The Fifth Annual Billie Holiday Jazz at Lafayette Square

A woman in a headwrap sings into a microphone in front of a band with upright bass, drums, and saxaphone, in a church with a gold organ.

The Billie Holiday Center for Liberation Arts, and founding director Lawrence Jackson, hosted the fifth annual Billie Holiday Jazz at Lafayette Square this September 9, 2023. The event is a musical celebration of the rich and important legacy of Baltimore’s own jazz legend Billie Holiday Held at Lafayette Square Park, corner of Arlington Avenue and Lafayette Street.

Performances were provided by The Nasar Abadey Jazz Quartet–Sean Jones (trumpet), Herman Burney (bass), Richard Johnson (keys) and Abadey (drums)–with special guest vocalist, recording artist Charenée Wade, professor of vocals and Jazz Studies at Peabody. Product vendors were on hand, as well as community organizations with displays and information sharing throughout the day. Additional performers this year included DJ Charles Dockins, and the Peabody Jazz Graduate Fellowship. The festival was hosted by renowned poet, writer, and professor Kondwani Fidel and as always, was free to the public.

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 both Fremont Street and 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.