Even before the #DontMuteDC movement sprang up in 2019, music and activism had long gone hand-in-hand in Washington, D.C. You could say that together they represent the full spectrum of the freedom struggle: joys, frustrations and the work still to be done. Today, with the coronavirus in retreat and a mayoral campaign just getting underway, we’re stepping back into the world slowly and vigilantly. It’s time to address the question of what we want to bring back to normal, and what needs to be fundamentally changed.
In that spirit, the 7th annual Jazz & Freedom Festival will bring together some of the finest musicians in D.C. (and beyond) with community activists confronting racial injustice and anti-Black violence in our communities. This year’s JAFF will take place all afternoon and evening on Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Eaton’s Beverly Snow warehouse space. Presented by CapitalBop in partnership with Shannon Gunn and the Eaton DC, and sponsored by the DC Housing Finance Agency, the event will send 100 percent of proceeds directly to Harriet’s Wildest Dreams.
The festival will feature five sets of live music and poetry, as well as a panel discussion moderated by Harriet’s Wildest Dreams cofounder Aja Taylor, featuring Ty Hobson Powell of Concerned Citizens DC, Jessica Teachey of The MusicianShip, Beth Yirga of the Palm Collective and musician Onrae Lateel.
The centerpiece of the festival, of course, is the music. And the incredible lineup that the JAFF’s creative team — led by CapitalBop cofounder Luke Stewart, Shannon Gunn and Kelsye Adams — has assembled is stacked with brilliant talent from start to finish.
The acclaimed steel pan virtuoso and composer Victor Provost will play a headlining set with his band. A pair of incredible duos will also perform: bassist Corcoran Holt with percussionist/poet Jabari Exum, and Jupiter Blue (featuring Tara Middleton and DM Hotep, both members of the Sun Ra Arkestra).
Trombonist and co-organizer Shannon Gunn will lead the Jazz & Freedom Ensemble, a D.C. supergroup with a rotating lineup that anchors every JAFF. And to close out the evening, the Collect!v Crew — a DMV musicians’ collective anchored by bassist Dennis Turner and drummer Biscuit Bynum — will close out the night, bringing its groove-based take on contemporary Black music back to the Eaton, where it has been a regular presence over the past few years.
In partnering with Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, the CapitalBop team is proud to be acting in solidarity with an organization that describes itself as “fighting for a world where the response to social problems does not include prisons, policing, prosecution, or any form of surveillance, supervision, or incarceration.”
Harriet’s Wildest Dreams was founded in 2021 by a corps of Black women that had come through the Black Lives Matter DMV organization, and the group has been doing important work across the city — from providing legal resources to people ensnared in the penal system, to helping bring joy to communities during the holidays.
Other community organizations will have a tabling presence at the event too, including DC Vote, Real Frontline DC and Hustler’s Guild. Artist Keyonna KAYEMJAY6 Jones will be doing live painting throughout the day, and the space will be adorned with a exhibit of photography by Kyna Uwaeme.
Drinks will be available at the bar. Proof of vaccination will be required and guests will need to wear masks while at the event. We can’t wait to get back to convening, safely and joyfully, and keeping the music in motion. See you out there on Feb. 26!
You can also text “JAFF2022” to 44-321 to donate
About Harriet’s Wildest Dreams
Our guests of honor this year are from Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, “a Black-led abolitionist community defense hub centering all Black lives at risk for state-sanctioned violence in the Greater Washington, DC area.” Founded by three veterans of the Black Lives Matter movement and many Black liberation efforts before it, HWD advocates for police and prison abolition, through programs built on three pillars: Political Defense, Community Defense, and Legal Defense. The JAFF is a platform for its guests — both raising funds for their work and giving them a new mouthpiece to reach new audiences.
About the Jazz & Freedom Festival
The Jazz & Freedom Festival is the brainchild of Shannon Gunn, jazz trombonist, composer, arranger, and producer. She was inspired by a similar event at Michigan State University where professor Rodney Whitaker and students performed pieces from Max Roach and Oscar Brown Jr.’s “Freedom Now Suite” as part of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration in 2003. She first approached CapitalBop to co-produce the festival in January 2015, at the now-closed Union Arts.
CapitalBop’s programs are supported in part by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, plus generous contributions from our community. This program is supported in part by HumanitiesDC’s SHARP program and the Greater Washington Community Foundation’s Arts Forward program. The lead sponsor of the Jazz & Freedom Festival is DCHFA, and City First Broadway is a co-sponsor. This engagement of Victor Provost is made possible through the Special Presenter Initiatives program of Mid Atlantic Arts, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Many thanks to Eaton Music and Eaton Impact for their financial support and in-kind contributions to JAFF.