Focus on Reverend Dr. Ronald Myers
Dr. Ronald Myers
June 7, 2011
By Dr. Larry Ridley
AAJC Executive Director
& Bassist Extraordinaire
Minister, physician and jazz musician, Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D., is the leader of the “Modern Juneteenth Movement” in America. Myers is working to make Juneteenth a national holiday observance, like Flag Day and Patriot Day. Now, thirty-six States, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Congress recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or state holiday observance.
“Juneteenth” refers to the date, the “19th of June,” 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to read General Order #3, announcing freedom for all slaves, more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Myers believes the observance of Juneteenth provides a profound opportunity for all Americans to come together as a nation and constructively confront its’ troubling slave history and embrace reconciliation and healing from the legacy of enslavement. Juneteenth also provides African Americans with an opportunity to define what it truly means to be an American of African descent and revitalize their artistic connections with mother Africa.
Through a partnership with the African American Jazz Caucus (AAJC) (www.aajc.us) and the National Association of Juneteenth Jazz Presenters (NAJJP), Myers leads a modern day jazz renaissance movement to preserve the legacy of African American Classical Music, commonly called “jazz,” in the historic communities where it was created.
In 1990, Myers became the Chaplain of the Black Jazz Music Caucus (BJMC) of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE). The BJMC was renamed the AAJC in 2001. Dr. Myers was given the charge to bridge the gap between the black church and jazz. The organization was and continues to be concerned about the declining presence of jazz in the black community. Many African American owned and operated jazz venues at once popular nightclubs and restaurants, were either closing or no longer featuring jazz.
Jazz was becoming a declining art form being featured and supported in many black communities in the United States.
The organization, through the appointment of Myers as Chaplain, began reaching out to the most important cultural and spiritual institution in the black community, the black church, to support jazz. Myers, also the Founder & Director of the Fellowship of Creative Christian Jazz Musicians (FCCJM) (www.ChristianJazz.net), developed a Midnight Jazz Worship Service, working with local pastors and choirs, and leading panel discussions on jazz worship at the IAJE conferences held across the country.
Dr. Myers and Dr. Ridley have long recognized the need to develop a network of cultural institutions that would preserve the African American Jazz Legacy and provide young people with the opportunity to embrace and perform with seasoned jazz musicians from their own historic communities. Myers established “June is Black Music Month!” – CELEBRATING JUNETEENTH JAZZ – “Preserving Our African American Jazz Legacy!” and a series of Juneteenth Jazz Legacy concerts and Juneteenth Art Exhibits across the United States. These Juneteenth Jazz events are supported by the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF), State and local Juneteenth organizations around the nation that Myers continues to organize for over a decade.
Annual Juneteenth Jazz concerts celebrate the historic legacy of accomplished native jazz artists to promote pride and encourage community leaders to embrace jazz preservation projects. Area youth are exposed to the legacy of neighborhood jazz icons and embrace with enthusiasm the performance of live jazz, many for the first time. Local Juneteenth organizations affiliated with the NAJJP are encouraged to support the celebration of Juneteenth Jazz and encourage local jazz artists to perform and conduct jazz workshops with area youth and preserve the African American Jazz Legacy.
Working with Dr. Larry Ridley, Executive Director of the AAJC, Myers promotes the celebration of the historic legacy of HBCU jazz education in America. Many leading colleges and universities do not recognize or acknowledge the historic role of HBCUs in the founding of jazz education. Many of these institutions have eliminated African American jazz educators from teaching positions.
These recent developments have focused Myers and Ridley on the need for the development of alternative community based Juneteenth Jazz education programs and strive to create curriculum for elementary and secondary schools. Supporting HBCU jazz education remains an essential part of preserving the African American Jazz Legacy in America.
Dr. Ridley began working as an advisor with Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) in 1978 to the present. He aided in the crafting of HR 57, which passed unanimously both houses of Congress in 1987 declaring Jazz as “America’s National Treasure through the African American Experience”. Ridley always stresses, “The Roots that have led to the Fruits”. He was instrumental in contacting State Representative William Crawford (Indianapolis, IN) who sponsored Indiana’s Juneteenth state holiday legislation, which passed unanimously in 2010 to support Juneteenth Jazz. www.jazzindiana.net
Dr. Myers also continues to work with members of the U.S. Congress through the leadership of Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL), Chairman of the National Juneteenth Congressional Committee and many state legislators.
Myers urges state legislators to enact legislation to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday or state holiday observance and to establish State Juneteenth Commissions. These commissions should work with school boards to develop curricula to teach the history of Juneteenth in public schools.
The partnership of the AAJC and the NAJJP will continue to work for the preservation of our African American Jazz Legacy through Juneteenth Jazz.