In 2017, Jason Terry learned about the devastating experience of a human trafficking victim who had suffered extreme abuse. Distraught by her story but motivated to share the stories of other groups who are often victims of injustice, Terry, an assistant professor of piano in Samford’s School of the Arts, knew he could use music and art to help make others aware.
Five years later, he co-created Songs of Hope: Unveiling Darkness—a project that incorporates the stories of human trafficking victims, refugees, undocumented immigrants and marginalized youth, and sets their stories to music.
“I wanted to try to find a way to use my art as my voice to advocate for other social injustices,” Terry said. “With each issue, we have partnered with organizations that advocate for and help support those in these areas. Through the partnerships, we have asked the organizations for four stories from people they support that we could take and set poetically to music.”
Through grant funding from Samford’s Office of Research and the Alabama State Council on the Arts, Terry has partnered with artists and composers from around the world—many who are refugees and have experienced the plight of being a refugee firsthand. Joshua David, Samford May '21 graduate also participated in the project providing original compositions. Terry's hope is that others will be made aware of these issues and feel compelled to contribute to organizations that help these marginalized communities.
The first performance took place in Birmingham on October 1 at Birmingham Museum of Art and featured a variety of stories, including the story of a Harem Jamal, an Iraqi refugee, who is also a visual artist. Jamal’s experience of growing up in Kurdistan under Saddam Hussein’s regime was depicted in paintings that were on display. The stories of these paintings were set to music by Afghani composer Milad Yousufi and were premiered at the event. Yousufi, who grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, now lives in the United States as a refugee with asylum status.
Terry has partnered with other artists and will perform across the country throughout the 2022-23 concert season. Each event will include performances of the songs Terry and his partners have created, as well as speakers from local organizations fighting for human trafficking victims, refugees, undocumented immigrants, and marginalized youth.
“We want people to take away that whether we want to believe it or acknowledge it, there is darkness in our world and in our communities, but there are ways to combat that together,” Terry said. “We want our communities and our world to be a better place and sharing these stories through music and art is one way to help do that.”
For more information about Songs of Hope: Unveiling Darkness or to book an event at your church or venue, go to its website.