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.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter decreed that June would be Black Music Month. Each president since then has signed a proclamation recognizing the contributions of African American musicians and music. In 2009, President Barack Obama rebranded the annual celebration as “African-American Music Appreciation Month”
The legacy of African-American composers, singers, songwriters, and musicians is an indelible piece of our Nation's culture. Generations of African Americans have carried forward the musical traditions of their forebears, blending old styles with innovative rhythms and sounds. They have enriched American music and captured the diversity of our Nation. During African-American Music Appreciation Month, we honor this rich heritage.
There’s no better place to get the celebration started than at the mecca of African American culture, the world famous Apollo Theater.
There has been a rash of incidents in which a white person called police on African Americans for, among other things, barbecuing, napping, waiting, shopping, and failing to wave at an Airbnb neighbor. Michael Harriot of The Root wrote:
Think about how many tax dollars you could save if police didn’t have to drive to the scene every time Amber thought something was suspicious about the Negro walking through her neighborhood. Imagine how much your city could save on overtime if officers didn’t have to spend hours writing up reports because Connor thought a crafty Negro had bought a uniform, stolen a mail truck and was cruising through your neighborhood, casing your subdivision, planning a series of home invasions by putting mail in people’s mailboxes.
Harriot outlined a five-step plan to help white people step back from calling the police. Step 3 requires creative thinking:
I know it’s scary to see an actual black person in living color, but you should overcome your fear and replace it with logic. One way to do this is by imagining that the person is an actual human being and not a caricature or a stereotype. I know this might sound impossible, but imagine if the person on whom you called the police was behaving in the exact same way, but they were white.
Would they seem so nefarious then?
So wypipo, unless you want to become the next #BBQBecky meme, do not call police on African Americans who are just #LivingWhileBlack.
Gentrification is displacing longtime residents in historically African American neighborhoods from Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn to Baldwin Hills in Los Angeles.
I grew up in Bed-Stuy and went to college in Harlem where an iconic mural, the “Spirit of Harlem,” was covered up by Footaction, a sneaker and apparel company.
Langston Hughes famously asked, “What happens to a dream deferred?”
We know what happens if we don’t fight the collateral damage of gentrification. African American cultural heritage and presence will be erased from public memory. So Harlem activists are organizing to give the boot to Footaction.
For me, it’s déjà vu all over again. In 2015, Pennrose Properties demolished the “Tribute to John Coltrane” mural in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood in North Philadelphia.
But rather than simply lament its destruction, I made some noise in my capacity as director of All That Philly Jazz. Fast forward two years, Pennrose Chairman and CEO Richard K. Barnhart thanked me for my activism. Barnhart told me that in raising awareness of the importance of cultural heritage preservation I “made him a better person.”
On September 24, 2017, the “Why We Love Coltrane” mural was dedicated.
The mural was funded by Pennrose Properties and the City of Philadelphia, in partnership with All That Philly Jazz, Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Committee and Fairmount Park Conservancy.
Footaction is owned by retail giant Foot Locker. Together, we can make Footaction a better corporate citizen. Let’s make some noise.
UPDATE: After making some noise on Twitter, I received a DM from Footaction.
True to its word, restoration of the “Spirit of Harlem” mural is in progress.
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 nearly three 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.”