Fluvanna County Arts Council and NAACP partner for historic music program

By Page H. Gifford

“Resilience, Recovery, and Rebirth: Sustaining Hope in Trying Times” is the title of an upcoming performance of Odyssey of Soul to celebrate Black History Month. The brainchild of Horace Scruggs in partnership with the Fluvanna County Arts Council and the NAACP, the program is a novel approach to Fluvanna history and the African-American experience.

“Human existence has always encountered times of turmoil and trial. This can be said of humanity as a whole or for a particular group based upon culture, race, and/or geographical areas. This is certainly true of the diaspora (the dispersion of any people from their original homeland) of Africans brought to American and their descendants,” said Sharon Harris, president of the Fluvanna County Arts Council. “Resilience, Recovery, and Rebirth: Sustaining Hope in Trying Times” will explore the cultural expressions of African-Americans and how it sustained them through some of the darkest and most troubling times of American history.”

It will be a prerecorded event featuring lectures by Horace Scruggs and a musical performance by Odyssey of Soul. The lectures will be recorded at several historic sites in Fluvanna County including Bremo Bluff, Old Stone Jail, Rivanna and James Rivers, and Pleasant Grove among others. The lectures will focus on African American History and how the sites featured are connected to historical events, and cultural beliefs and practices.

The musical performances will be performed and recorded in the historic Slave Chapel located in Bremo Bluff. This chapel, built by John Hartwell Cocke as a place of worship for the enslaved population on his Bremo Plantation, has a special significance to African Americans.

“The initial idea was born out of the fact that due to the pandemic we were not able to perform our regular show in person. But that also meant that we would not be confined to the limits of the stage or audience. With that in mind I came up with the idea of having my normal commentary at various historical sites around the county,” said Horace Scruggs. “The performance site, The Bremo Slave Chapel, was suggested by my wife Theresa, as I was thinking of a historical site from which to perform. From there it grew into the idea of having some of our local historians to also add their knowledge and insight.”

Odyssey of Soul is performing some of the songs from many of their previous shows at the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center. Scruggs reiterated that with the pandemic they were unable to practice for about eight months and are performing songs that are familiar to them and have been enjoyed by many of past audiences. The songs include African, spirituals, Gospel, R&B, and popular styles.

“It is born out of our present time of social, economic, political, and racial unrest.  Something that is unfortunately all too familiar of a theme as it relates to African American history,” said Scruggs. “So, the basic idea is to discuss the Fluvanna part in and response to historical events and periods. The musical significance lies in the fact that African American music was born out of difficult situations.

Two notable community members will be interviewed – Mozelle Booker and Joseph Creasey.

“I will talk about the importance of the church in the lives of African Americans,” said Booker. She adds she will discuss her experiences  as a student in the Rosenwald School, Dunbar, and at S.C. Abrams High School during times of segregation. She will also discuss the Fluvanna lynching and her years of work in many areas of Fluvanna society. “Though we have come a long way there are still issues.”

“I think the project is a brilliant and very timely idea as it seeks to memorialize the Fluvanna African American history experience and contributions to the county in a way that is both absorbing and real,” said Joe Creasey, vice president of the NAACP.

Creasey will talk on two main topics: his ancestral connections to the slaves at Bremo Plantation where his great, great, great grandfather, a senior carpenter (Ben Creasy) is buried in the slave cemetery. He will also speak about the Reverend Samuel C. Abrams for whom the black high school, S.C. Abrams High School, was named.

“He was a distant cousin of mine and I had the opportunity to live with him and his wife for several months during grade school. I also recount a bit of his written historical efforts in the county in the 1930s leading to the development of the high school,” said Creasey.

Tricia Johnson, director of the Fluvanna County Historical Society, helped with the historical information for the program.

“I was happy to share what we’ve learned about the African Americans in Fluvanna County,” said Johnson.

It is a program that brings together stories, history, and music in a compelling way; reminding us of our past and the accomplishments of the present and hope for the future as seen, heard and spoken by those who have lived it.

“Fluvanna is a county that is rich in history. We hope that this documentary will help share that history in a way that highlights the African American experience which has been left out of many accounts. We hope that this will be the first in several historical documentaries,” said Scruggs.

The  program can be seen on Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. at


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