by Kevin Amos
For New Pittsburgh Courier
On June 22, keynote speaker, producer and writer Willard Jenkins, will moderate a panel, “Segregated Musicians’ Unions: Significance, Survival and Impact,” at 7 p.m.at the Big Room at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council located at 810 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh.
Jenkins is an independent arts consultant/producer, writer and broadcaster under his Open Sky banner. He has been a public and community radio station broadcaster and producer in Cleveland, Minneapolis; and since 1989 at WPFW, Pacifica Radio in Washington, D.C. Jenkins was also affiliated with Black Entertainment Television, commencing with creative consultation on its jazz programs. Since that time he has hosted, associate produced, produced, and written numerous series, specials, and documentaries for the BET Jazz and BET J channels. In addition, Jenkins is a successful and widely recognized workshop, symposium, and conference facilitator, and speaker at universities, conventions, and arts conferences across the country and internationally. Jenkins has served on arts granting panels at the federal, regional, state, local and private foundation level as well as coordinator of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Live grant program through Arts Midwest.
Hon. Warren Watson, multi instrumentalist, former legal counsel for African American Local 471, and retired Court of Common Pleas judge; George Arthur, Colored Musicians Club of Buffalo, Inc.; Lovett Hines, Jazz Ensemble director at the Clef Club; and Ken Foley, PhD, advisor, African American Jazz Preservation Society of Pittsburgh.
The two panel discussions will take place at 1 p.m. in the Hillman Auditorium after the historical marker ceremony. The installation ceremony will also honor recently deceased AAJPSP President Charles “Chuck” Austin and will take place at 11:30 a.m. near the former location of the Musicians Club, the union’s venue, on Crawford Street between Wylie and Webster Avenues in the Hill District.
Ceremony speakers include George Clewer, president of Local 60/471 American Federation of Musicians; R. Danielle Lavelle, Pittsburgh City Council; Rosemary Trump, president, Pennsylvania Labor Historical Society; and Warren Watson.
This program is supported, in part, by the Heinz Endowments Small Arts Initiative, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
The panels and panelists are:
The 471 Experience: Dialogue and Oral History
Honorable Warren Watson; Cecil Brooks II, drummer/percussionist and former member, African American Local 471; and Johnathan White, MA, history instructor, Penn State University-Greater Allegheny Campus.
Black Musicians Unions: Moving the Legacy Forward
George “Duke” Spaulding, pianist and former member African American Local 471; George Scott, president, Colored Musicians Club of Buffalo; Donald Gardner, managing director of the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts; Harry Clark PhD., educator in the Pittsburgh Public School system, founder of the high school for the Creative and Performing Arts, consultant for schools across the country and advisor to the African American Jazz Preservation Society of Pittsburgh.
Notable members of Local 471 included Mary Lou Williams, Erroll Garner, Art Blakey, Stanley Turrentine, Billy Strayhorn, Ray Brown and Ahmad Jamal. They were part of a distinguished group of players who went on to become international performers and great influences on the development of jazz throughout the latter part of the 20th century. These musicians and the union’s venue, the Musicians Club, were at the heart of a rich culture that developed in the lower Hill District. As ambassadors to a uniquely American art form and as noted figures of the Hill District, it is only fitting that the rich history and the musical gifts they bestowed on our community be commemorated with a memorial honoring their contributions.
(For more information about this program, please contact AAJPSP at 412-867-1721.)