A Celebration Of Black History Month With Gwen Black And The Jazzfest NYC Band

February 17, 2023

Join the Monday, February 27, 2023, event for a special jazz and storytelling performance for Black History Month. 

The program features book reading and poetry by Gwendolyn Black, Visual Artist and Festival Founder with a performance by the Soul Guard Band. Ensemble members include Michael Young on Trumpet, Ifacho Okeke on Piano, and Wali Collins on Drums.

Gwendolyn Black

Gwendolyn Black is a native of Pittsburgh, PA is a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). She is a fine artist, curator, producer, teaching artist, writer, and art consultant. Although she started her career in the Fashion Industry as a Fashion Illustrator, where her art work was used in all areas of beauty and fashion, it was her desire to advocate for community development through the arts that led her to “switch careers” and pursue work as an Art Curator and Event Producer. She is known for creating and presenting some groundbreaking events such as Arts and Jazzfest NYC™ which is now in its 20th Year, live concert series Jazz By The Water™, Visual Arts and Jazz Day™ and other productions. Aside from her work as a curator and producer, Ms. Black enjoys teaching art and enjoys working with persons with disabilities and has witnessed the transforming power of the arts. “Arts and Education is very important for our mental health and physical wellbeing. We have to keep advocating ensuring our communities can benefit from the transforming power of the arts.”

Wali Collins


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Wali Collins caught the percussion bug at 6 years old when he played a complete drum solo on his dad’s dashboard while listening to the car radio. Since then he became intrigued with different rhythms and beats. At 16, he was the drummer for the award-winning Lawrence Bagwell Gospel chorale. And then became the youngest member of the New England Jazz society. He’s toured with many bands and on album recording sessions. Wali now is an international headlining stand-up comedian but his passion for music is always there. In fact, he is the curator / executive producer for Lincoln Center’s “Jokes & Jazz”. That’s right. Music and laughs. Wali says “Music is so important in our lives. It’s nutrition for the soul.”

Ifacho Okeke 

Ifacho Okeke Born in Nigeria and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Ifacho Okeke is a talented vocalist and pianist. She plays for churches and as well as jazz bands. Ifacho began studying classical piano at age 8. At age 15 she began studying jazz as well. After graduating from Stanford University with a degree in Biology, she decided to attend the New School Jazz program in New York. Since then she has appeared in major jazz clubs in New York City including the Blue Note, Birdland, and the Cotton Club. While earning a B.S. in Biology at Stanford University, she immersed herself in jazz by listening to Red Garland, Phineas Newborn, Herbie Hancock, and McCoy Tyner. Deferring her place at Cornell Medical School, she entered the New School for Social Research Jazz Program. There she received further training and guidance from famed trumpeter Donald Byrd, Cecil Bridgewater and pianist Jaki Byard. Her credits include leading the all-female sextet “Jazz Essence” which received rave reviews when they opened for Etta Jones and Houston Person at the Schomburg Center. She has performed throughout New York and has played with trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, Charli Persip’s Big Band, tenor saxophonist Carlos Garnett, and alto saxophonist/ flautist James Spaulding.

Michael Young

Michael Young is a vocalist, trumpeter, and percussionist and the bandleader for the Soul Guard band. The group plays blues jazz, R&B, Caribbean Music.Michael Young began learning trumpet when he was eight. He studied with Valerie Capers, Patience Higgins, Danny Mixion and George Clinton. From 1991 to 2004 Mr. Young was a teacher in N.Y.C. and from 2006 -2008 he was a Youth Division Aide with N.Y.S. Office Of Children And Family Services. Currently, Mr. Young is a member of New Amsterdam Music Association and performs with Vy Higginsen’s Wednesday Sings.

Monday, February 27, 2023, 4 – 5 PM

St. Agnes Library, 444 Amsterdam Avenue (between West 81st and West 82nd Streets)
New York, NY 10024, 212-621-0619, stagnes@nypl.org

Photo credit: 1). Gwen Black inset at St. Agnes Library.

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