Distinguished Lecture Series in Musicology: Prof. Stephanie Shonekan, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
“‘We Insist [that Black Lives Matter]’: An Examination of the Jazz Album that Confronted Global White Supremacy”
Contemporary Black artists like Kendrick Lamar, Janelle Monae, J. Cole, D’Angelo, and Beyonce infuse empowering messages into their music, which serve as the musical backdrop to this century’s Black Lives Matter movement. Every decade, Black artists have served up insistent messages of empowerment confronting the oppressive effects of white supremacy. These anthems have often come from hip hop, soul, and R&B. Rarely has it come from jazz, a musical genre that has arguably had a closer and more complicated relationship with white audiences and spaces. However, in 1960, jazz drummer Max Roach and vocalist Abby Lincoln collaborated on an album We Insist: Max Roach’s Freedom Suite Now that literally and symbolically confronted historical and global racism in an unprecedented way that adopted a Pan-African approach, spanning slavery and civil rights in the US to anti-apartheid movements in South Africa. This paper will argue that We Insist is a potent focal point of black musical activism by examining the making of the album, its reception by critics and audiences, and the significance of the fact that Roach and Lincoln were themselves embarking on a journey of love for their people and for each other. Ultimately this paper offers an analysis that places We Insist as a comprehensive musical precursor and a prophetic call to the twenty-first century that Black Lives must matter.
- Free - no tickets required
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