The first annual UW Homecoming Gospel Celebration concert will take place Sunday, Oct. 31, 3 p.m. This concert, part of the homecoming festivities, is sponsored by Mt. Zion Baptist Church, University of Wisconsin Athletics, and the Wisconsin Alumni Association and will take place at the Hamel Music Center, which is located at 740 University Ave.
There will be performances from Grammy-nominated recording artists, The Walls Group, and a special performance from the UW Gospel Reunion Choir. The idea of a concert sparked from a conversation at a Juneteenth celebration between Rev. Dr. Marcus Allen, pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and Mike Jackson, Associate Athletic Director of Development, Inclusion & Engagement at UW-Madison.
“The idea for the event came out of a conversation with Pastor [Marcus] Allen,” said Jackson. “He was gracious enough to come to the stadium and we talked about engaging with the athletic department and the community and recognizing the importance the Black church plays with our Black student-athletes.
“And what can we do to bridge that gap and create more opportunities for these student-athletes to be tied to the church community,” Jackson adds. “And while we came out of that room with some ideas, I think we recognized there was an opportunity to do something bigger. And that’s where the concert came about.”
This concert is the beginning of a partnership between Mt. Zion and the UW-Madison Athletics Department. Rev. Allen talked about several community service projects they are collaborating on including visiting juvenile detention centers and speaking with youth. This concert will also feature performances from the Mt. Zion praise team, the African American Council of Churches Choir, and Higher Ground Youth and Young Adult Praise Team. Rev. Allen talked about the importance of this collaboration and the potential it has for Black students at UW.
“I commend the UW Athletic Department for doing something like this,” said Allen. “It’s only about 1,200 Black students on campus of over 40,000 students. But gospel music is not just for Black people either, it’s for all people. So, we’re hoping anyone who desires to come knows they’re welcome to come. But thank them [The Athletics Dept.] for the intentionality because many African American students grew up in some type of church home. For them to get some type of feel right here at their campus is a wonderful thing.”
DJ Hines is a UW-Madison alum and Chief Operations Officer (COO) for Christian Faith Fellowship Church and Plaza in Milwaukee. He talked about his excitement for the event because it is one of the first UW-Madison Homecoming events that highlight gospel music. He is also a collaborator on this concert and is hoping this concert helps students feel connected with each other and feel a connection back to UW-Madison.
“I’ve been working in the faith community for over 10 years now,” said Hines. “And part of that work has been a lot of live production, booking acts for concerts and shows and things of that nature … working with African World Festival for several years. This is something that I have quite a bit of experience in.
“When Mike reached out and extended the opportunity to work on this concert and being an alumni, I thought it was so critical that, as Mike has spoken to, acknowledging the impact of gospel music,” Hines continued. “Gospel music over the past 10 years, I would say, has gone mainstream. When you look at some of the collaborations, Kirk Franklin is a perfect example. It’s a big opportunity that UW is acknowledging the fact that gospel music matters. And that it should have a space in such a big weekend, such as homecoming weekend.”
The Homecoming Gospel Celebration concert Sunday is open to everyone. For more information about Mt. Zion Baptist Church, click here.