Thursday, June 11th
If all were normal, we would be celebrating the Jazz Forum’s 3rd birthday. We opened on June 9th, 2017 with the magnificent sounds of Roy Hargrove and his quintet. The love in that room, that night, with that music and that audience gives me chills even now. It was a beautiful launch and the club has been a place of joy, creativity and community ever since.
But all is not normal.
As the Black Lives Matter movement is finally taking hold worldwide, there is so much wisdom, passion and requests for action coming from black jazz musicians. The best thing we can do is listen. Thank you, Lewis Nash for sharing your experience and cautious optimism. Below is an excerpt from a recent FB post (with permission) by Lewis, an extraordinary jazz musician and human being.
On May 25th, 2020, Memorial Day, the world witnessed the racist, barbaric, inhumane torture and murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis….I would venture to say that most Black men in America have experienced some uncomfortable moments with law enforcement. I’ve had my own tense encounters with aggressive police officers, and these encounters often begin to occur very early in our lives.
Often we try to ignore or repress much of the subtle and not so subtle racism and bigotry we experience, otherwise it’s possible to become consumed by it. Black jazz musicians from earlier generations were masterful at navigating this terrain. Some stood up, spoke out and challenged norms, but often at the risk of losing their livelihood or their lives. In the course of my life and career, I have had many conversations about life in America with my peers and with most of the black men and women in the jazz world who nurtured, taught and groomed me. Understandably, a common thread that runs through the experiences of black musicians in America across generations is the similarity of the experiences in dealing with racism, and developing the necessary survival skills. We learn to live our lives without becoming consumed by anger or depression.
I do remain cautiously optimistic, however. People are protesting and asking what they can do. They’re pledging to hold themselves and those in their personal and professional circles accountable. They can educate themselves on the history and origins of these problems so they’re armed with facts AND passion….We must expose and eradicate the systemic and institutional racism in so many areas of American life….We have a golden opportunity to listen to those who are hurting or marginalized, to have empathy and compassion, and to dedicate real time, energy and effort to bringing about change. Let’s be bold enough to create a society that truly values love, respect, generosity, kindness and equal justice under the law for all its citizens.
June 8, 2020
George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter movement will change the way we engage as human beings. It will change our future for the better. It will also focus our attention at Jazz Forum Arts on raising up our community of black musicians, audiences and staff.
I want to recognize that Mark Morganelli, my husband and founder of Jazz Forum Arts, has had the privilege of being mentored by so many black jazz musicians who have shaped his playing and his respect for the roots of jazz in the African-American community. Mark has also always featured black musicians – men and women, young and old – in his 40+ years of presenting jazz.
Now, looking forward, we are asking for ways to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the Jazz Forum by using the club as a safe space for action to combat racism. Please let me know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With love and hope, Ellen