Waycross, Georgia

Naijah Cox — Composition for Community

Headshot of Naijah Cox

Naijah Cox is a composer, lyricist, and instrumentalist. She studied jazz trumpet, music technology/production, and composition at the University of North Florida. For her master’s degree, Naijah intends to study screen scoring/film score and conducting. Meanwhile, she is an intern with the Center for Humanities in Medicine at Mayo Clinic Florida to further her knowledge on the power of music.

In the summer of 2022, the Red Hill Cemetery Project commissioned Naijah to compose an original piece of music to be used for the oral history interviews. She traveled to the cemetery to get a feel for the site and attended an oral history interview to hear first-hand histories of the families affiliated with the cemetery.

My visit to the Red Hill Cemetery shook me to the core. We had just passed another cemetery before we got there which had pathways for cars and neat rows and flowers to create a peaceful environment for the grieving loved ones. When we crossed the railroad tracks, I was saddened and angry to see what I saw. Missing headstones, overgrown pathways, caved in graves. How can one be fully at peace if they can’t go out and visit their family? How can one be fully at peace if they don’t even know where their family is buried? It wasn’t until I witnessed one of the interviews that it all came together for me. Although the circumstances were horrific, the family in the interview were so grateful. I did not hear anger in their voices — I heard joy and gratefulness that they now knew where their family was buried. I began to think about all the encounters I had with the community in Waycross. When we were driving to the interview, we got stuck by a crossing train. We stopped at a store to ask the owners if there was another way around. They happily gave us directions! The Okefenokee Heritage Center was so helpful with setting up and hosting the interviews. Rangers that work with the Okefenokee Swamp offered to take us on a Boat Tour the next time we were in town! Community. That word became my inspiration. I knew this composition wasn't supposed to invoke sadness or anger — it needed to represent the unity of those who live in Waycross.

Listen to Naijah’s Original Composition for Red Hill Cemetery