James on Jazz: Welcome to the Twin Cities, NABJ!

JamesOnJazzsquareWhile half listening to the radio last week, I heard the words, “the often unheard female voice.” The words stopped me in my tracks and made me think hmmmm.

I thought of the many female voices that I’m grateful for having heard, those I recently learned of, and those respected voices that I’m likely to hear next week during the five-day National Association of Black Journalists Convention taking place here in Minneapolis, August 5-9. This is the first time the convention will be held in the Twin Cities. Is Minneapolis ready for the estimated 2,000 Black journalists expected to be in town? Let’s see.

I’d like to extend a warm welcome, congrats on your 40th anniversary, and thank you to NABJ organizers, NABJ President Bob Butler and 2015 Convention Chair Rod Hicks for coming to the Twin Cities and recognizing the value of presenting this significant and important annual convention in Minneapolis. And a special thank you to the Twin Cities Black Journalists (TCBJ) chapter for helping to make this historic event a reality.

As Hicks told the MSR in a recent interview with Charles Hallman, “the mission of the NABJ organization is to increase the coverage of the Black community and the issues that affect the Black community.”

NABJ is an especially important gathering, and a much needed and timely as we try to make sense of the current challenges and urgent events related to the African American community and state of the Black press.

In particular, I’m excited that Rashida Jones, (Managing Editor, MSNBC) Michaela Pereira, (CNN), Lisa Salters, (ESPN), Jemele Hill (ESPN2’s His and Hers), and our very own Angela Davis (News Anchor/Reporter, WCCO) will be at NABJ. They all share one thing in common: a fearlessness to present and project their voice no matter the medium.

I admire that and consider myself fortunate to listen and learn from these ladies on a regular basis. I follow some of these women on Twitter, I watch their movies, and TV programs. Are they role models for me? Definitely. To have the chance to hear them speak during one event is a rarity. We need more female voices like theirs. Hopefully this year’s NABJ convention and career fair will attract new talent.

I’m also pleased to know that Kevin Frasier (Entertainment Tonight), Don Lemon (CNN), Wesley Lowery (The Washington Post), Eric Deggans (NPR), Gerrick Kennedy (LA Times), Stephen A. Smith (ESPN) and our very own David Cazares (MPR) will be at NAJB, speaking on such topics as race in America, public radio diversity, breaking news in arts and entertainment reporting, among others.

Celebrated radio host Tom Joyer received an humanitarian award for his philanthropic efforts at this year’s BET Awards. During his acceptance speech, he said that when it comes to story-telling, no one can tell our stories like we can. He’s absolutely correct.

Yet, telling that story in an unfiltered way is sometimes difficult to say the least. It’s hard. I was made aware of that fact a long time ago. Now I know the meaning oh so well.

Sometimes you’ve got to improvise.

Musicians from the iconic R&B hometown band Mint Condition and Ginger Commodore’s band GCQ know a thing or two about improvising and will exercise those talents at concerts held during the NABJ festivities. Mint Condition will perform music from their latest album, Healing Season (available in October) at First Avenue on Thursday, Aug 6, (to benefit the TCBJ) and Commodore and GCQ will perform at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant on Friday, Aug 7.

It takes a lot of creative energy to organize events, write, and perform music that everyone can enjoy. Much respect and continued success to all who continue “pumping to swing high in this swing of life,” as Langston Hughes once said.

I will be live tweeting from NABJ with updates on what’s happening. Feel free to follow me on Twitter at Robin_James1.

Robin James welcomes reader responses to jamesonjazz@spokesman-recorder.com