October 4 ~  Discover Who You Are Breaths

"Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are." ~ Bernice Johnson Reagon

Bernice Johnson Reagon

Remarkable Bernice Johnson Reagon (1942-)--composer, singer, scholar, and activist--was born on this day in Albany, Georgia, one of eight children and the daughter of a preacher.

"If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition," she once said.

As one of the original Freedom Singers who sang We Shall Overcome at political rallies and jails, she participated in the Civil Rights Movement's historic 1963 March on Washington D.C. She recalled: "The voice I have now, I got the first time I sang in a movement meeting, after I got out of jail... and I'd never heard it before in my life."

In 1973, Reagon founded the Grammy Award-winning female a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey In the Rock. The group takes its name from Psalm 81:16 and has gained international fame with passionate, beautiful spirituals and folk music in the 19th century choral tradition.

"I learned that if you bring black people together, you bring them together with a song," she explained. "To this day, I don't understand how people think they can bring anybody together without a song."

With a life dedicated to history, justice, and creativity, Reagon has celebrated African American culture as curator emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History... and as a speaker, writer, teacher, and television producer.

About cultural diversity she said, "There is nowhere you can go and only be with people who are like you. Give it up."

Life's challenges teach you who you are...and who you can become.