Alabama Black Belt Blues Preview
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Welcome to Alabama Public Television's preview screening and panel discussion of our upcoming documentary, Alabama Black Belt Blues. The preview screening segments will be followed by a live panel discussion on Alabama's rich blues tradition. Members of the panel include filmmaker Robert Clem; musician BJ Reed with the Alabama Blues Project; Joey Brackner of the Alabama State Council on the Arts Center for Traditional Culture; African American folklorist Kern Jackson, Ph.D, of the University of South Alabama and Tina Naremore Jones, Ph.D, founder of the Center for the Study of the Black Belt.
ABB OVEE Standby Movie
Alabama Black Belt Blues OVEE Clips
Clip 1: Tells how Alabama folklorist Ruby Pickens Tartt convinces John Lomax, WPA folklorist and musicologist, to come to Sumter County in 1937. Lomax had previously dismissed Alabama as a "musical wasteland,". Together they record over 600 songs by now legendary singers such as Vera Hall and Dock Reed as well as field hollers and other music dating back to slavery days. Contemporary blues singer B.J. Reed describes her mother's "moan songs" and sings Vera Hall's song about the boll weevil. Clip 2: Contemporary Alabama blues musicians carry on the Black Belt sound at remote juke joints and house parties. Alabama Blues Hall of Famers record live at venues such as the Red Wolf Lounge, a lively and hard to find club in west Birmingham. Folklorist Kern Jackson discusses the role of blues music as a source of affirmation and hope, describing not only the struggles of the past and present but also the joys of kinship and community.
- Mike McKenzie
Mike will moderate the OVEE side of our event tonight, he is Alabama Public Television's Director of Programming and Public Information. He oversees APT’s broadcast schedule, advertising, on-air promotion and fundraising, the APT website, social media, special events and viewer services. Mike has been serving the citizens of Alabama with APT for over 30 years.
- Tina Naremore Jones, Ph.D.
Tina serves as Vice President of the Division of Economic & Workforce Development at the University of West Alabama. She oversees project development and management, working with diverse public and private partners for the economic revitalization for rural Alabama, specifically the Black Belt region. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from UWA and a doctorate from the University of Mississippi. Her dissertation on Ruby Pickens Tartt exposed her to the rich cultural traditions of Alabama’s Black Belt that includes music, storytelling, foodways, and much more. Now in her 28th year at UWA, she is also a professor of English, and she has served as president of the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation and the Alabama Black Belt Heritage Area. She was the founding director for the Center for the Study of the Black Belt and UWA’s Division of Outreach. She is a 2017 graduate of Leadership Alabama, and currently serves on the board of the Alabama State Council on the Arts.
- Robert (Bob) Clem
Robert (Bob) Clem, Executive Producer-One State Films, Alabama native, Birmingham-Southern College and New York University film school graduate and a fellow at the Sundance Institute. Clem has produced eight feature documentaries on Alabama, its history and its culture, including Big Jim Folsom: The Two Faces of Populism (1997), John Patterson: In the Wake of the Assassins (2007), Eugene Walter: Last of the Bohemians (2008), Malbis Plantation (2010)The Jefferson County Sound (2012), The Passion of Miss Augusta (2014) and The Two Worlds of William March (2017). Clem’s most recent film, How They Got Over, documents the history of African-American gospel quartet music, starting with Alabama Blind Boys and other native Alabamians who achieved quartet fame. The film has travelled to 26 countries beginning with the “Killer Soundtrack” award at the Chicago International Music and Movies Festival as the “the definitive work” on gospel quartet music and its impact on rock and roll. He is now at work on a Civil War documentary titled Sink the Alabama.
- Kern Michael Jackson Ph.D.
Kern Michael Jackson, Ph.D., is a folklorist with an extensive academic career in ethnography, oral history, material culture and literary folkloristics. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia, in English Literature and African - American Studies and taught in the District of Columbia Public School System. He subsequently received a Master’s Degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison in African - American Studies and is the former curator of minority history for The Museum of Mobile, AL, and project coordinator for the City of Mobile’s Tri-centennial Celebration, Video Oral History Project. He holds a doctorate in Folklore from Indiana University-Bloomington and is currently the director of the African American Studies program at the University of South Alabama.
- Joey Brackner
Joey Brackner is the director of the Alabama Center for Traditional Culture, a department of the Alabama State Council on the Arts. Since 1985, he has managed grants programs in support of Alabama’s traditional arts and artists. Brackner is the author of Alabama Folk Pottery (2006) published by the University of Alabama Press. Since 2013, he has been the host of the Alabama Public Television series “Journey Proud.” Joey Brackner is a native of Fairfield, Alabama. He received a B. A. in Anthropology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1977 and a M. A. in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1981. He was Humanities Scholar in Residence at the Birmingham Museum of Art prior to being hired as state folklorist in 1985.
- B.J. Reed
Brenda Corder Reed, affectionately called “B.J.”, grew up in Aliceville, Alabama with a love of the Gospel and a desire to spread the love of God. As a member of Elizabeth Baptist Church, where Rev. Vernon Swift is pastor, B.J. has been an integral part of the church’s growth by serving in many capacities including the adult choir and the Matrons Ministry. She has a B.S. in business administration from Stillman College and recently earned a B.A. from Selma University’s School of Theology, where she was an honor student. B.J. always wanted to sing and pursue a career as a professional vocalist. She is currently viewed as one of Alabama’s Best Female Vocalists, and one of the nation’s finest music artists with her extraordinary versatility and ability to masterfully perform all types of music. Her unique musical style is on the “cutting edge”, setting precedents for 21st century vocal musicians. Described by many as “one of a kind,” her vocal career has earned her many distinctions and professional accolades. Although gospel is her first love, Brenda performs blues, jazz, R&B, and other contemporary genres in collaboration with a variety of local and national musicians. B.J. has even sung for notable organizations at special events such as the National SCLC Conference in Atlanta, GA. She has traveled extensively to perform soul-stirring renditions of some of America’s most-loved recordings. Included in her travels are Las Vegas, NV where she sang at several area lounges on the Las Vegas strip; Harlem, NY where she performed at the Apollo Theater live on “Showtime At the Apollo” (1991); Washington, DC on Capitol Hill (1997) where she sang at the birthday celebration of Senator Ted Kennedy; and Houston, TX at the wedding ceremony of former LA Lakers Robert Horry (1999). B.J. continues to please crowds with her signature “Lady Sings the Blues” show, during which she takes on the persona of jazz legends Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington and performs their greatest hits. She is also passionate about passing her love of music on to the next generation. Her work as Director of School Programs & Special Activities with the nonprofit Alabama Blues Project allows B.J. to regularly mentor at-risk girls within a local detention center and to teach hundreds of children the fundamentals of music and showcase their talents in local concerts. Through it all, she continues to hold true to her gospel background by singing and speaking at countless churches and civic functions. Brenda “B.J.” Reed is truly a musical treasure worth experiencing.
The views and opinions expressed in this online screening are those of the presenters and participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of ITVS, public broadcasting, or any entities hosting the screening.