Black Music has been an essential ingredient of the American music gumbo since Africans arrived on these shores. However, it took the efforts of Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright, and media pioneer Dyana Williams to garner national recognition in the form of Black Music Month in 1979. Dyana’s lobbying work ultimately led to the signing of a White House proclamation for the annual celebration in 2000.
Dyana, a native New Yorker who has claimed Philadelphia as her home, reflects on the need for a celebration. “Black music grew out of pain, suffering, and indignities stemming from racism. From the field hollers to the church, African Americans could always find solace in music – music that would lift and inspire them”.
Though she has enjoyed a celebrated career as a radio and television personality, journalist, community activist, and media coach, Dyana’s first career aspiration was to be a jazz DJ. “I love the ‘freedom within structure’ that is essential to jazz – how musicians listen and spark new ideas in one another. Jazz is unique in that the musicians innovate and represent creativity at a very high level.”
Jazz music continues to contribute to the American music gumbo with innovative artistry. It’s a flavorful stew that’s exported around the world. We’re particularly proud of Philadelphians like Immanuel Wilkins, Christian McBride, Orrin Evans, Laurin Talese, Odean Pope, and legions of others who keep making music that helps us find solace when we need it most.
This Black Music Month, we join Dyana Williams in lifting up this indigenous art form and all those who make it, support it, and appreciate it.
President, Jazz Philadelphia