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Paisha Thomas: An Influential Song Leader


Since the tender age of four, Paisha Thomas always dreamed of being a singer. One of her earliest memories was watching a member of her church choir sing a solo and feeling a sense of euphoria. She looked over to her grandmother and said, “I want to do that.”

More than 20 years later, Thomas has sang dozens of solos. Her influence has grown among local young artists in Columbus, Ohio.

Music has always played a crucial role in social justice movements. Thomas follows in the footsteps of the Freedom Singers, who originated as a student quartet formed in 1962 at Albany State College in Georgia. The communal protest songs and chants empowered and educated the community about civil rights issues and segregation. Without the force of song, there may not have been a Civil Rights movement.

The same is true today. Thomas uses her music to bring people together and draw attention to complex problems plaguing our society. Just recently Thomas served as a theomusicologist, the cultural intersection between the religious, the ethical and the mythological, with the Poor People’s Campaign, a national movement dedicated to eradicate systemic racism and end poverty and inequality.

“I’ve always cared about justice. In my youth, I was often afraid to speak up. I don’t have the same levels of fear these days,” Thomas said.“I’m doing a musical program on August 23, called the New Black Eastside Songbook that speaks to gentrification, police brutality, poverty and other issues that affect black people in Columbus.”

Following the concert, Paisha Thomas will be entering a one year fellowship with the Hunger Network working toward eliminating the factors that cause hunger. No matter where the fellowship takes her, the community of Columbus will continue to look to Paisha Thomas as an example of what a song leader should be: devoted to music and to justice.

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