The Fisk Jubilee Singers made a lasting mark on American history by overcoming hurdles of racism and oppression to emerge victorious and beloved throughout the country, even in the segregated South.
To those who wonder how this group gained world-wide acclaim, producer Stephen Ashley Blake hopes to answer such questions in his film, “Steal Away,” which traces the evolution of the heralded African American ensemble.
Founded in 1871, the a cappella singers – which are still in existence today – consist of students attending Fisk University, a historically Black college in Nashville, Tennessee. Initially organized to help the financially strapped college avoid bankruptcy and closure, the nine-member chorus sought to raise funds by performing at venues across the nation.
The singers’ repertoire contained Negro spirituals, which captivated White audiences, many who never heard the songs before. As a result of touring, the Fisk Jubilee Singers earned $40,000 for the university in 1872. Blake’s film will reveal that even though the journey to obtaining money needed was quite difficult, the students were guided by their deep faith in God.
Explaining why the project is special, Blake said, “It’s the subject matter. This choir decided to sing spirituals, which are freedom songs. They believed it would change hearts and minds across the country and they could raise funds to save their school. And against all odds, this choir succeeded.
“This project is all for the glory of God. My wife and I believe that it’s time to put stories of hope and redemption and race reconciliation into the forefront,” noted Blake.
Blake has spent 10 years writing the script, and he’s now raising finances to begin actual film production, which is projected to start in Fall 2022. The theatrical release is scheduled for Summer 2023.
“You can invest in the project or donate to it,” said Blake. Once the film is released, he added, “Ten percent of all revenues will go to HBCUs. We want to forge pathways of opportunity for the brilliant minds emerging from these campuses.”
In addition, creative artists are welcome to contribute to the production. His company, Realm Pictures International, is will hosting talent calls for singers, musicians, costume designers, art directors and cinematographers and others. Movie lovers are invited to share insight and the general public can even read the script.
Highlighting the spirituality of “Steal Away,” Blake concluded, “This story is filled with the Gospel, but viewers won’t feel like they are getting beat over the head with it.
“This project is about saving living lives, bringing hope and inspiration to young people of color around the world. We are saying to them, ‘You can do it. You can use your gifts to turn this world upside down!’”
“You have a group of young people who said that they are going to fight through the night, otherwise t
To learn how to donate time, talent or treasures to “Steal Away,” visit stealawaymovie.com