By Andrea Flores

CBS News and CBS Television Stations, including CBS4 in Denver, are joining forces for “Unifying America.” Across all platforms and newscasts, CBS is highlighting communities with different views coming together to find common ground.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)– A Colorado choir group, Unity Project, is tackling tough conversations about race and equality. The diverse group of performers is learning to sing, and coexist, in harmony despite different backgrounds.

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Kim Schultz and Victoria Lipscomb are bringing people together through the power of song.

(credit: CBS)

“We used to go to a lot of conferences together, choral conferences, and listening to choirs, and one of the first things we noticed is that every choir was all one race,” Lipscomb told CBS4’s Andrea Flores. “From that point, me and Kim sort of decided, ‘What if we made a choir that had Black people, and Brown people, and white people, and Pakistani people, and people from all different walks of life?’”

In 2020, they started Unity Project, and their mission was to create a safe space for all to share the love of music – part choir, part acts of service.

“We’ve had to go about teaching the music an entirely different way,” said Schultz.

When the pandemic put in-person practice on hold, they pushed forward and started virtual rehearsals, as racial tension in the United States was at an all-time high.

“We thought to ourselves, ‘There’s no way all these different people are going to come together and make beautiful art if they can’t hear each other’s stories,’” Lipscomb said.

The first months of rehearsals involved little to no singing at all. Instead, Unity Project focused on conversations about diversity and inclusion, equality, and white privilege.

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“After the first few meetings, I kept calling Victoria and saying, ‘I’m not sure we can do this. I’m not sure this is going to work, it’s too hard for all our people,’” Schultz said. “We’re in a much bigger divide than I had thought.”

Week after week, choir members keep coming back. Lipscomb understands how uncomfortable the conversations can be.

“These conversations are hard. They’re hard for everyone, particularly for the BIPOC community. These conversations are triggering. Sometimes I don’t want to go and I’m leading it! But I always show up because I know that there’s something to gain from the realization that the struggle for equals rights for all of us involves all of us,” Lipscomb said. “Some of the folks that I disagree with the most when it comes to racial inequality, and even politics, are still there and we’re doing what we said we were going to do. We are in relationship with one another, whether we agree or not. It’s surprising because it doesn’t happen everywhere. If it did, maybe there wouldn’t be a need for a choir like this”

Unity Project Member Sathya McClain says the Unity Project has been an eye-opening experience.

“I’m a mixed person. I’m mixed Black and white,” McClain said. “My epiphanies are just as grand as those who are completely white or completely Black, and I kind of felt like I was going to wiggle my way in because I’m mixed, and bypass that process, and that’s not a thing.”

Even though it’s not safe to sing in-person yet, Kim and Victoria know harmony comes first.

“What connects us is so much bigger than what divides us, and I have to keep remembering that, even in the hardest of times,” said Schultz. “These can be things that people shy away from and not feel like participating in that conversation on that night. We have a lot of people come very tired to the rehearsal, and they leave with so much hope and energy that they really weren’t expecting.”

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To learn more about Unity Project, visit www.UnityProject-cs.org.

Andrea Flores