Beginning in February 1968, before “Negro History Week” eventually became Black History Month, the Dillard University group African Americans for Progress helmed the “Afro-American Arts Festival,” featuring various well-known and underground Black artists of all different mediums and genres. Some say Dillard’s AAA event inspired the Jazz and Heritage Fest, founded in 1970.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” says John Kennedy, the Assistant Archivist at Dillard who, fascinated by the AAA festival and why it went extinct, dug up yearbooks detailing the annual event. “It was basically the same thing Jazz Fest is now. It was a wide range of famous people from actors to singers, the prominent poets and cooks of that time. There wasn’t another major arts festival that drew in prominent Black artists of all types.”
Carl Baloney, now a mortician in LaPlace, was a founding member of African Americans for progress in 1967. “I remember during college, we were mandated to go to church, and then after church they’d have entertainment for us, all paid by the Lyceum board. They’d have us watching some glee club or something from the North East, about 20 white boys trying to sing negro spirituals! We were like, ‘What the hell? This is our money being wasted. We need to bring in artists that represent us. Why can’t we get someone like Cannonball Adderly?’ We brought in everyone from Amiri Baraka, LeRoi Jones IV, Maulana Karenga who started Kwanzaa. We had local artists too: Earl Turbinton, Lady BJ, Tambourine and Fan was there with the Indians, and Danny Barker led a second-line around the campus.” CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE PIECE AT Louisiana Weekly…
Or get down to the Staple Singers’ singin’ “Slippery People”: