The African American Folklorist: Black Scene Millenium
Author, historian, and features writer for the African American Folklorist Newspaper Michael L. Jones has made significant contributions to the preservation and awareness-raising of Kentucky history. From journalism to writing his award-winning book Louisville Jug Music: From Earl McDonald to the National Jubilee, Jones highlights notable African Americans, communities, traditional musics and the like.
Recently, Jones endeavored to re-launch a historic black publication called Black Scene Millenium. He also curated The Louisville Folk School webinar panel titled, “Black Influence on Kentucky Music,” where he moderated talks with educators and musicians such as Composer Rachel Grimes, educator Dr. Clark Kimberling, New Orleans based multi-instrumentalist and activist Leyla McCalla, and The American Songster Dom Flemons, just to name a few.
The African American Folklorist sat down with Jones to discuss his projects, influence in connecting collectors to African American specific museums, and his latest works about Contraband Camps which lead to the first recorded documenting of Contraband Freedom songs that we now know and refer to as Black Spirituals.
Jones also takes part in producing the national jugband jubilee. This year's headliner is Georgia bluesman Jontavious Willis.
Below you will find an excerpt of our conversation.
Michael L Jones: It's called the Black same millennium, you can check it out at Black scene.org. And it's actually the rebirth of a magazine from the 70s. That was in Louisville. And it was, it's kind of like, looks like a jet magazine. The original was founded by a guy named Leo Lesser. He ran for Louisville Mayor back in 1972. And he felt like he was the first African American qualified to really run to be mayor. You know, he had run departments before. He was a civil rights activist, but the newspaper only focused on his race and whether he was there to you know, try and take votes away from one of the Democratic opponents and they didn't get into his issues. So after he lost, he found his own magazine, and it lasted for three years.
Lamont Jack Pearley: In the midst of COVID. There was also Breonna Taylor that affected Louisville in an extreme way, as well as the entire nation. Right. Did that play a role in the urgency to make sure that you guys put this out and do it right?
Michael L Jones: We had started before COVID, before Breonna, and we had kind of put things on hold. But then Breonna happened. And we felt like, you know, that was how we could play a role. You know, I didn't go out and do the protests and everything. But I felt like instead of doing what everybody else was doing, and interviewing protesters and things like that, the cover story for the first issue of the Black Scene, I went back to Adrian Reynolds. And this was when I was young, when I first became a reporter. This kid was in the Jefferson County Jail, and he got beaten by four or five corrections officers. And he got killed, and I and there were protests and the usual things, and then his name got forgotten. And so when George Floyd happened, that brought it back to my mind, because he got killed the same way with an officer's foot on his neck and the officers say he was trying to restrain him. And so when I went back and reinvestigated, I talked to his mother, and you know, she said like, we would never come to this point with Breonna if people paid attention to Adrian and kept up the pressure. And so when I was revisiting her story, I ended up finding an ex police officer who had actually transported Adrian to jail. And she had told me they had beat him. He had been beaten before and was beaten when he was arrested. And he fought back with the officer. So in her opinion, what happened to him in jail was retaliation. The mother never heard of this story. So, that's the story that's in the first issue.