Jazz group In the Tradition hosts musical tribute to Frederick Douglass' July Fourth Oration

Kaitlyn Luckoff
The Detroit News

On July 5, 1852, American abolitionist Frederick Douglass delivered his most memorable speech to answer the question, “What to the Negro is the Fourth of July?”

Douglass raised an important question to remind America of its continued enslavement of millions the day after the Fourth of July, which celebrates the nation’s achievements and progress.

This July 4, Detroit jazz band In the Tradition will perform a concert that combines music with Douglass’ speech to remind people that our American history is intertwined with many commonalities, despite our ancestors having different experiences.

In The Tradition band group photo.

The event, sponsored by K.C. Productions and the band, will take place on the lawn of Shrine of the Black Madonna Church in Detroit from 2-4 p.m. Monday.

Roxanne Brown, the band’s publicist, said this will be the group’s first time hosting a performance like this, as they are a traditional jazz band and play their own music, as well as well-known jazz tunes.

“This is the first time they’ve done a Fourth of July concert that speaks to Frederick Douglass’ famous speech..., so it’s the first time they’ve been involved in a program that aims to educate people as to why Independence Day is commemorated differently in the African American community,” Brown said.

“When Independence Day was formed, African Americans were not free citizens, and Frederick Douglass’ speech, the Fourth of July oratory, speaks to that.”

In the Tradition has been a group for a couple of decades, she said. The group of 11 musicians is diverse, which adds to their overall strength as a band.

Trumpeter Karim Gideon said he hopes people learn what Fourth of July means for Black people, as well as the importance of Douglass’ speech.

“(I hope attendees understand) how those words still impact us today and how we celebrate those individuals during that time, and continue to do so in the fight for equality for Black people in America,” Gideon said. “The Fourth is an interesting time for a lot of Black people. While many of us do celebrate the Fourth, barbecuing, we’re still dealing with a lot of racism and a lot of oppression. It’s a time for reflection of how far we’ve come.”

Brown said this event is fitting, as the fight for civil liberties is not over.

“It’s a band that believes that Black people, and disenfranchised people, and people who are historically oppressed need to be able to express how they’re feeling,” she said. “Particularly in this moment, people who have worked for civil rights and equal rights are seeing rights that we thought we would have being turned back and repealed.”


In The Tradition's Revolutionary Concert

2-4 p.m. Monday

at Shrine of the Black Madonna Church lawn: 7625 Linwood St., Detroit

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased here or at the door. All proceeds support the Shrine of the Black Madonna and the Detroit Black Farmers Land Fund. 

Refreshments will be served.