Composer and performing musician Kimo Williams moved to Shepherdstown after a career that took him from the jungles of Vietnam to the halls of academia. He enlisted in 1970, serving in an Army combat engineering company clearing jungle and building roads. A chance encounter with an Army entertainment director led to Williams and his informal band playing for troops in the field, where artillery fire often provided background percussion to the music. He would continue his military career, both active duty and reserves until 1996. He took his formal music training at Berklee College of Music and has received numerous awards and accolades for his compositions.
Williams says his latest project, Red Summer 1919 – An Instrumental Opera, is intended to bring visibility to Black World War One veterans. He notes that these men had returned home from fighting in France, hoping to be recognized as equal citizens in this country. Despite their sacrifices and service, they faced continued oppression and harsh treatment under Jim Crow laws. The 1919 riots, also known as The Red Summer, marked a turning point as Black citizens supported by these returning veterans fought against their mistreatment for the first time.
“Beyond the common public perception of Veterans as merely fighters or warriors lies a tapestry of individual stories, beliefs, and reasons for serving, unconstrained by political party lines. A poignant chapter in this narrative is that of the Black Veterans of WWI. Their journey, both on the battlefield and upon their return home, intertwines with the long-standing thread of American racism. By delving into their experiences, we are reminded of the richness of each Veteran’s story and the need to move beyond monolithic representations. Let this Veterans Day be a celebration of diversity, historical understanding, and deep respect for all those who have served.
The album will be available in CD and vinyl format. Preview links and pre-order information available at OmikMusic.com.By Staff Contributor