On June 7, 1979, I had the pleasure of attending the first Black Music Month celebration on the lawn of the White House, hosted by President Jimmy Carter. It was a lovely picnic gathering with an illustrious audience of music industry professionals, including Chuck Berry, Andre Crouch and other prominent artists of the day, who performed for the attentive crowd. With performances that showcased the expression of a people who used music to articulate the pain of slavery, their desire for freedom, resistance to racism, the celebration of God, love and life in every form, it was a meaningful and magical event.
That day at the White House and since, there have been celebrations of the majesty of black music in the United States and around the world! But even after all these years, some would ask, does black music still matter? If so, how should we recognize it?
The concept for Black Music Month was conceived in 1978 by stellar record mogul Kenny Gamble and broadcaster Ed Wright under the auspices of the now-defunct Black Music Association. After petitioning President Carter, a year later, those in attendance at the White House were excited about the prospects of garnering greater recognition for the accomplishments of those who established the foundation for black music in all genres, as well as for generations to come.
Some 33 years after the creation of Black Music Month, is it still relevant? How and why should we celebrate it?