Beyond the Blackberry Patch
When the Jazz Academy opened its doors in May 2009, it became an instant resident of an area inspired by rejuvenation, the King-Lincoln District. A strong desire to become a contributing neighbor led the Jazz Arts Group to commission acclaimed trombonist and composer, Wycliffe Gordon, to create a 90-minute piece of music for ten musicians to tell the story of the neighborhood. Eight Columbus City Schools in the district were invited to participate by helping Mr. Gordon with his research. Their study of their own neighborhood, its past, present, and future, resulted in a working title for the piece - ”Beyond the Blackberry Patch.”
The Blackberry Patch is a folkloric name given to the area on Columbus’ near east side where many settled during the Great Migration. A once-thriving neighborhood and hotbed of African American culture, it is an area that has been through difficult times. Its future is uncertain, but the re-opening of the Lincoln Theatre (home of the Jazz Academy) has created a spirit of hope and revitalization.
The project is managed by Jazz in Schools Director, Judy Shafer. Designed in three stages, the process is being followed by governmental and business community members, the school community, and the arts community. The stages include: research and composition; presentation; and documentation. Inspired by the writings of Anna Bishop, “Beyond the Blackberry Patch” is a new commission based on the research of eight neighborhood schools under the theme “King-Lincoln District: Then, Now, Next.” Mr. Gordon has interacted with eighty teachers at the Jazz Academy and has visited six of the eight schools involved to interact with their students. Much of the research on the past and present periods has been completed and the work done during the 2010-11 school year has focused on the future. The presentation will take place on March 2-3, 2012 at the Lincoln Theatre.
Communities such as the King-Lincoln District are common in America’s largest cities. Columbus has committed significant resources to restore this district and it currently serves as a model for the reclamation of a neighborhood; the reconstruction of the Lincoln Theatre, the cultural centerpiece of the District for nearly eighty years, represents the hope for the future.