For our inaugural Spring 2021 season the Du Bois Black Music Project presents Fire Fridays: The Cats Talk Back, mini-concerts and panel discussions to put Black music culture-bearers in conversation with hot topics in jazz.


Founded through the Black Power Movement in 1970, the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst is a legacy space for African American jazz culture bearers to speak for the music to reflect their insider perspectives. Max Roach, Archie Shepp, Yusef Lateef, Reggie Workman, Billy Taylor…Max Roach wrote his well-known essay “Jazz is a 4-letter Word” as a faculty member, and Archie Shepp developed a course called “Revolutionary concepts in Black Music.” We are a part of the Black Revolutionary Tradition. The Du Bois Black Music Project builds on their foundation with cutting-edge scholarship and programming like Fire Fridays: The Cats Talk Back, to give a platform to African American jazz musicians, who are indigenous to the music, to speak about it in the scholarly space of the academy, where they are rarely given a voice.


Fridays: The Cats Talk Back - Mini Concerts and Panel Discussions on Hot Topics in Jazz will premier online on Friday April 23rd, April 30th, and May 7th, 7 – 9 pm ET. In partnership with We Insist! and the We-UP Re-UP Online Jazz Festival. On April 30th we will broadcast live on WPFW 89.3 FM, Washington DC's Jazz & Justice radio, our media partner. Guest panelists include REGGIE WORKMAN, the last living member of the John Coltrane Quartet, STEVE COLEMAN (M-Base Founder & MacArthur Genius Grant Awardee) and CHARLES MCPHERSON (JAZZ TIMES 220 Readers Poll #1 Artist of the Year), renowned tenor saxophonist JD Allen, Nasheet Waits (Drummer, Jason Moran’s Bandwagon), and Eric Revis, celebrated jazz trumpeter, Antoine Drye, and others. Produced and Moderated by jazz vocalist/ethnomusicologist Maya Cunningham.