performing at the U.S. Embassy was the highlight of Dr. Tower’s trip. He
shared that the people who were far away from home were reunited with familiar sounds
from our beloved country, which was truly inspiring to witness.CCC Choir Japan Performance

“By the end of our performance, I’m not sure if there was a dry eye in the building.
Our students bonded extremely well with the students from Kyoritsu University for
Women, and the emotions were very fluid as our performance deeply moved them all,”
said Towers.

Towers shared that the CCC Music Department would like to thank Congressman Bennie
Thompson, his staff liaison Shander Gunn (Mound Bayou office), and his entire Southeastern
regional cohort for assisting us in getting our passports delivered just before our
departure date. The ensemble also like to thank LaTonya Whitaker and the Legacy Foundation
Japan for discovering and allowing CCC Choir to showcase their talent and move others.

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