Jazz for Justice

Jazz for Justice

orthern Uganda, where children have long been traumatized by a brutal war, there is a group of rescued girls who call themselves “University of Tennessee girls.” For Professor Rosalind Hackett and a group of students on the UT Knoxville campus, such stories prove that their efforts to raise awareness of the situation–and money to help the children of Northern Uganda–are making an impact.

Hackett and the students came together because of a concert called “Knoxville Jazz for Justice” in September 2006. Now they’re marketing a new music CD–with Hackett as executive producer, student Chris Martin as an artist, and several faculty members among the performers–to raise money to help the children of Northern Uganda. Besides marketing the CD, Hackett led a team of UT students to Washington, D.C., early this year to attend a service at the National Cathedral focusing on the Northern Ugandan crisis. This summer some students plan to go to Northern Uganda to see the situation for themselves.

For Hackett, seeing students unite as the Knoxville Jazz for Justice Project to help Northern Uganda and make the project an ongoing effort has been thrilling: “These students don’t just want to be globally aware, they want to be globally engaged,” she said. “They’re learning they can do more than get involved–they can make a positive difference. It’s so heartening to me as a professor who has been here twenty years. This is far beyond anything the students or I could get from the classroom.”

Hackett, a religious studies professor, is a specialist on the religions of Africa. She lived for several years in West Africa, but her visit to Uganda in 2004 was a turning point in her life.

“The war in Uganda is Africa’s longest-running war, and it has been described as one of the world’s most neglected humanitarian crises,” she said. Last summer Hackett learned that former UT artist-in-residence, renowned South African saxophonist Zim Ngqawana, was playing at a Chicago jazz festival. Working with UT’s music department, Hackett brought Ngqawana to Knoxville and organized a concert to benefit Northern Uganda, “Knoxville Jazz for Justice,” around his visit. Held on September 1, 2006, the concert drew more than 600 people to World Grotto in downtown Knoxville. It raised about $5,000 for relief efforts in Northern Uganda.

“The concert also became a rallying point for students who were aware of the situation in Northern Uganda, as well as those who wanted to learn more about it,” Hackett said.

UT students who have become involved with Knoxville Jazz for Justice group and the Northern Uganda benefit efforts say they’ve learned that college students can make a positive difference in the world. In October 2006 some students traveled with Hackett to the Northern Uganda Lobby Day in Washington, D.C.

“This two-day event taught us how to be stronger advocates and lobbyists,” said Lindsay McClain, a freshman in global studies from Franklin, Tennessee.

Erin Bernstein, a sophomore who went on the Washington, D.C., trip in February, said a humanitarian worker told her that UT’s efforts are recognized in Northern Uganda. “One woman who worked for the NUGEN [Northern Uganda Girls’ Education Network] said that the little girls who are benefiting from the proceeds of the Knoxville Jazz for Justice Project call themselves ‘University of Tennessee girls.’ ”

Bernstein said the students’ efforts add to the meaning of the phrase “Ready for the World,” the name of UT’s initiative to expand international and intercultural opportunities on campus. “We’re throwing ourselves into this vast world, and we’ve already started to change it for the better,” Bernstein said.

Chris Martin, a sophomore from Clarksville, Tennessee, said students are looking for more ways to use music to help the situation in Northern Uganda, such as sending musical instruments to children in the camps to promote psychosocial healing. They’re also seeking new ways for musicians and music-lovers in the Knoxville area to use music as a form of activism, something Martin calls “engaged entertainment.”

For more information about the Knoxville Jazz for Justice Project and other efforts to benefit Northern Uganda, contact Hackett, rhackett@utk.edu or see www.knoxjazzforjustice.org.

About the War

For the past 21 years, the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government have been at war in Northern Uganda. According to the Uganda Conflict Action Network (www.UgandaCAN.org), about 2 million Acholi–the people who live in the war-torn region of Northern Uganda–have been forced from their homes by government troops and sent to squalid camps where hundreds have been dying weekly. The LRA is known for kidnapping, raping, and forcing children and youth into armed combat. Trying to avoid this fate, at the peak of rebel activity, thousands of Acholi children hiked miles each night from their villages into Gulu, the main town in the war zone, where they slept in camps set up by humanitarian agencies. Now there is a fragile peace process and ceasefire. Most people long to move back to their villages and rebuild their shattered lives and communities.

About the CD

Rosalind Hackett and the students recently worked with producer and musician Carlos Fernandez (altrumusic.com) and Seva at Soundcurrent Mastering (www.soundcurrent.com) to create the Knoxville Jazz for Justice CD featuring tracks donated by the concert performers and others who support the cause.

The CD has 12 tracks. Musical contributors include South African saxophonist Zim Ngqawana; Fernandez; Grammy winners Jeff Coffin and Victor and Roy “FutureMan” Wooten of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones; UT Knoxville’s Donald Brown, Mark Boling, Keith Brown, and Rusty Holloway; the Hector Qirko Band; Nuevo Montuno; the Mitch Rutman Group; the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra; the Yonrico Scott Band; Rich Walker; Ira Sullivan; and bass vocalist Jonathan Blanchard.

Proceeds from the CD benefit the Northern Uganda Girls’ Education Network (NUGEN, www.nugenet.org), a group of Ugandan teachers, caregivers, and leaders who provide education for underprivileged and war-traumatized girls in Northern Uganda, and Uganda Conflict Action Network (www.UgandaCAN.org), a U.S. student activist organization. The CD is available at www.cdbaby.com/kjfjvac, the UT Bookstore, and Knoxville-area music stores.