This series facilitates intergenerational dialogues with the elder, bridge and young lion generations of jazz culture bearers, who are at the creative vanguard of the music, and culture bearers in other Black forms, and to center their voices in controversial topics in jazz scholarship, including cultural appropriation, institutionalization, and contested ownership.

On Friday April 23th Alto Sax legends Steve Coleman and Charles McPherson will offer a rare joint lecture on the bebop language of Charlie Parker that speaks to the concept of Jazz Improvisation as Black American Language. Panel discussion will include JD Allen, and Master Drummer, Donald Edwards, who will be in concert with his quintet. On Friday April 30th Africanist ethnomusicologist Dr. Kwasi Ampene (Univ. of Michigan) and ethnomusicologist Dr. Cheryl Keyes (UCLA) will discuss with JD Allen and Antoine Drye the historical role of gender in Black music traditions like jazz, gospel and other African American music traditions. Maya Cunningham will offer a short lecture that explores the cultural urtexts of Black American gendered music traditions found in antecedent African music traditions and early African American history. The Anthony Wonsey Trio will also present a concert. On Friday May 7th jazz legend Reggie Workman will engage with Steve Coleman, JD Allen, Nasheet Waits and Eric Revis will discuss the egregious cultural appropriation that has affected jazz historically and in the contemporary, that has excluded the music’s Black creators. The Blood Brothers featuring Nasheet Waits will present a rousing finale concert to precede the discussion.


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.

April 23, 7-9 pm ET: Jazz Improvisation as Black American Language

  • Mini Concert featuring the Donald Edwards Quintet

  • Joint Lecture by Steve Coleman with Charles McPherson on the bebop language of Charlie Parker

  • Panel Discussion with Steve Coleman, Charles McPherson and JD Allen.

Moderated by Maya Cunningham


Within the context of African American culture and history, coded song language has been used to communicate secret messages that were a matter of life or death. This African American hidden transcript (Scott, 1990) as a “way of being” is rooted in anthropological antecedents, like the gendered secret languages of men in West African cultures. In African American history, it is well known that spirituals like “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” were used to communicate messages of escape via the Underground Railroad during slavery times. While African American spirituals document the urtext of the African American hidden transcript as it manifested in music, it is important to consider the way in which hidden code or insider language manifested in later Black art forms like blues and jazz. Rooted in the Black American hidden transcript, jazz is a tradition that employs a distinctive improvisational and repertory language that was created by African American innovators such as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, John Coltrane, and others. Unfortunately, the music has been historically defined in terms of hybridity by those such as Dave Brubeck, who wrote in Downbeat Magazine that jazz is a “mixed parentage of primitive African (rhythm) and highly developed European cultures (harmony)” (1951). This fallacy has been repeated in jazz studies programs throughout the world, and a version of it is still being published by Downbeat. In contemporary scholarly discourse, the music is often treated as an object on which to enact political/colonial agendas, not as a cultural and musical language of African Americans – a language developed within the context of Black music culture, and was/is used as insider code among African American musicians. Following a mini concert by Donald Edwards Quintet renowned musician Steve Coleman will present an interactive performance lecture on the often-encoded linguistic aspects of Charlie Parker’s music, whose improvisations he argues are an outgrowth of the Blues. The panel discussion to follow will highlight personal stories and reflections on learning and studying the music as language. This interactive discussion will feature example recordings, and a live Q&A segment.



Friday, April 30, 7-9 pm ET: Gendered African American Music Cultures: An Africanist Ethnomusicological Perspective

Live on WPFW 89.3 FM Jazz and Justice Radio

  • Mini Concert featuring the Anthony Wonsey Trio

  • Maya Cunningham on “An African Way of Being: Historic Gender Roles in African American Music”

  • Panel Discussion with JD Allen, Antoine Drye, ethnomusicologist Dr. Kwasi Ampene, and ethnomusicologist Dr. Cheryl Keyes. Moderated by Maya Cunningham.


According to ethnomusicologists, all music traditions are gendered, with symbiotic roles for men and women that make two halves of one whole. The same is true for Black American cultural musics, like jazz, gospel, blues, and other forms. This panel facilitates discussions between culture bearers and scholars from the African American gospel and jazz traditions to explore nuanced understandings of historical gender roles in these forms. Ethnomusicologist Raynetta Wiggins will discuss the symbiotic relationship in the roles of women, who lead music nationally in the COGIC denomination, and men who traditionally serve as instrumentalists. Ethnomusicologist/jazz musician Dr. Cheryl Keyes, along with jazz musicians JD Allen and Antoine Drye, will discuss parallel gender dynamics in the Black American jazz tradition, while Africanist ethnomusicologist, Dr. Kwasi Ampene will shed light on the African roots of gendered Black American music traditions through the lens of Asante culture in Ghana. Preceding the discussion, Maya Cunningham will offer a short lecture that explores the cultural urtexts or the Africanist habitus that informs Black American gendered music traditions found in antecedent West African music traditions, the WPA Slave Narratives, oral history, early recordings, and African American literature, art, and autobiography. Through this panel discussion, we will consider the following questions. What are the African functionalities of jazz and gospel concerning gender roles? Should Black musics such as jazz be labeled as patriarchal? Should a value judgment be placed on historically gendered Black music forms like jazz? Should the Black male architects of jazz be accused of gender bias and erased from the historiography of the music? Live Q & A to follow.


Friday May 7: Jazz, Race & Power: Historical and Contemporary Coloniality & Cultural Appropriation

  • Mini Concert featuring Nasheet Waits and Blood Brothers

  • Panel Discussion with Reggie Workman, Steve Coleman, Nasheet Waits, JD Allen and Eric Revis. Moderated by Maya Cunningham


Jazz is an African American music that has been the target of the Euro-American colonial project since its birth in the early 1900s. This panel discussion focuses on historical and contemporary manifestations of coloniality in the recording industry, higher education institutions, jazz journalism, performing arts institutions and other forms of cultural appropriation. Panel discussants will share their views, historical perspectives, personal experiences and potential solutions to these issues. Live Q & A to follow.


Note - The Du Bois Black Music Project takes the same position as Max Roach, Nina Simone, Miles Davis and Lee Morgan, who view the term ‘jazz’ as a misnomer that was assigned by the dominant media to the early 20th century Black music of New Orleans, and the subsequent style that developed from it. We use this term only to make clear the African American music form that we are talking about. However, just like gospel, blues, and other African American music traditions, we consider the correct name for the music known as jazz to be Black American Music.