Lea Gilmore Joins Giants of Music and Activism in Winning Major Award

Lea Gilmore Joins Giants of Music and Activism in Winning Major Award

by Jon Morgan

In the 24 years it has given out its signature award for music, Common Ground on the Hill has ranged far and wide to commemorate giants of art and social justice. Pete Seeger won it once. Also Richie Havens, Odetta, Jose Feliciano and Buckwheat Zydeco.

This year the nonprofit folklife center headquartered on the campus of McDaniels College found an honoree closer to home: our own Lea Gilmore, Govan’s music director and minister for racial justice and multicultural engagement. She will accept the Robert H. Chambers Award for Excellence in the Traditional Arts on July 13 at the Common Ground on the Hill Roots Music & Arts Festival at McDaniels.

“Lea’s career is representative of an amazing journey of self-discovery,” says Walt Michael, the executive director of Common Ground, which he founded to celebrate folk and other traditional musical art forms.

Honorees aren’t just accomplished musicians, but also people who’ve demonstrated a commitment to social justice. “Pete Seeger once said we are all links in the chain,” he says.

It’s another in a long list of honors Lea has won for her tireless activism and musical talents. Named by Essence Magazine as one of “25 Women Shaping the World,” she is a past winner of the Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive award, the James Baldwin Medal for Civil Rights, and the Baltimore Creative Alliance’s Golden Formstone Award. She has also been named a Baltimore Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association.

“I am thoroughly honored to receive this award,” Lea says. “I cannot believe that I am joining the company of past esteemed recipients. It is profoundly moving to be recognized by your peers.”

Tickets and information about the festival and award ceremony can be found at www.commongroundonthehill.org. Or reach out to our own Maria Wong (MLWong672@gmail.com) who is the director of promotions and development for Common Ground.

Michael, himself an accomplished musician who played in the closing ceremonies of the Lake Placid Olympics, said he’s followed Lea’s career with interest since she answered an ad he put in a local blues magazine looking for musicians. He was impressed with how she’s combined her gospel roots with blues – and social justice. She’s served on the Maryland advisory board for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and as deputy director of the ACLU of Maryland. 

“Lea is a force of nature,” Michael says.

Come support Lea on July 13 and hear some great music!