Black History Month: Celebrating Culture and Faith Through Music

Tags: Currents Black History Month, Brooklyn, NY, Crown Heights, Diocese of Brooklyn, Music

By Tim Harfmann

At Saint Matthew Church in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Chris and Colleen Chasteau play steel pans to express themselves.

“I see the steel pan as kind of my voice through worship. It’s a great way to tie in my culture with my Catholic faith, as well,” said Colleen.

The brother-sister duo uses the instruments each Sunday to honor their ancestors from Grenada, while bringing back memories of the West Indies for Catholics from the islands.

“It reminds them of back home and also gives them that kind of comfort in a place of worship,” Colleen said, particularly as they celebrate Black History Month.

“It’s great that we have a month devoted to that, the recognition of how many things we’ve been able to accomplish,” Colleen said.

“Remembering everyone before us and what they fought for,” is what Black History Month means to Chris. “That there’s a lot of culture that a lot of people, we don’t really hear about.”

It’s a culture Father Frank Black, coordinator for the West Indian Ethnic Ministry for the Brooklyn Diocese, said was misunderstood when people started arriving from the Caribbean.

“They thought we were almost like a different population,” he explained. “I said, ‘No, it’s Africa.’ That’s where we all come from.”

Eventually they hit the right note in supporting one another.

“It just shows me how powerful God is, that He can take people who have been victimized and turn them into a blessing for so many people,” Father Black added.

It’s a blessing of using music to remember history while building pride for their heritage.