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Joce Reyome has just recently been feeling more of a connection to Black History Month.
“It’s quite important to me.”
Originally from Boston, most of Reyome’s family is of Hawaiian, Portuguese and African descent.
“(But) I was adopted, so I was raised in a white area by a white family," says Reyome, who identifies as they/them.
The guitarist and singer moved to P.E.I. to attend the Holland College School of Performing Arts in 2016. Since graduating, they’ve had plenty of performances across the Island, including the Songs of P.E.I. Black History concert at the Confederation Centre Public Library in Charlottetown on Feb. 23.
Reyome planned to move back to Boston after school but had enough gigs lined up to stay around. They're known for playing with fellow musicians Dylan Menzie and Russell Louder, the former of which they got to go on tour with.
They’re planning to start recording their first original album this year. Some of their songs are based on their experiences, including one called God Above, which was written after a crazy summer last year.
“I’m very excited to get those in the works,” Reyome said.
Outside of music, Reyome is getting to a point of finding a sense of community within the Island’s black community.
“Now that I’m able to learn through my own experiences what it means to be a non-white person, it’s kind of been my driving force through a lot of things in the last six months.”
Reyome’s been able to connect more with their heritage and this years’ Black History Month as a result.
Joce Reyome performs original song during Black History Month on Feb. 23:
A focus of the concert, which has been held annually since 2017, was to share songs about some of P.E.I.’s black history and the stories of black Islanders.
Musician Scott Parsons played a role in starting the event, having written and produced two albums looking at the topic - The Old Stock and Darkie’s Hollow. One of his first hits, named after Islander Jupiter Wise, recounts the story of Wise trying to escape slavery and getting caught stealing liquor.
“I was just trying to tell his story.”
For research, Parsons writes his songs mostly by the stories he hears from P.E.I.’s black community.
“I’m sort of writing from the oral tradition,” he said. “Now, people are coming to me with stories.”
He also played a collection of his tunes during the concert alongside guitarist Michael Peters and percussionist Sam Laird. Overall, there were about 50 people in attendance, with many more coming and going.
“I’m always impressed with how many people show up,” Parsons said. “They’re interested in the history.”
Scott Parson performs Darkie's Hollow: