Three sentences that led to Cakewalk

Acclaimed jazz journalist Forrest Dylan Bryant waited until his second question to ask why I had the temerity to go against the grain of a century of jazz literature by proposing a whole new genesis to America’s original music.
We were in the lounge of the 150-year-old Mechanics Institute, the city’s oldest library, Tuesday night for the Author’s Carnival, celebrating National Novel Writing Month with a program entitled Writing About Your Passion.
I replied that three sentences had propelled my curiosity through the 14-year journey which resulted in a 22-day spurt of writing to create Cakewalk: an historical novel about the unsung creators of jazz music last November.
The first sentence was: “the first print reference to jazz was in a San Francisco newspaper.”
The second sentence was: “the first band to use jazz in its name was a San Francisco orchestra.”
The third sentence was: “the first jazz performance occurred in 1869 in San Francisco.”
Anticipating a lively discussion from the Mechanics Institute audience, I stopped by the Visitor Information Center of the S.F. Convention and Visitors Bureau and picked up my exhibition JazzGenesis: San Francisco and the Birth of Jazz.
Also brought the new tenth anniversary edition of Come to the Water: Sharing the Rich Black Experience in San Francisco. Both contained the photos and artifacts from 14 years of research.
After explaining the journey, we turned to the reason Cakewalk emerged– the question of why the proud story of black entrepreneurial and entertainment achievers had not been told before.
I turned to the California history and social science content standards for my rationale.
While infusing Come to the Water with standards-based instruction, it occurred to me that the first objective of the standards was exactly what I had done with Cakewalk.
“Students place key events and people of the historical era they are studying in a chronological sequence and within a spatial context; they interpret time lines. ”
The thing that propelled me was that the timeline of the generally-accepted narrative of jazz didn’t add up.
As I researched more, the data points created a different picture.


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