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It’s been nearly half a century since musical geniuses Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder mixed politics with music. Gaye’s historic “What’s Going On” is still sampled today, with its message resonating across decades of unrest and change for people of color.

And then there was Wonder’s 1974 No. 1 – “You Haven’t Done Nothin’,” with the Jackson 5 singing backgrounds (that’s them singing “doo da wop!”) by the way. The song was squarely directed at then President Richard Nixon. It was funky. It was fiercely a statement, and two days after its release, Nixon resigned. (That’s up to historians to decide if the song, which was Wonder’s fourth No. 1 Pop hit (10th No. 1 on the R&B charts), had an impact on Nixon’s decision.

There’s no doubt, these and other songs had an impact on the minds of music fans around the globe and set them to thinking about civil rights and the condition and position of people of color in the United States.

Remembering Mervyn Dymally

Since those times, a man of color was making history in California. His name: Mervyn M. Dymally, an African-American who paved the way for many of today’s powerful Black Californian-based (national) politicians, such as Maxine Waters, Karen Bass, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and the late Juanita Millender-McDonald. The Jazz & Arts Fest on April 27 at Cal State Dominguez Hills is debuting in honor of Dymally and his legacy, which involved a globalist view of education, diplomacy, and democracy.

The Compton Unified School District and Compton College are participating in the event, which features some of the biggest names in entertainment. D.L. Hughley is hosting. Performers include Kem, Maxi Priest, Gerald Albright and Nestor Torres (the flutist with the amazing comeback story – he was just rising to the top of the jazz world when a freak boating accident caused what was thought to be irreparable harm to his neck and shoulder. He was told he’d never be a world-class flutist again. The critics were proven wrong).

Back to the other amazing story That of Mervyn M. Dymally. He was a history-making federal- and state-elected official from California. A member of the Democratic Party, Dymally was first elected to the California Assembly in November 1962, serving until 1966. He then became the first African-American elected to the California Senate, serving from 1967 until 1975. Dymally again made history by becoming the 41st Lieutenant Governor for California, the first African-American to do so, serving from 1975 until 1979. Then Dymally took his public service to the federal level, becoming the first naturalized African Caribbean U.S. Congressperson in history.

African-Americans and public policy

Dymally served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1981 until 1993. After a 10-year hiatus from elected office, he returned to serve in the California Assembly — where it all started for him — from 2003 to 2008, capping off nearly a half century of public service. Mervyn Dymally passed away on Oct. 7, 2012.

Demally left behind more than an array of firsts.

He was the drive behind a legislative mandate that reminds in full effect today: The Mervyn M. Dymally African-American Political & Economic Institute was founded as an unfunded legislative mandate of the California Legislature. The purpose of the mandate was to create a think tank—tied to a California State University—to study the history of African-American elected officials, business and community leaders. The think tank would work to build institutional memory through oral history projects, and to study and debate the effects of public policy on African-Americans and the communities in which they live.

Introduced on December 5, 2002, by then-Assemblyman Dymally, legislation for the “Black think tank” was signed into law on August 27th, 2003, by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Originally named the California African-American Political & Economic Institute, the institute’s home would be California State University, Dominguez Hills.

On Aug. 27, 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown, who served with Dymally in his first administration as Governor, signed SB807, requiring California State University, Dominguez Hills, to rename its African-American think tank The Mervyn M. Dymally African-American Political & Economic Institute.

Jazz and Arts Festival

The April 27 Jazz & Arts Fest (April is International Jazz Month) is a fundraiser to support the Dymally African-American “Black think tank.”

The Jazz & Arts Fest are important to the community, as a day of culture and music, as well as a statement of the importance of the Black vote.

“The Mervyn Dymally Institute is pleased to bring this event to the South Bay in an effort to use artistic culture to promote higher education,” says Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, director of the Mervyn Dymally African-American Political & Economic Institute at CSUDH and co-producer, 2019 Dymally International Jazz & Arts Festival. “The late Mervyn Dymally was an internationalist and we are seeking to honor this facet of his legacy.

“We believe this is also an important opportunity for California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) to share culture and camaraderie with its surrounding communities and cities throughout the region. Hosting the inaugural Dymally International Jazz & Arts Fest at the Dignity Health Sports Park (formerly the StubHub Center), which is on our campus, allows for the forging of a truer partner in the community-with the community.”

D.L. Hughley will host the event. He is a California resident (Calabasas) who has a reputation for mixing comedy and politics during his long and successful career. The 54-year-old is an actor, radio host, comic, and political commentator best known as the original host of BET’s “Comic View” and as host of CNN’s “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News.

Intellectual platform to promote music

“We are very pleased to have comedian/social commentator D.L. Hughley hosting our main stage. It should be an hilarious and thought provoking experience,” said Dr. Samad. “It is our goal to embrace internationalism as a learning tool, as Congressman Mervyn Dymally was an internationalist in thought and in his approach to public policy and higher education. In celebrating International Jazz Day 2019, we’re using the Dymally Institute’s intellectual platform to promote music, art and culture to underwrite thought. It’s a festival for all. The CSUDH community encourages all to join us on April 27th.”

The purpose of the Institute is to study the history of African-American elected officials, business and community leaders. The Dymally Institute will work to build institutional memory through oral history projects, and to study and debate the effects of public policy on African-Americans and the communities in which they live. That was Dymally’s dream.

The fest will take place at the Dignity Health Sports Park, 18400 Avalon Blvd., in Carson beginning at 1 p.m. Two stages will feature performance of both music and poetry. The main stage will feature R&B singer Kem (whose hits include “Share My Life,” “Love Calls” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You”), saxophonist Gerald Albright (eight-time Grammy nominee), Maxi Priest (reggae-oriented vocalist with hits such as “Close To You,” “Wild World” and “Rock Steady Love”), trio Moonchild (“The List,” “Cure” and “Winter Breeze”) and renowned flutist Nestor Torres (“Aint No Sunshine,” “Treasure of the Heart” and :Dance of the Phoenix”). The second stage will host Parlor Social, Rocky Dawuni, B.A. Williams (poet), Bridgette Bianca (poet), Samba Soul, Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca.

View outstanding visual art

“We are very pleased of the line-up our festival partner, Rainbow Promotions, has been able to assemble,” Dr. Samad told Our Weekly. “We wanted to do a true international festival of both musical and visual artists, and we’ve been able to achieve that. We have the best in jazz and jazz influenced artists from four continents and the Caribbean, and we are proud of that.”