The intent of Blacks on Blues is to encourage African-Americans to place a high value on their rich cultural heritage. Blacks on Blues events and activities are devoted to acknowledging and encouraging strong interest in the cultural forms of the people of the African Diaspora.
Blacks on Blues events feature music, lecture, and multi-media in a two-hour interactive format. The series is presented monthly, typically at Zambezi Bazaar in Leimert Park. A range of topics have been covered over the years and the presentations have been well received in the community.
The events average 40-50 attendees and Dr. Williams videotapes each presentation for archival purposes. His first video documentation of an artist and his work, Intimate Portrait: "Gettin' Ugly with Marvin Hill", has also been completed.
Dr. Williams has also presented "Inside Mandela's South Africa", an eight-minute slide presentation of photos from his travels in South Africa as a tribute to the 95th birthday of the great leader. A brief movie and a slide show are featured elements of the presentation "Let's Go To Brasil", and a Powerpoint photo essay highlighting great classic blues singers is a feature of the "Women of the Blues" presentation.
Dr. Williams has also developed a business plan, established an advisory group, and has now amassed an international following with visitors to the Facebook site, www.facebook.com/BlacksOnBlues. Blacks on Blues has established a sizable presence, ranging from FB Friends in Senegal, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Brasil, Thailand, and Malaysia, as well as many parts of the United States.
2012-13 Activities include:
• Blues is an Ecosystem is an overview presentation that traces the history of the music between Africa and America. It sets the table for the variety of music that has characterized the topics expressed throughout the series.
• Women of the Blues, Part I traces the importance of the classic blues singers to the origins and development of the modern recording industry. These artists were also pivotal in the development of the early music industry which heavily relied on the support of an eager African-American fan base.
• Blues to Gospel, Parts I & II discusses the relationship between religious and secular music in the African-American community. Many of the most influential blues artists were grounded in the church experience and others returned to their gospel roots and became the pioneers of the modern gospel sound.
• Cain't Nobody Beg Like A Brother examines the types of subject matter expressed through the work of predominantly male vocalists. A key premise is the opportunity for these typically macho men to express a wide variety of emotions through the music, despite society's taboos about what constitutes being a black man.
• Let's Go To Brasil! scans the influence of African culture on the music of Brasil in celebration the annual Boa Morte in Cachoeira, Bahia, commemorating the emancipation of slaves in Brasil. This presentation was officially endorsed by the Brazilian consulate and features Dr. Williams' photography and video.
• Until We All Come Home: Blues in New Orleans, Part I explores both the early musical experience as well as the contemporary music scene in the Gulf Coast region. Presented as a commemoration of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
• In Early Chicago Blues, Chicago is a geographic melting place where early blues became part of the urban destination experience during the Great Migrations. It focuses on the origins of Chicago style ragtime with the King Oliver Hot Five and Hot Seven band featuring Louis Armstrong and the origins of boogie-woogie and stride piano styles.
• Blues for Barack, presents socially-conscious politically themed music from a variety of stylists ranging from bluesmen to the Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron. The theme captures an idea of what a worldly-wise thinker might consider as contemporary blues expression.
• Freedom and Liberation, features the work of Richie Havens, Nina Simone, and Sun Ra with a commentary on their impact on the 1960's-70's music scene. These three artists had a very divergent, though strong impact on their adherents during a crucial time in American history.
• A Life Well Lived, An Intimate Portrait of Ms. Bettye LaVette is a classic example of a phenomenally talented artist having a "second act" as an important innovator. Ms. LaVette's story is an inspiring lesson in its emphasis on the value of persistence and sustaining a sense of self-belief.
• Cain't Nobody Brag Like a Brother…and a Sister appraises the personal style of blues artists as expressed in their music. Bragging is a way that artists develop a sense of personal style and showmanship. Lyrics expressed in many of the songs feature themes that were very attractive to the African-American audience as expressions of self-confidence and self-worth.
• Andy Bey…Up Close, offers a perspective on one of the most talented yet underrated artists active since the 1950s. Andy Bey's vocal talents are widely acclaimed and his personal odyssey quite exemplary for any artist.
• What the Music Says About…I AM Trayvon Martin, considers how blues in its various forms has treated social conditions for African-Americans and others over the years. The worldview expressed through the music is pointed out as far more diverse than most mainstream writers have captured in their observations and musings.
• Homage to George Duke: The Blues Roots of Jazz Fusion, discusses the development of jazz-fusion as a creative form and the artists who became innovators. Jazz-Fusion is a music that is a direct outgrowth of the blues tradition at the core of the jazz idiom.
• Blues Roots of Jazz-Fusion, II: The Versatile Bass Guitar traces the evolution of the bass from being an essential part of an ensemble's rhythm section to a lead instrument with a wide variety of soloing and lead instrument characteristics.
• Intimate Portrait: Gettin' Ugly with Marvin Hill, (60 minute video), presents a conversation with a prominent blues artist in full flight talking and playing up a storm. Hill's resourcefulness and ability to express the inner life of the blues artists is on display in this presentation.