Jazz musicians were about intersectionality before the term was coined. During 2018 Jazz Appreciation Month, I moderated a conversation on art, jazz and activism, curated by Black Quantum Futurism and Icebox Project Space.
On December 8, 1956, the Miles Davis Quintet, featuring Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums) performed at the Blue Note. The set was featured on the Mutual Network live remote radio broadcast, Bandstand, U.S.A.
That same night, the police raided “the town’s swankiest jazz emporium.” The Blue Note was a “black and tan” club, an integrated nightspot where blacks and whites socialized on an equal basis. As such, it was the target of police harassment.
From the beginning, jazz was a tool for social change. Jazz musicians’ unbowed comportment created a cultural identity that was a steppingstone to the Civil Rights Movement. In remarks to the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said jazz is “triumphant music”:
Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.
This is triumphant music.
Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.
It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.
Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.
On April 21, 2018, All That Philly Jazz and Black Quantum Futurism will present the “Blue Note Salon” which pays homage to jazz musicians’ legacy of resistance. The community discussion will feature creative change makers who work on social justice issues. Their work is at the intersection of art, community engagement and social change.
The event is free and open to the public. To RSVP, go here.
We all have seen Google Doodles. The drawings “celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous artists, pioneers, and scientists.”
Google accepts suggestions from the public. You can help one of the most celebrated bluesmen, Muddy Waters, get a Google Doodle.
American Blues Scene, a popular website, is petitioning Google to create a Muddy Waters doodle:
No figure has inspired an international music explosion quite like blues musician McKinley “Muddy Waters” Morganfield, who left a log cabin in a Mississippi cotton field to break much greater ground with his inimitable guitar and vocal style. After more than 100 years, Muddy Waters’ continuing impact has proven the blues singer to be one of the most significant figures in the history of American Music, inspiring generations of artists and cultural movements like Folk, Chicago Blues, and Rock n Roll.
You can sign the petition here. You can also email Google at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them about the “Hoochie Coochie Man.”
The blues master is memorialized on a Chicago high-rise.
With your help, Muddy Waters will be immortalized for all Google users.
The High Priestess of Soul has been nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:
Nina Simone’s unapologetic rage and accusatory voice named names and took no prisoners in the African-American struggle for equality in the early 1960s.
Her triumphant voice sang what it meant to be young, gifted and black in a sometimes unjust and troubled world.
Nina Simone is one of 19 nominees in the Class of 2018.
As of this writing, Ms. Simone is trailing behind in fan votes.
An unvarnished truth-teller, Nina Simone worked her magic “for the whole round world to hear.” Let’s show her the love that’s in our hearts. Vote early and often.
September 24 marked the first anniversary of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, more affectionately known as my home away from home.
From Day One, NMAAHC has had the people’s stamp of approval. In its first year, the museum has welcomed more than two million visitors. Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the museum, said:
We are so grateful to America for making this first year unprecedentedly successful. This first anniversary gives us at the Smithsonian the opportunity to thank everyone for this incredible gift and for making it possible to continue our mission to help America grapple with history by seeing their past through an African American lens – and ultimately help Americans find healing and reconciliation.
NMAAHC has received the stamp of approval of the U.S. Postal Service which issued the “Celebrating African American History and Culture” Forever stamp.
The numbers show that the National Museum of African American History and Culture is a gift to the American people:
For more info, check out “NMAAHC’s First Year by the Numbers.”
Philadelphia is the City of Murals. The murals celebrate events, as well as residents who have made a difference. Few are more celebrated than John Coltrane who moved to Philadelphia in 1943. Coltrane resided in an apartment in Yorktown before buying a house in Strawberry Mansion in 1952. The house is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark.
Coltrane kicked his heroin habit and composed “Giant Steps” in that house.
In 2002, the Strawberry Mansion community, in collaboration with the Mural Arts Program, honored their former neighbor. The Pennrose Company demolished the Tribute to John Coltrane mural in 2014.
To be sure, murals come and go. However, there is too much love for Trane to let the demolition go unnoticed. It has taken a while but a new mural celebrating the life and legacy of the jazz innovator will soon be dedicated. The community is invited to add a brushstroke at a public paint day on Saturday, August 19 from 1-3 p.m., at Fairmount Park’s Hatfield House, located at 33rd Street and Girard Avenue.
So get up for the
down brushstroke. Everybody get up and join the Mural Arts Philadelphia, Fairmount Park Conservancy, Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Committee and All That Philly Jazz.
For more info, visit Mural Arts Philadelphia.