The McIntosh County Shouters perform at the Morton Theatre in Athens, Georgia, in 2016. They will perform in Boulder on Sunday. (Photo Courtesy of Jason Thrasher)
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

The NAACP Boulder County branch on Sunday will host the McIntosh County Shouters, the last group to perform the ring shout, which is a performance tradition brought to the United States by enslaved Africans.

The branch is covering all the costs of the performance so that tickets are free to the community. Annett James, NAACP branch president, said the performance encompasses history, art and a story of survival.

“This kind of culture is not readily available in our community or surrounding communities,” James said. “We think it makes a difference — the exposure to something that’s so connected to our history. It’s important to be told.”

Brenton Jordan is the “stick man” for the Georgia-based group. The tradition has been passed down through generations, and kept alive by the group, which his family founded in 1980.

“The McIntosh County Shouters consist of nothing but family,” Jordan said. “We are all the descendants of Amy and London Jenkins, which is as far back in our family’s oral history that we can go.”

He performs for many reasons, he said, including carrying on a centuries-old tradition, celebrating the heritage of the Gullah-Geechee people and educating people. The ring shout is believed to be the oldest surviving African-American performance tradition of any kind, according to a New York Times obituary for the McIntosh County Shouters founder Lawrence McKiver.

“For me, it’s important to carry on this tradition and this legacy because this tradition was practiced throughout what is now known as the Gullah-Geechee nation,” Jordan said. “This tradition was practiced all throughout South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, parts of Florida.”

Many communities allowed the tradition to die out, Jordan said, but his family did not. They hold onto the tradition as a way of remembering those who came before them, he said.

The McIntosh County Shouters have received various recognitions by the National Endowment for the Arts and have performed around the country, including at the Library of Congress, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and during the opening weekend of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Colorado is the farthest the group has traveled, Jordan said. He described the tradition as both a religious and a social performance — one that can evoke both enjoyment and emotions in its audience.

“Expect to have a good time,” he said. “We are a fun-loving group of people. We want our audience to be as involved in our performance as we are. Join in the clapping. Sit back, relax and have fun, really. Expect a learning experience. Expect a possible rush of emotions.”

The NAACP is encouraging everybody, and particularly families and educators, to attend on Sunday. U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse will be the special guest emcee at the event at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Macky Auditorium.

“I hope people come and really take a moment to soak in everything that you get,” James said.


If you go

What: McIntosh County Shouters

When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: CU’s Macky Auditorium

Cost: Free

More info: eventbrite.com/e/mcintosh-county-shouters-tickets-61744287827

blog comments powered by Disqus