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Artist Installations

Sonic Migration

By Mendi + Keith Obadike

A multi-media creation, Sonic Migration, explores the rich musical history of the church and the role that Tindley Temple played for newcomers during the first Great Migration. The stories of adaptation, faith and freedom of expression contained within the walls of the church dynamically emerge. 

Watch the artist statement

About the location

Tindley Temple, “The Church That Welcomed 10,000 Strangers”

When the First World War unleashed the First Great Migration, Reverend Charles Albert Tindley saw the great exodus to the north as "the beginning of the freedom of my people."  Freeborn in Berlin, Maryland in 1851, during the period of slavery, Dr. Tindley was Philadelphia's most famous African-American minister, a man whom Carter G. Woodson, in his 1925 History of the Negro Church, called "probably the greatest preacher of power developed during the last generation." Tindley also wrote and published hymns that carried his fame far and wide, and that are still sung in churches throughout the United States.  Believing that everything that he and his church could do to help educate, uplift, and move the southern newcomers towards economic independence would help solve the problem of race for Blacks and Whites alike, Tindley threw open the doors of his East Calvary Methodist Episcopal church to newcomers, offering meals, clothes, beds and night classes to those in need. He prevailed upon members of his congregation to buy houses to rent to newcomers, and opened a building & loan association.  In 1906 Calvary Methodist Episcopal was the first African-American church to move onto Broad Street. With an active membership of more than 7,000 by 1920, the church had become too small to hold the thousands flocking to Tindley's sermons. After years of fundraising they constructed a new East Calvary M.E. Church, today's Tindley Temple, which opened at Broad and Fitzwater in 1924.

First page, "The Church That Welcomed 10,000 Strangers," The Outlook, 1919.
miles from Berlin, MD
Dr. Charles Albert Tindley, The Crisis, 1922

About the project

Sonic Migration is a public sound and video work based on the historical echoes of life in and around Tindley Temple. It infuses music, light, and sonic vibration in a large scale projection of an image of a church organ on the wall of the Church while interpreting the chorus of Charles Tindley’s “A Better Home,” which expresses the spiritual longing and social aspirations of those arriving in Philadelphia seeking a better life. 

Mendi + Keith Obadike make music, art and literature. Their works include The Sour Thunder, an Internet opera, Crosstalk: American Speech Music, and Big House / Disclosure, a 200 hour public sound installation. They have contributed sounds/music to projects by wide range of artists including loops for soul singer D'Angelo's first album and a score for playwright Anna Deavere Smith at the Lincoln Center Institute. They were invited to develop their first "opera-masquerade" by writer Toni Morrison at her Princeton Atelier. Their music has been featured on New York and Chicago public radio, as well as on Juniradio (104.5) in Berlin.