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On Their Shoulders: Honoring the African American Contributions to Patrick Henry and America
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Mr. Syid Abdullah (Father of Mr. Yusuf Abdullah) sailing on the USS Providence during the Vietnam War

We're trying to make Black History Month stretch over an entire year. We invite all staff and students to take a moment and write the answers to these simple questions:

  • Who in your family, community, and our country has inspired, motivated, and lifted your spirits to help you become a better person? 
  • What actions did they take that made you and the world a better place to live? 
  • As you stand on their shoulders what will YOU do to inspire others and also make the world a better place to live?

A great place to look for community and national leaders is at the African American Registry

Ms. Buckner Praises Her Father, Dr. Reginald Buckner

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When I think about the topic, “On Their Shoulders,” I begin to think about my father, Dr. Reginald Buckner.  He was a man who had a big heart for his family, his community and his music.  Trained as a Classical Pianist, he became versatile in several genres of music, especially Jazz.  He had an affinity for Jazz Music.  Born in Kansas City, Kansas, he grew up with an appreciation for the central location where many Jazz musicians of yore started and/or had jam sessions in the Kansas City Jazz style (Charlie “Bird” Parker, Count Basie, Lester Young, Bennie Moten, Jimmie Lunceford, Andy Kirk, Coleman Hawkins et al).

Dr. Buckner was a Professor of Music and Jazz Education at the University of Minnesota.  As a Professor at “the U”, my father was a pioneer who helped develop the Jazz Studies Program.  He was a graduate of the University of Kansas, receiving his Bachelor of Art and Master of Arts degrees.  He was recruited as a Professor to teach Jazz Studies at the University of Minnesota, where he later received his Doctorate degree in Music Education.  He taught many courses, one of which was the “Music of Black Americans”.  While teaching, he conducted research as a Jazz Historian and he developed a project video series called “Jazz:  An American Classic”.  Alongside his primary position as Professor at the University of Minnesota, he was Minister of Music at Zion Baptist Church and also performed around the Twin Cities with his musical group “The Reginald Buckner Quartet.”

When I think about those that inspired me, I think about my Dad’s legacy.  He was always in the forefront sharing his talent and gift of music with others.  He was a Christian.  He was a family man, an all-around great Dad, always taking the time for his wife of 28 years, his three daughters and his community.  A memorable moment in my life with my dad was when I was a sophomore at Spelman.  My Dad was attending a Conference in Atlanta, Georgia with the National Association for Jazz Educators (NAJE).  Prior to coming to Atlanta, and after he exercised his duties as Treasurer, a national office for NAJE, he made arrangements with the college to give a free concert in Sisters Chapel on the Spelman College campus.  All of the campus community, staff, students, and general public were invited to see my Dad.  It was a great performance and I was proud.  He embodied what it meant to give back to the community.  The practice of giving back and giving service was his norm.  Prior to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day being a national holiday, my Dad, an advocate and educator of Black History, wanted to recognize the contributions of this great man, Dr. King,  through the theatrical arts, music, and dance.  Though not funded by the University of Minnesota, my Dad pursued grants of public organizations to fund this program.  Held at Northrup Auditorium, this event hosted many educators, public servants and celebrities.  Some noted presenters were the Dr. Reginald Buckner Quartet, Jazz Professor at U of MN; John Amos, actor; Ruby Dee, Actress, The Sounds of Blackness; Mary Easter Dancers, Music Educator and Choreographer, Dr. Zelma George, opera singer-soprano, musicologist, sociologist; The Penumbra Theatre Company; Geoffrey Holder, Actor/Orator; Maya Angelou, Poet and a host of others!  Since my father’s death in 1989, this program was continued by the Office of Equity and Diversity at the University of Minnesota.  This event, now meeting its 30th year anniversary will be celebrated on Sunday, January 23, 2011 at Ted Mann Concert Hall on the West Bank at the University of Minnesota.  It is free and open to the public.

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