"The ravishing wondrous innermost black islands of you were never sunk, no matter the number of cannon balls sent to sink… "– Nikky Finney, At War With Ourselves - 400 Years of You
Created by two of the country’s most esteemed artists, composer Michael Abels and poet Nikky Finney, and brought to life by the most legendary ensemble in contemporary classical music, the Kronos Quartet, At War With Ourselves - 400 Years of You is an evening-length oratorio that explores race relations, social justice, and civil rights.
Finney’s evocative poetry, which directly inspired Abels’ music, was written in 2019, the 400th anniversary of the African presence in America. The intimate, emotionally-charged text — in turns both bold and seductive, and always deeply personal — flits throughout history, with allusions to slave ships, Harriet Tubman, black astronomer Benjamin Banneker, and Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos. In Finney’s words, the work is addressed to “both black and white, both enslaved and free, bystander and non-bystander. We were then and now, At War With Ourselves. All of us, one human battlefield.”