The Revolutionary Spirit of Jazz on MLK Day

Illustration by Eric Battle

Martin Luther King, Jr. honored in inspirational Philadelphia collaboration

by Jazz Philadelphia | Illustration by Eric Battle

“Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph. This is triumphant music.”  Martin Luther King, Jr. 


In past years, celebrations for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day would have included live musical performances and service projects throughout Philadelphia that people could participate in shoulder to shoulder, and hand to hand. This year, the Philadelphia Jazz Project and the Museum of the American Revolution are among the partners who have looked to highlights of celebrations past to create a beautiful and moving video celebration featuring Philly jazz artists such as V. Shayne Frederick and the renowned Philadelphia graphic artist Eric Battle. While we may not be shoulder to shoulder, we can still be heart to heart. “We Shall Continue: Celebrating MLK Weekend with the Philadelphia Jazz Project” can be viewed online on demand for anyone who needs to center themselves in the spirit of the day.

“From the very start, I was profoundly moved by the invitation from the Museum of the American Revolution to celebrate this revolutionary man, using this revolutionary music, in this revolutionary museum at this revolutionary moment in our history,” says Homer Jackson, Director of the Philadelphia Jazz Project. “Not losing sight of this grand example at work here, I did not take this opportunity to present a musical message celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lightly. I brought together a team of talented artists who work to bring together spirituality, message and mastery. We chose a collection of provocative songs that broadly illuminate the diverse and complex, personal, social, political, and spiritual energies of the times.” 

Adding to the music and the inspirational poetry and reflections is the work of West Philadelphian Eric Battle, well-known for his work in major comic juggernauts in New York, and the illustrator behind the Philadelphia Jazz Project’s “Philadelphia Jazz Stories Illustrated.”  

Battle told Jazz Philadelphia, “Having the honor of creating imagery of The King of Real Life Superheroes that embodies the vision, strength, perseverance, nobility, compassion, power and dreams that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspires in all of us, is an opportunity that had my imagination immediately dancing, and always will be unmatched.” 

As Adrienne Whaley, Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Museum of the American Revolution says, they hope to uncover and contextualize the dynamic, “ongoing American Revolution” that is our country, and in which Dr. King placed himself, “fighting to make the words of the Constitution meaningful for all Americans.”  

Participating performers in “We Shall Continue” include Kareem Idris, Toby VEnT Martin, V. Shayne Frederick, James Solomon, Kendrah Butler-Waters, Jocko McNelly, and Kimpedro Rodriguez. Historian Dr. Dianne D. Turner and civil rights activist Kenneth Abdus Salaam are among the other celebrants along with PJP’s Homer Jackson. 

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