February is famous in my school for two holidays and I’ve decided to combine them this month on the Blogposts. Each post I hope to include a story about a black jazz musician, particularly in regard to their experience in a racist culture and how they responded and helped move the dial of social justice. My hopes are threefold:
1) To make a dent in our collective ignorance about black history in general and jazz history in particular. By the end, you’ll have 28 more stories about how the white supremacist narrative affected—and affects—everything in our culture. By seeing these patterns, you’ll be better prepared to respond to tomorrow’s news.
2) To inspire you to consider all the different ways one’s voice can be used to effect change, both directly and indirectly. Musicians were busier working things out on the bandstand than protesting in the streets (though some did both), but simply by sharing their genius, did much to open the perceptions of white America (first story tomorrow is a good example).
3) To connect this all with Valentine’s Day by doing the homework of listening to some music of each musician (I’ll make a few suggestions and in these days of Spotify/Youtube/ i-Tunes, you don’t have to trudge down to the record store and buy something to listen.) Not only did almost all of them play the love songs of the jazz repertoire, but the simple beauty and power of their playing was a love letter to people worldwide.
And so I’m renting out my own space to be a classroom of sorts, putting on my teacher hat. But still want to serve my writer self who has the discipline of trying to shape my experience through reflection, to share my little victories, defeats and observations, to try to bring some meaning to the chaos of the world through language. So my thought is to write whatever I normally would and alternate these entries with the “jazz musician story du jour,” with or without connection to the previous post.
Let’s see how it goes.