The NJA: ‘At its best jazz is an art in which black and white musicians work together’

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The trustees of the National Jazz Archive, the jazz library resource founded in 1988 by trumpeter Digby Fairweather and supported by Essex County Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund, issued the following statement earlier this month under the heading “Black Lives Matter”:

“As trustees of the National Jazz Archive we recognise the enormity of recent events in the USA, and the impact they have had in galvanising reflection and calls for change from Britain and across the world. The contents of the archive show clearly that such events are not confined to the present, or to the USA, but are a product of systems spanning many nations and times, including in the United Kingdom.

“Institutions like ours have important roles in our societies: to hold collected knowledge, to make it accessible to all, to reveal often unwelcome truths, and to stand with the communities whose tangible heritage we care for.

“As the collections in the archive consistently show, jazz produced by black Americans and black Britons, is a rich resource for learning what is wrong and how to contribute to change. The first step is to educate ourselves and those around us. The archive is a great resource for showing that black lives mattered in establishing a world-wide music that continues to develop today. At its best, jazz is an art in which black and white musicians work together and through which white cultures have learnt about the lives of non-white compatriots.

“Jazz history is a complex mix of existent culture, the legacy of slavery, and colonial history. The history of jazz has exposed deep-seated racism in British society and provided a context for racial stereotypes to become embedded in our culture.

“We stand with all black people who have faced injustice and wish to shine a light to expose the causes of such injustice. We want to be part of the solution and will not stand by and tolerate racism. As a collective voice against racism, Black Lives Matter is a movement we strongly support.

“We pledge to do much more to ensure our collections, which are available to all, benefit everyone as a resource of education and solidarity and continue to address any shortcomings in our own organisation.”