African Americans have always had a hand in shaping the American sound. From gospel and Motown to bebop and blues, their story is bound up in the music they made -- songs of hurt and hardship, yearning and hope, and struggle for a better day. Those feelings speak to something common in all of us. With passion and creativity, African-American performers have done more than reinvent the musical styles they helped define; they have channeled their music into making change and advancing justice, from radio booths to the stage to our city streets.
That story is still unfolding today. We see it in the young poet putting his words to a beat; the conservatory student perfecting her technique; the jazz musician making old melodies new again. During African-American Music Appreciation Month, let us celebrate these artists and the generations who inspired them, and let us reflect on our heritage as a Nation forever enriched by the power of song.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four girls. This incident inspired jazz legend John Coltrane to compose “Alabama,” a powerful tribute to the victims of an act of domestic terrorism.