Mavis Staples brings civil rights message to Boone

Carli Johnson

Heart, soul, groove, rhythm and passion. All words that can’t even begin to describe Mavis Staples’ iconic voice and storytelling. A decorated musician known for rhythm and blues and her passionate advocacy for civil rights. Covering genres from gospel to soul to folk, Staples has dedicated her life to telling stories through song. 

On Feb. 25, Staples will be visiting the High Country for a concert at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts as part of the Schaefer Center Presents series. Allison West, director of marketing for the Schaefer Center, helped coordinate the event. West said they work to plan events that not only entertain but inspire and educate. 

“She is one of those people that not only does she entertain, but she does inspire,” West said.

West said the Schaefer Center anticipates a sold out event. Tickets can be found on their website. Tickets are $40 for adults, $35 for faculty and staff and $20 for students. West said they work to make student tickets as affordable as possible to provide opportunities for every student to be able to experience these performances. 

At 83 years old, Staples has produced 12 studio albums in her solo career. Her most recent album “Carry Me Home” came out in 2022, but was recorded in 2011 with the late American roots and rock drummer Levon Helms. The album is celebrated for its timeless stories of  “resilience and long-term redemption,” according to Pitchfork Media

Staples’ passion is loud and clear in her voice when she belts “This Is My Country,” a cover from The Impressions. Even though the original song came out in 1968, Staples adds her own narrative commenting on the ongoing fight for civil rights. The accompaniment behind her provides a smooth rhythm and a brass groove creating a funky, soul touching sound. 

Having an artist of Staples’ caliber and status coming to campus is wonderful for students and the program at the Schaefer Center, West said. When searching for artists to visit campus, West said they look for artists that can open up different windows to the world for students on campus. 

Staples comes from a musically talented family. Before her solo career, she shared the stage with her two sisters, brother and father in a group called The Staple Singers. Producing hits throughout the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, the iconic family traveled across America shedding light on the active fight for civil rights. 

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame applauds the family for their success in mastering multiple genres over multiple decades. From being hailed as “post-war gospel warriors” in the ‘50s, to creating their own genre of soul folk the Staples family was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. 

The family has had strong roots in the civil rights movement, performing at marches and rallies alongside Martin Luther King Jr. In an interview with NPR, Staples quotes her father noting their families dedication to sharing what matters. 

“We want to sing about what’s happening in the world today, and if it’s something bad, we want to sing a song to try to fix it,” Pops Staples said.

Mavis Staples is the last remaining of The Staples Singers and she has not slowed down on sharing important stories. She said: 

 I’m the messenger, that’s my job – it has been for my whole life – and I can’t just give up while the struggle is still alive. We’ve got more work to do, so I’m going to keep on getting stronger and keep on delivering my message every single day.

Staples has carried a notable stoicism in fighting for what she believes in while maintaining respect and kindness for all. While the narrative of her music contains difficult themes of racism and inequality, the soul, rhythm and groove shine through to create a feeling of unity and harmony within us all.