Since 1925, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem has been one of the world’s leading cultural institutions through the Harlem Renaissance to preservation, and exhibition of materials (arts and culture) focused on global Black history, African diaspora and African American experiences.

Today the Schomburg Center continues to persevere in the community with its ongoing programs that stimulate and inspire. On Dec. 2 (6:30 pm) the Schomburg presents “A Ballad for Harlem Conversation: Making Community.” The conversation will focus on the most significant meeting place for Black men, as well as for their young sons in Black history––the barber shop in Harlem and Black communities throughout the country and around the world. The conversation will include Kamal Nuru, president, Levels Barbershop and Barber World TV; Quincy Mills, author of “Cutting Along the Color Line: Black Barbers and Barber Shops in America;” and Harlem-based barber Polo Greene, from Harlem Masters.

On Dec. 5 (6:30 pm), the conversation at the Schomburg continues with “Conversations In Black Freedom Studies,” a most relevant conversation in the wake of this ongoing controversy with former NFL San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the national anthem in 2016.

For years Black athletes have long propelled the quest for racial equality and social justice and have long been criticized for their freedom fighting. Join sportswriter Dave Zirin, historian Louis Moore, and athlete and activist Wyomia Tyus in a discussion of the last half century of Black male and female athletes in the freedom struggle. Both events are free, registration is a must. Visit the website https://www.nypl.org/locations/schomburg or email schomburg@email.nypl.org. The Schomburg is located at 515 Malcom X Blvd. (corner 135th Street).

The drummer Willie Jones III is one of those musicians who is always worth seeing; he’s exciting, has a distinct rhythmic movement and regardless of how hard he swings, he remains very cool and at the end of the set, his suit is still pressed, and tie hasn’t moved an inch. Yes, he is Mr. Smooth.

Most recently Jones returned to Dizzy’s Club in Manhattan to present his project “Our Man Higgins,” which honored the music and spirit of his late mentor the all-around drummer Billy Higgins (one of the house drummers for Blue Note Records who also played on dozens of Blue Note albums during the 1960s). Jones, the music director, was accompanied by a new band he had just put together and this engagement was their first outing which included tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, pianist Jeremy Manasia, and bassist David Williams.

As Jones noted, Higgins was recorded on such important jazz standards as Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman,” Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder,” Eddie Harris’ “Love for Sale,” Cedar Walton’s “Bolivia”––a few of these selections made the band’s repertoire that certainly made Higgins proud. The band for its maiden voyage played like a tight-knitted unit that seemed flawless.

The native of California, who studied under the tutelage of the renowned Albert “Tootie” Heath, has grown from a young student to one of the influential riveting drummers on today’s jazz. His independent record label, WJ3––with a strong emphasis on swing and straight-ahead rhythms––is also being heard on a wide scale.

Patricia Nicholson the poet, dancer, choreographer, founder of the Improvisor’s Collective and Arts For Art/Vision Festival celebrated her 70th birthday recently at Clemente, Flamboyan Theater on the Lower Eastside. The party was quite invigorating which followed her life’s vision and the mission of Arts For Art “support diversity in music, dance, art and poetry that embraces improvisation as a means to transform both artist and audience.” Her dance is steeped in the avant-garde aesthetic and an attention to spiritual and social responsibility.

Many friends came out to support and celebrate the Nicholson revolution, the dedicated artist and programmer who has helped shape the cultural landscape of her community, the city of New York. Poets Whit Dickey, No Land, Patricia Spears Jones spoke to the revolution soul and celebration of Nicholson. The out in over duos of saxophonist John Zorn and drummer Warren Smith; the genius of pianist Dave Burrell and

alto saxophonist/poet Oliver Lake; the surprising improvisational duo of pianist Matthew Shipp and Newman Taylor Baker on the washboard (you may not recall that wooden board folks used back in the 1930s before washing machines and. for those who couldn’t afford them, later in the 1940-50s).

“What It Is” features dancer/poet Nicholson, bassist William Parker (her long-time partner in art and life), Melanie Dyer on viola, tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, tenor saxophonist Mixashawn, drummer William Hooker; and visual art projects by Katy Martin, William Mazza and Miriam Parker among others. Nicholson has developed a singular practice, drawing from both traditional and unconventional techniques, to create an eclectic yet intuitive approach to movement and composition. The honoree performed with her projects “Revolution/Resurrection,” “What It Is,” and “BLUE” Nicholson’s dance and poetry were featured through this active project

“What It Is.”

Too many multi-disciplinary performances and artwork from some of the hundreds of artists she has supported over the years. The grand finale was simply a crazy explosion of artistic improvisation from over 20 members of the AFA community––the drums, African drums, conga, horns, and dancers shook the building’s core and the audience’s souls.

“I feel exactly the same. I just have more work to do,” said Nicholson. “I am alright with 70. It was really a celebration of our community that relies on all of us, so we have to keep supporting it.”

Nicholson founded Arts For Art and the Vision Festival in 1996 to promote and advocate for free jazz, raising awareness through this notable and uncommonly visible platform. Since then, AFA has grown to be a movement annually supporting hundreds of artists working with the free jazz aesthetic.

“My big dream for the future would be to have a venue so we could have music every night and support more artists,” says Nicholson. “We have to be more out loud and get more support it’s like an investment.”

In 1981, Nicholson choreographed and organized “A Thousand Cranes Peace Opera,” with 1,000 children performing in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza for the opening of the Special Sessions on Disarmament; in the mid and late-1980s, she responded to a lack of visibility for free jazz by helping to organize the Sound Unity Festivals.

“The problem is about ownership, who controls the music, but music is boundless without boundaries, it should be embraced not controlled,” says Nicholson. “My dream is to call it just music not free jazz. You can’t constrain music or the arts.”