If Duke Ellington Were Alive Today He’d Own A Modern Cotton Club, Raise Awareness of Injustices, and Visit The Duke Ellington School of the Arts

Written by: Toree Weaver – April 28th, 2020 11:17pm pst

BHL: Imagine if _____ Were Alive 

As we remember Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington on what would be his 121st birthday, you start to ‘imagine’ what life would be like if he was still with us today. The prominent black composer, musician, and civil rights advocate held all of his projects to a high standard, so whatever he chose to do, it would be nothing short of exceptional.  Today, we Imagine If Duke Ellington Were Alive. 

Born and raised in the nation’s capital, Duke Ellington would continue his legacy where it started. If given the opportunity, Ellington would pour into the resources provided in Washington, DC. Top of his list would be stopping by the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. With Ellington passing the same year the school was established, he was never able to see his impact on a new generation of artists. As an alum of the school, I can’t help but think of how proud he would be to see black students learning from seasoned black artists. Since Duke Ellington pushed for equality in artistic spaces, I would imagine his heart filling up with joy as he walked through the halls of the newly renovated building. As he walks through the art gallery and dips his head into the dance history, music theory, and lighting design classes, he would take careful notes of black youth respecting and learning the arts. Memories of him refusing to play in front of segregated audiences would float through his head as he makes sense of this full circle moment. 

To conclude his visit, he’d attend the annual Duke Ellington birthday concert the school performs, if he didn’t have other plans with his jazz buddies of course. On second thought, with his high standards he would probably serve as the creative director of the performance and have us in tech rehearsal all night to ensure we got it right. 

Ever since Duke was a kid, his family emphasized the importance of the black community. Throughout his career, he vocalized the importance of representation and the advancement of African Americans. I would be surprised if he wasn’t involved in the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Imagine how warm your heart would feel watching the Obama’s waltz to In A Sentimental Mood. Even with the school in his name, Ellington would continue to create spaces where black artists felt welcomed. His love for clubs and live music would inspire him to open establishments similar to the cotton club. With roots in the city and in Harlem, Ellington would fund restaurants and clubs along the east coast. However, they wouldn’t be regular establishments; they would feature live jazz every night, a dance floor, and couples dressed in their finest. 

Living during the pandemic, Duke Ellington would not only partner with organizations to donate relief funds, but also raise awareness to the injustices in the health field. With African Americans dying from the virus at a higher rate, Ellington would focus his funds on black families who have been impacted. 

As a brother in the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, the first historically African American intercollegiate Greek-lettered fraternity, he would collaborate with his brothers to push national programs. As the presidential election approaches, Ellington would emphasize the A Voteless People, Is a Hopeless People program and encourage people to register to vote. Especially after seeing America’s track record. 

In addition to his financial contributions, the composer would encourage us to remember a leadership quality he has carried with him. His artistic greatness and exceptional leadership didn’t come from simply his own mind, but from listening and understanding the artists around him. His perfect blend of melody and texture came from meeting his counterparts where they are and pushing them to exceed their own expectations. He was able to learn the different dynamics of his orchestra and use it to make something great. As we struggle to find a cure for the virus, it is easy to point the figure rather than learn from how countries are handling covid-19. Imagine how the current state of the world would be if we took a page out of his book. 

While we are discussing how we are coping with the current state of the world, Ellington’s music can help ease the tension. A hot shower, lit candles, and Duke Ellington playing in the back? Trust me, it’ll change your life. 

Although Duke Ellington being with us here today is wishful thinking, there are things we will forever remember. His perfectly groomed black hair, soft eyes, and dedication to his craft is eternally engraved in his music and our spirits. Until we meet on the A-Train, we love you madly Duke Ellington.  

If you are a fan of soothing jazz or love Duke Ellington, share this article with friends. If you have a late favorite artist you want us to Imagine If, let us know. Keep visiting Black Hollywood Live for articles, videos, podcasts and all the latest news on the world of entertainment.

About The Author:

Toree Weaver is a host with a passion for glamour and kingdoms. When she isn’t modeling or dancing, she can be found binge watching shows from Gossip Girl to Game of Thrones.

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