AKRON, Ohio — The City of Akron will be grooving this weekend as it continues to host the Rubber City Jazz and Blues Festival. The festival kicked off Thursday with Tommy Lehman at Blu Jazz downtown.
Founder Theron Brown says the festival said, “this year it doesn’t have the glitz and glam like some of the other years, but from here out it’s nothing but full speed ahead.”
The festival, presented by the non-profit Open Tone Music, brings jazz performances to local venues throughout downtown Akron.
“I think people are getting behind it starting to trust it more and I see that as maturing and that is something we need,” Brown said.
While a big focus of this year’s festival is on the musicians and the arts community, the festival will include discussions surrounding the history of Akron’s contribution to jazz.
“The Jazz Corridor of the Midwest”
The Rubber City Jazz and Blues Festival are taking over a portion of the Akron Innerbelt, which cut through a predominately Black neighborhood and music hub. The project displaced hundreds of families, businesses, and cultural institutions in the 1970s. Brown has uncovered in ongoing research that corruption, racial tension, injustices, and financial issues led to disruption.
According to News 5 partners, the Akron Beacon Journal, “a 1940 Akron Negro Directory points to more businesses that formerly stood in the path of what is now the Innerbelt.”
As Brown explained, “a lot of people don’t know about the rich jazz scene that they had on Howard Street [in the] 30s to the 60s. A lot of people would come even from Cleveland to play here people like Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway [and] the list goes on and on.”
Brown says while the disruption has been seen in many other cities, Akron has failed to find solutions or document any history.
“I do find a direct correlation with myself and the jazz community to speak on these things and offer up a space for there to be talks about it and just awareness so that we can fix what we can.”
For tickets and more information on the Rubber City and Blues Festival, click here.