News from the Aurora University community

Baritone Robert Sims performs a program of spirituals during Aurora University’s “Let Freedom Ring” week

Posted by on January 17, 2017

AU graduate who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. will also speak at a free screening of the film “Selma”


AURORA, Ill. — As part of its weeklong “Let Freedom Ring” celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. and the fight for civil rights, Aurora University will present lyric baritone Robert Sims in a performance and discussion of African-American spirituals.


Lyric baritone Robert Sims will present a program of African-American spirituals at Aurora University the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 18, as part of the university’s weeklong “Let Freedom Ring” series of events.

In “The Spiritual: From Slavery to Civil Rights,” Sims will perform musical selections and discuss the double meaning of spirituals, escape and civil rights songs as well as their influence on American folk songs and hymns, folk operas and Broadway shows, not to mention blues, jazz and rock and roll.

Hailed for his rich tone, energetic performances and electric stage presence, the classically trained Sims was drawn to spirituals not only because of their role in African-American history, but also because “spirituals are a music full of hope and promise. They have something that speaks to everyone.”

Depending on the time and place, that message — although coded — could be quite specific, according to Sim. “Keep the straight and narrow way,” for example — a line from the song “Don’t You Let Nobody Turn You ’Round” — was not necessarily an exhortation to follow the path of Christian righteousness. On the Underground Railroad it meant that there was an escape being planned; on the streets of 1960s Alabama it was a call to “keep on marchin’ into freedom land” despite the dogs, clubs and fire hoses.

What: “The Spiritual: From Slavery to Civil Rights,” featuring lyric baritone Robert Sims

Date: Wednesday, Jan. 18

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Crimi Auditorium, 1347 Prairie St., Aurora, on the AU campus

The concert is free and the public is welcome to attend. Advance registration is required at


Free screening of “Selma”

It was early spring in 1965 when John Boryk, a senior at Aurora University, travelled to Chicago’s Orchestra Hall to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak. New to the cause of civil rights, he and several other students were invited to join King in a civil rights march in a small town called Selma, Alabama. The Oklahoma native had never heard of the place, but his experience there has lasted a lifetime.

Boryk will be on hand the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 17, to share his experience at a free screening of “Selma,” a 2014 release chronicling the 1965 march led by King from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, directed by Ava DuVernay and starring David Oyelowo as King. AU’s Kidada Robinson, an academic advisor and former assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, and Sara Elliot, associate professor of English, will join Boryk in a discussion.

What: “Selma”

Date: Tuesday, Jan. 17

Time: 7 p.m.

Where: Crimi Auditorium, 1347 Prairie St., Aurora, on the AU campus

The screening is free and the public is welcome to attend. Advance registration is required at

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About Aurora University

Aurora University is an inclusive community dedicated to the transformative power of learning, annually educating approximately 5,500 degree-seeking students at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. The university has a long tradition of preparing students for lives of service and leadership and using its resources and expertise to meet the needs of the community. In addition to its main campus and the Orchard Center in Aurora, Illinois, AU offers programs online, at its George Williams College campus in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, and at the Woodstock Center in downtown Woodstock, Illinois. Learn more at

Media Contact

Deborah Maue
University Communications