Get ready to hit the Internet or the local box for show tickets. June is Black Music Month and venues across the nation are presenting shows ranging from blues to gospel to hip hop to jazz to R&B to give aficionados—or those who are just interested in getting their dance on—a place celebrate.
Formally called African-American Music Appreciation Month, June has existed for more than 30 years as the official time to celebrate Black music. The idea for a month to honor Black music was originally inspired by a Cincinnati radio broadcaster, Ed Wright, and Kenny Gamble, co-founder of the Philadelphia International Records record label. The two conceived the commemoration in 1978, according to historical accounts.
One year later, on June 7, 1979, their vision was realized when President Jimmy Carter declared that June would be the month to honor African American music and Black Music Month was born. In the years since, several presidential administrations have acknowledged the month by holding formal events at the White House. On June 2, 2009, President Barack Obama decreed the name was changed to African-American Music Appreciation Month, though many still refer to the commemoration by the shorter name.
“The legacy of African-American composers, singers, songwriters, and musicians is an indelible piece of our Nation's culture,” Obama wrote. “Generations of African Americans have carried forward the musical traditions of their forebears, blending old styles with innovative rhythms and sounds. They have enriched American music and captured the diversity of our Nation. During African-American Music Appreciation Month, we honor this rich heritage.”
For this year’s commemoration, Obama issued another proclamation:
“African-Americans have always had a hand in shaping the American sound.
From gospel and Motown to bebop and blues, their story is bound up in the music they made—songs of hurt and hardship, yearning and hope, and struggle for a better day,” the President wrote. “Those feelings speak to something common in all of us. With passion and creativity, African-American performers have done more than reinvent the musical styles they helped define; they have channeled their music into making change and advancing justice, from radio booths to the stage to our city streets.”
Several celebrations are held in cities across America in observance of African-American Music Appreciation Month, including the Capital Jazz Festival held June 7-9 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia and the D.C. Jazz Festival June 5-16. The D.C. event will include shows at the wharf, the Hamilton hotel and the Kennedy Center. The Hamilton shows include the Ron Carter Golden Striker Trio on June 13, the Brubeck Brothers Quintet: Tribute to Dave Brubeck June 14 and the Brass-A-Holics Go Go Brass Funk Band on June 15.
Go to dcjazzfest.org for additional information.