Jazz Kitchen: When Justice is the Message, November 18

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It hardly seems possible to imagine social justice advocacy without music and art.

Creating at the intersection of artistic practice and social justice is an essential impulse for many artists. Whether overt or embedded in the very impulse to create (or both), the role of artists/creatives in advancing justice is fundamental to the history of social movements. 

In this episode of Jazz Kitchen host MONICA HAIRSTON O’CONNELL will have a conversation with musician DANA HALL (drummer, educator, composer, ethnomusicologist, and serious foodie) and chef OMAR TATE (chef, artist, poet, community builder, entrepreneur).

While grounded in their respective fields, both artists’ practices span genre and media and center social justice. Among other topics, we will discuss Hall’s ongoing Hypocrisy of Justice Project and Tate’s vision for Honeysuckle projects—from restaurant pop ups to a new Philly-based community center. At the heart of the conversation is an exploration of how Black sonic and written traditions shape their activism and art. 


ALSO READ: Conversation with Steven Poster at Chicago Filmmakers


About the Jazz Kitchen series
Our most cherished institutions, celebrations and rituals are marked by the presence of music and particular foods. From the rent party to the chitlin circuit, from Mardi Gras to the neighborhood wake, good food and jazz work in concert. Theirs is a rich conversation. They share a long history of co-development, interaction and mutual influence and continue to generate layers of meaning in different political, cultural and social contexts.

How do food and music inform one another? What can these relational practices teach us about values we hold dear: experimentation, improvisation, self and communal expression, resilience, resistance, joy, or care? What can we learn by listening in on their conversation? What can thinking food and music together contribute to our ability to “imagine otherwise?” Jazz Kitchen brings together creatives and thinkers working in and among these cultural spaces to share stories, generate insights and, like in all jazz kitchen’s, enjoy a good hang with friends and family. 

The host and curator of the Jazz Kitchen is Monica Hairston O’Connell, an ethnomusicologist and the founder of Curtis & Cake, an evolving project studio exploring culture and connection at the dessert table. 

About Monica Hairston
MONICA HAIRSTON O’CONNELL is the founder of Curtis & Cake, an evolving project studio exploring culture and connection at the dessert table. Within this space, O’Connell has run a bespoke wedding and celebration cake business, held seasonal pop ups, and created projects and presentations for Madison Gallery Night, 3Arts Chicago, and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A new project, The Black Repast, links ephemerality, cake design and collective mourning in the age of Black Lives Matter. O’Connell teaches cake decorating classes that emphasize self-expression and improvisation and writes the Foodways column for Edible Madison. She is currently working on a book about sites of Black hospitality.

O’Connell holds a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from New York University and served as the Executive Director of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago from 2007-2015. She has been a John Nicholas Brown Center for the Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage fellow and a Chicago Community Trust Fellow. Her work in this vein has been published in the Black Music Research Journal, Women & Music, Chamber Music America Magazine, and the anthology Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies among other venues. She co-authored “Forty Years of Fellowships: A Study of Orchestra’s Efforts to Include African American and Latino Musicians” with Nick Rabkin on behalf of the League of American Orchestras. 

Throughout her varied professional lives, O’Connell’s through line is Black women’s creative and care work.

About Dana Hall
DANA HALL has been an important musician on the international music scene since 1992, after leaving aerospace engineering for a life in music. He has professional performance credits on six continents and extensive concert, club, and festival experience throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia, both as a bandleader and with the ensembles of others. A 2019 Camargo Foundation Fellow in Composition, Mr. Hall’s most recent commission, a multidisciplinary work commemorating the 75th anniversary of the publication of Richard Wright’s Native Son, had its premiere at Chicago’s Symphony Center on the stage of the renowned Orchestra Hall.

Mr. Hall’s scholarship is principally concerned with issues of ethnicity, identity, and temporality; popular musics of the world; music as protest and resistance; and musics of both the African continent and the African Diaspora. His dissertation is a historical ethnography of Philly Soul during the Black Power Movement. He is a Professor of Music and the Director of Jazz Studies at DePaul University.

About Omar Tate
OMAR TATE is a Philadelphia rooted artist and chef. Omar has worked fifteen years in the restaurant industry in some of the best restaurants in New York City and Philadelphia. During his time as a cook he found that the lack of diversity and representation of African Americans and other people of color to be unbalanced both in the kitchen and on the plate.

In a profession where the product is a direct representation of cultures from around the globe Omar found that modern aesthetics of Black American culture to be severely limited , if not non-existent. In the spring of 2017 he decided to tackle this unbalance by diving into his experience as a self taught artist and writer to broaden the scope of his work. Through travel and research Omar developed a unique perspective on approaching cuisine through the lens of contemporary Black America.

As a result of his study Omar launched Honeysuckle Pop Up as a traveling dining concept in the winter of 2018. This concept uses food and art simultaneously as vehicles to explore several nuances of Black life and culture. Honeysuckle has received critical acclaim not only as a food concept but also as a leading philosophy of the future of food thought in America.

Partnered with his wife Cybille St.Aude-Tate, Omar is currently seeking funding to open Honeysuckle as a food focused community center in his neighborhood in West Philadelphia. You can find Omar’s work featured in The New York TimesEsquire MagazineOkayplayerEaterThe Philadelphia Inquirer, and other publications.

About the Hyde Park Jazz Festival
The Hyde Park Jazz Festival is a collaborative platform dedicated to supporting the presentation and ongoing development of jazz, particularly on the South Side of Chicago. We do this by creating opportunities for a diverse community of listeners to engage with the music and its creators, and by working with artists, organizational partners and networks to celebrate the rich tradition of jazz and to support the development of new work and ideas.


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