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Tallahassee Symphony, FAMU Concert Choir perform music on local bus boycott

Posted at 7:00 PM, Mar 24, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) — The Tallahassee Symphony orchestra and FAMU Concert Choir will hold two performances to commemorate the historic Tallahassee Bus Boycott.

The symphony received a grant for $20,000 from the National Endowment of the Arts to commission original music for this production that will center around the three main organizers of the bus boycott.

One of those organizers is local man Derek Steele's father, C.K. Steele.

"My number one hero is Jesus Christ. Second is my father," Steele said. "And Moses and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. run a tight third."

Reverend CK Steele headed up the Tallahassee Bus Boycotts of 1956 after two FAMU students refused to give up their bus seats in May.

This was a seven-month-long protest against the city's segregated bus system that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that integrated public transit.

"Before you know it, everybody was saying 'let's have a boycott.' And eventually, they got my father to lead that boycott," Steele said. "My father, other ministers and leaders of the community organized what was called the inner city council. And through that organization, they began to lead that bus boycott."

Now, his father will be the focal point of a first of it's kind music performance by the Tallahassee Symphony and FAMU Concert Choir that Amanda Stringer with the Tallahassee Symphony said will honor the legacies of those who fought for equal rights.

"This one in particular speaks to Tallahassee's history and it speaks to our civil rights movement," Stringer said. "I think its really important for the symphony to be a part of Tallahassee history even though we weren't around when this particular event happened."

Something that FAMU Concert Choir Director Mark Butler said is important for his students to know about as well.

"They learned about things that happened and whose shoulders they stand on with these two students and having our two soloists sing to represent those two students," Butler said. "I think it is a great historical moment and a reenactment of what we have in this day in time compared to what once was. "

Steele agreed and said the community needs to continue to learn lessons from the past.

"Whatever medium we can use, whether through the arts or history, through teaching, whatever means we can," Steele said. "We need to continue to tell the story to keep the history vibrant and bright before our eyes so our young people can learn it. "