Legend Meets History in the Making

BY WILLIAM B. TORRES

Renowned Jazz performer and LACC alumni, Barbara Morrison has graced the music scene with her talent for over the past three decades, singing jazz and blues all over the world.

The Michigan-born Angelino has performed with music luminaries like the late Ray Charles, Etta James, and Tony Bennet. And in her 30-year professional career, she can now say she has met the first woman of color to serve as vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris.

“I met our vice president-elect in 2018 at Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘Kingdom Day Parade’ VIP breakfast at the Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw Mall in Los Angeles,” Morrison said.

The “Kingdom Day Parade” happens every year on Martin Luther King’s birthday, Jan. 15. Some other high-profile attendees at the breakfast were Congresswoman Maxine Waters and L.A. Dodgers pitcher Marshall Kasowski.

At that time, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris was considering a run for president.

“She [Harris] was straightforward, outgoing and friendly,” Morrison said. “We hit it off right away. She is smart and can hold a conversation.”

Kamala Harris is not the only one making history. Morrison has made a name for herself, too.

The three-time, Grammy-nominated singer is the founder of the her legs due to diabetes.

If I see our vice-president-elect again, I will tell her the same thing I told her when I met her, ‘Just do it, girl.’” -Barbara Morrison said

“I remember after they amputated my first leg in 2011, I asked my assistant to bring me my purse so I can put on some make-up,’ laughed Barbara. “I told the doctor, ‘As long as it doesn’t affect my singing, I am happy to wear a prosthetic leg.’”

She may have lost both her legs to diabetes, but that hasn’t stopped her from her passion, singing.

On Oct. 27, Morrison was a featured performer in the Public Relation Social of America’s ICON 2020 event, “Transforming the Landscape.” The fundraiser was online this year.

Barbara closed the year by performing as the headliner and Ambassador for UCLA’s Closing Centennial Program, “Let There Be Imagination,” on Dec. 3. It was a virtual event held at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Westwood.

“Positive follows positive, and no matter what happened in my life, I am still fortunate to alive and doing what I love to do,” Barbara said.

Just like Ms. Morrison had her struggle in life, she believes that Vice President-elect will have her own set of challenges as she sets foot as the second commander in chief at the White House.

“As a woman of color, she faces many obstacles that many women still face today,” said Ms. Morrison. “I think the difference will be in the way she faces her obstacles, Skillfully!”

Regardless of what obstacles the administration will face in the next four years, Barbara is confident that president Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris will restore democracy in America.

“If I see our vice-president again, I will tell her the same thing I told her when I met her, ‘Just do it, girl.’”

Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center and the founder and president of the California Jazz & Blues Museum, located in the Leimert Park section of Los Angeles. The museum housed images of famous jazz and blues performers. Morrison says the museum honors and shares the history of jazz and blues artists. Califor- nia is the place that introduced “cool jazz” or “West Coast Jazz” styles in the 1940s and 1950s.

The Jazz & Blues Museum that Morrison built is relocating one block from its original location to 4305 Degnan Blvd., in Leimert Park.

“I outgrew my old space com- plex and I needed bigger place to help my community,” Morrison said.

The new museum will include an art complex, which includes rehearsal space, recording studios, and an outdoor patio, called ‘Jazz Alley’ where different jazz musicians may perform each night.

Because of the pandemic, the new California Jazz & Blues Museum is under construction and the opening date is to be determined.

Last year, Morrison starred in a one-woman tribute show to her former friend, the late jazz diva Dinah Washington. She says some people do not realize that jazz and blues are America’s only original music art form.

Morrison also serves as an Associate Professor on Jazz Studies in the Global/Ethnomusicology Department at UCLA.

“I love what I do, and I always find the ‘fun’ in whatever I do,” said Barbara. “I do my best, and I never take anything personal.”

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