The Annual Billie Holiday Jazz Concert at Lafayette Square is a musical celebration of the rich and important legacy of Billie Holiday. Located at Lafayette Avenue between Arlington Avenue and Mount Street, Lafayette Square is an anchor of Baltimore’s African American religious life, hosting St. James Episcopal Church, one of the city’s three black congregations dating its origins before the 1830s, St. John’s AME Church, Metropolitan Methodist Church, and Star of Bethlehem Spiritual Temple. Two of the oldest African American Christian congregations in the United States, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal and Sharp Street United Memorial are only four blocks away. Billie Holiday herself lived on Argyle Avenue, just off of Lafayette, and the fountainhead of the City’s jazz heritage was at the Royal Theater (1922-1971), located at Pennsylvania and Lafayette Avenue.
The performance will be free and open to the public, with the intention of creating a new center of gravity in Sandtown for three key communities in need of renewed reciprocity and mutuality: the Homewood professional community of students, staff and faculty, the middle class African American church community living along the northern boulevards and in Baltimore County, and the contemporary residents of West Baltimore. Our goal is to provide an annual event that allows for engaging social interaction across the boundaries of racial and income-level differences, while offering the opportunity to engage a shared and challenging art-form. By taking jazz out from the symphony hall and returning it to its nesting place near Pennsylvania Avenue, we have the chance to deepen our knowledge of the communal creativity of the arts.