UBUNTU Men's Chorus Presents Begin to Love
This week, Niki Dakota talks with Cathy Roma, director of the UBUNTU Men’s Chorus at the London Correctional Institution. UBUNTU’s first album, Begin to Love, was released last month.
Ubuntu is a Zulu word that, according to Roma, means “I am who I am in community—I exist in relationship.” The men in the choir, she says, “Want to be there for each other and learn about the world through each other.”
The album combines a cappella choral music with piano-accompanied gospel songs, including a few pieces composed by members of the chorus. The album’s first song, “Ten Billion Voices,” was composed by a chorus member who has worked with Roma since 1993. “This is our third prison that we’ve been in together,” she says.
In addition to UBUNTU, Roma directs MUSE women’s choir in Cincinnati and a women’s choir at the Dayton Correctional Institution.
She began working in prisons in 1993 as part of a degree program for prisoners offered by Wilmington College; she taught choir as a fine arts credit. When some members of her chorus moved to a lower-security facility, they asked her to go with them.
“I could’ve said no,” she says, “Except when I went, the piano was all set up, and there were sixteen guys just ready to sing.”
Proceeds from Begin to Love will go to five Ohio charities, chosen by Roma and the chorus members: the Artemis Domestic Violence Center in Dayton, a support center for victims of domestic abuse; Local Matters, a food education program for children and families in Columbus; WordPlay, a Cincinnati organization that teaches creative writing to junior high and high school students, the Youth Leadership Academy, a Dayton-based program that runs a community garden for teenagers, among other things; and The People’s Justice Project, a statewide reentry program.
Begin to Love will be available at Omega Records in Dayton, Sam and Eddie’s Open Books in Yellow Springs, and Shake It Records in Cincinnati. It will also be released soon on CDBaby. Cathy Roma says it’s important to distribute the album broadly, since UBUNTU’s members come from all over Ohio.