Commemorating Juneteenth

This Monday, June 19th,  as we know, was Juneteenth. This holiday, as you probably know, commemorates the day when Union troops finally rolled into Texas and announced the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing 250,000 slaves in the state.  Though the rest of the country freed the slaves nearly two years earlier, Texas continued oppression and slavery, and thus the decree of freedom came late.  Juneteenth is often called the Nation’s “Second Independence Day) about here ( 

I have mixed feelings about Juneteenth.  I would not necessarily call it a celebration.  Let me elaborate.  Yes, at one level, this Holiday represents deliverance: the freeing of slaves was a wonderful thing.  And yet, Black people being made chattel slaves should have never occurred. When I really feel into what this holiday means, to me, it is a reckoning with our past. This is painful.  Juneteenth is finally now a Federal holiday, and it is a day that reminds us of the history of and legacy of slavery.  I feel sad, somber, and pained when I reconcile and really let myself take in how much suffering the institution of slavery caused Black people.  And white people too.  To oppress and to hate others is suffering.  So, on Juneteenth, I feel a sense of solemnity, and gratitude that this day is finally being recognized now in our collective consciousness.  I also feel a deep exhortation, to continue to work on my own unconscious biases, and continue to be an ally to dismantle systemic and institutional racism.  We have…more work to do.

Come and meditate with me, as we will send healing and positive energy to descendants of slaves, to all African-American and Black people around the globe, and hope that we all continue to work on our deconstructing our own racial biases.  And finally, we will turn to jazz, a specially curated playlist to process our feelings about Juneteenth.

Jazz Therapy Weekly Meditation: Meditation for Descendants of Slaves and Black people everywhere

In this week’s meditation, we will:

In this meditation, we will:

-Send healing energy and honor the descendants of slaves in the United States

-Send positive energy to everyone who identifies African-American and Black, all over the world

-Send healing energy that we all continue to work on dismantling our unconscious racial biases

Jazz Therapy Playlist and Musical Commentary: Honoring Juneteenth via Milt Jackson and Eric Dolphy

This week, we feature the music of vibraphonist Milt Jackson and alto sax player Eric Dolphy as we process our feelings around Juneteenth. Eric Dolphy’s birthday anniversary was this week on Tuesday, June 20th.

Emotional Dwelling (To Mirror Your Mood)

“How Long Blues,” Milt Jackson, Ray Charles, Soul Brothers/Soul Meeting, (Rec.1957; Released 1961)

This song perfectly embodies my feelings about Juneteenth.  We hear a slow. Beautiful, bluesy lamentation, with fabulous solos by Milt Jackson on the vibraphone.  We even get to hear Ray Charles pick up the tenor sax, and his breathy solos are so deeply soulful.  We hear a lamentation in this piece, yet it is also somewhat hopeful.  In a titular way, “How Long Blues” also conveys to us the spirit of Juneteenth: Black Americans had to endure slavery and oppression for far too long. 

Emotional Innovation (To Experience Something New)

“Impressions (feat.Eric Dolphy)-Live, Evenings at the Village Gate: John Coltrane with Eric Dolphy, (Rec.1961; Album will be released on July 14, 2023)

An incredible showcase of what Coltrane and Dolphy were working on together. My kingdom to have been at the Village Gate and to have seen these two in their month-long residence, in late-summer New York, 1961.

Emotional Reverie (To Dream and Remember)

“Sketch of Melba,” Eric Dolphy, Out There (Rudy Van Gelder Remaster), 1960

Dolphy talked about being influenced by listening to the songs of birds as a child growing up in California; in this his song, we hear the manifestation of his exquisite attunement to nature as he inventively and beautifully plays the flute.  He lets himself explore, meander, and dream, which I feel listening to this tune.  Let yourself dream when you hear this song.

Emotional Tone Setting (To Intentionally Create an Emotional Vibe)

“Mambo Ricci,” The Latin Jazz Quintet + Eric Dolphy, Caribe, 1960

I chose this song to showcase Dolphy’s versatility and another side of him: the side that could jam with a Latin jazz quintet, in his own, original way.  Here, he is more restrained, yet we hear his innate originality and the burgeoning desire to explore even more. The vibe he creates here is creative, relaxed, and energetic, with a Latin beat as well.  When I think about Juneteenth, I think about how we can all be intentional to continue to work to create change together.

Emotional Galvanization (To Inspire)

“John Brown’s Body,” Oscar Peterson Trio, Milt Jackson, Very Tall, 1961

Originally a gospel song about the abolitionist John Brown, this tune features lovely solos from Milt Jackson, and Oscar Peterson on piano. In the spirit of Juneteenth, I feel reflective when I hear this song, and also an exhortation in this song, a call to action, to continue to work on myself and my own unconscious biases, as well as continuing to work to help dismantle systemic and institutional racism. I hear in inherent hope in this tune.

Jazz Birthdays Each week, we will highlight birthdays of jazz performers around the world.  We are grateful they exist!

Eric Dolphy (June 20, 1928 – June 29, 1964)

A trailblazing alto saxophonist (also a flutist and clarinetist), Dolphy was an original all around and played a new ear of free jazz.  A close friend of Coltrane, he deeply influenced Coltrane’s musical development and inspired him to be more intrepid in his musical solos for the rest of the 1960’s. 

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