Labor Day weekend in Dallas is usually filled with white pants (let’s just say white ensembles) and the smell of barbecue on the grill. A new local holiday tradition may begin this year as The Black Academy of Arts and Letters debuts its first Riverfront Jazz Festival.
To the excitement of TBAAL Founder and President Curtis King, the festival is finally coming to life after years in the works. King spent much of that time visiting and studying jazz festivals around the country, and drumming up the funds to stage such an ambitious event. With the help of sponsors, the festival is now set for Sept. 1-3 at the Texas Horse Park in southern Dallas.
King takes pride in the lineup of the festival, in part because he took the initiative to call the artists directly. Performers include honorary chairs Erykah Badu, Will Downing, and Najee, as well as 33 other musicians fitting in genres from classical jazz to R&B to pop. It’s a lineup sure to entertain a diverse group.
“We’ve got a lot of artists from the metropolitan area participating in it,” King says. “It’s amazing, especially because a lot of the artists are doing it to give back to the community.”
King’s goal is that ticket sales to the festival will help fund and improve TBAAL’s youth arts programs. Much of the festival is geared toward supporting young people. In addition to stages dedicated to successful artists and specific genres, like blues or jazz, there will be a “Promising Young Artists” stage for up-and-coming performers from North Texas. King will also host Q&A sessions with some of the artists.
Along with educating young people in North Texas, King hopes the festival will attract visitors from around the country and bring light to the many things that make Dallas exceptional, including its arts and its cosmopolitan culture.
“Dallas is an amazing city, so I hope that when people come here they don’t see this as the Wild Wild West in terms [of] the cowboy stereotype,” King says.
The festival gives incentive for both tourists and Dallasites to see a new side of the city.
“I see in the next five years as many as 50 to 60 thousand people coming here for this festival,” King says. “Because it’s like heaven, in that all you hear is music and people connecting.”