When President Jimmy Carter declared June Black Music Month, the White House hosted performers ranging from gospel singer Aundre Crouch to disco star Evelyn Champagne King. But the holiday was masterminded by the Black Music Association, a group of record executives, who were focused more on mobilizing the economic power of black music than celebrating its artists. Things have changed since then.
The Billboard Top 100 chart has as much R&B and rap as it does pop, with today’s number one single the country-rap song “Old Town Road.” Musicologist Georgiary Bledsoe returns to the State of Things to share the history and purpose of Black Music Month and her own efforts to preserve black music and educate the next generation of music makers through her new music education system Boa Boa Tree.
Poet and children’s book author Carole Boston Weatherford joins the conversation to share her career’s work of educating youth about African American musical icons. Through her book “Freedom in Congo Square” (Little Bee Books/2016) she shares stories of enslaved people gathering to sing, dance, and play music and African drums. These sounds of Africa would turn into jazz. Weatherford will read from her book “Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane” (Henry Holt & Co./2008) and her new book “The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip Hop”(Little Bee Books/2019). Weatherford is a professor of English at Fayetteville State University.