Updated: Jun 9, 2020
The general public can watch the four-event live this Saturday or on TV live
(FRESNO, CA) – The African-American Historical and Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley (AAHCMSJV) is hosting a Central Valley wide Virtual Juneteenth Jazz & Blues Historical Exhibit & Concert, with the help of key sponsors, 2020 Census San Joaquin Valley Health Fund and the Sierra Health Foundation, along with supporters and Sponsors from throughout the Central Valley: City of Clovis, U.S. Congressman Jim Costa of the 16th District of California, Assemblyman Dr. Joaquin Arambula, Merced County, Donaghy Sales, and media sponsors CMAC and ONME Network.
The event is being held virtually on Saturday, June 13, 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM. People can watch it online or on TV: The ONME Network in partnership with CMAC will broadcast the event live on TV, while it is being simulcasted to the ONE News and African-American Museums’ websites and Facebook pages (http://www.onmenews.com and http://www.aahcmsjv.com). Offline people can watch it on Comcast, Channel 93 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99. Event host, celebrity photo journalist, Ken McCoy will manage the live virtual event along with AAHCMSJV representative, Gregory Melancon.
Juneteenth is a significant, historical milestone and national American holiday nationwide: It celebrates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. June 19, 1865 was the official enforced announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas, and more generally throughout the former Confederacy of the southern United States would be enforced by troops going territory to territory to make sure slaves were released from these plantations.
Since its inception about 10 years ago, the AAHCMSJV Juneteenth Jazz & Blues Celebration, was inspired to use the Juneteenth holiday to also celebrate local African-American artists who have paved the way for others; they are giving two awards to two Valley Greats: local celebrity jazz musician Ed Burke and posthumously celebrity artist, Leonsya Sonroa Juanita Williams (Mother Williams.) Both made strides nationally in the music industry despite legalized segregation, helping many local musicians of color to follow their footstep, (see bios below.) The awardees also received a special message from national, legendary music icon, Ms. Chaka Khan, who humbly congratulated the two music pioneers for their years of service to the community. (The AAHCMSJV will present the message during the four-hour event.)
Today many Americans join in the celebration of this historical milestone by attending local festivals to learn more history, celebrate with delicious cuisines, or enjoy local performances from the community; this year’s virtual event will include historical mini documentaries from well-recognized voices in the Central Valley: Central Valley educator Chris Finley developed five short, historical podcasts highlighting locations historically relevant to Central Valley African-American residents. Community advocates and leaders will be speaking on behalf of what’s happening their communities: Nick Hill, president and CEO of the Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce; Gloria Ann Brown, President of the Madera NAACP; Bishop Larry Dodson, community advocate and religious leader in Tulare County; Royce Dunn, community advocate in Fresno County; Cindy Quezada of the Sierra Health Foundation and Rick Warren of Sacramento, CA who is leading the week long Juneteenth the following week.
As dates have been revised to accommodate the coronavirus pandemic setback, the reminder of the importance of the 2020 Census will be reiterated by the community leaders speaking. People can still take the census online up to Oct. 31st:
Celebrated Central Valley singers Gwen Amey-Hollins of Merced County and Joyce King-Brewer of Bakersfield, CA will mesmerize the audience remotely with mini-concerts from their locales.
During the performance breaks, the AAHCMSJV will be showcasing Black graduates from throughout the Central Valley who have submitted their photos and information.
Viewers can also submit live donations on the screen during the online/TV four-hour event, (find out more information at the AAHCMSJV website link below.)
After the 4-hour virtual event, the AAHCMSJV will broadcast an encore performance of the 2019 Juneteenth Jazz & Blues Exhibit and Concert which celebrated awardees Bobby Brown, Woody Miller (posthumously) and
For more information visit: www.aahcmsjv.com
For media inquiry: Phone: 559-544-1857 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Awardee Ed Burke – Professional Musician, Vocalist, Recording Artist , Actor, Writer, Educator
Born in Fresno, CA, over 70 years ago, Ed Burke was raised by his grandparents, Jessie and Ruth McDonald and later, at age 10, by his mother, Edna Dillard (McDonald).
Attending Carter Memorial AME Church, Ed began singing in the youth choir with his many cousins, taking piano lessons from the church pianist, his Aunt, Mrs. Evelyn McDonald.
Upon entering Edison Junior-Senior High School, Burke joined the Edison Choir and got the opportunity to sing, play and learn music from the many talented singers and musicians who attended there, (such as Bobby Logan, Hilliard Streets, Phillis McDonald, Lenard Wyatt, and William Penn.) His first cousin, Stan McDonald, who has since passed away, was Audra McDonald’s father (and played drums in Burke’s band in high school). For decades, various members of the extended McDonald clan have played music professionally
From 1958 through 1964, Ed put together and led the most successful vocal group and band to ever come out of the San Joaquin Valley, The Marvelous Vels. This group recorded two 45 records for Capital Records, where all the songs were written by Burke.
After spending 3 years on the road with Ray Camacho & The Teardrops, Burke worked with various bands out of the Northern Bay Area, Las Vegas, NV and Los Angeles, CA as a keyboardist and vocalist, ( The Checkmates, Loading Zone, Ike & Tina Turner Review and Bobby Blue Bland). Upon the birth of his oldest son in 1967, Burke decided to “give up the road,” to be at home with his family, and utilize his Fresno State college degree in communications.
Burke became an active member of the drama department and participated in numerous stage productions. That experience led Burke to become a founding member of the Good Company Players (GCP) in 1973. Burke has appeared in over 25 productions with GCP over that 47-year period.
In 1979, Burke relocated his family to the Bay Area to take a new position as an executive director of San Mateo County Community Services Agency. Although Burke would occasionally perform during the next ten-year period, most of his musical energy was spent on mentoring his oldest son’s talents on electric bass.
Since returning to Fresno in 1990, Burke renewed his musical activities with two highly successful bands, The Reunion Band and Burke, Miller & Burke: Attorneys at Soul (with his son, Tyler, on bass.)
Currently, Burke has been performing as a member of BUST (Brothers Under Spiritual Testament) Gospel group.
After over 50 years of professional entertaining experience, Burke still performs locally at restaurants, weddings, holiday events, private parties, and churches.
Awardee– Leonsya Sonora Williams (posthumously)
Leonsya Sonora Juanita Morris Williams, born July 1, 1913, was the oldest of four children, attended Edison Technical High School and Fresno State College.
As a young woman, Williams along with her brothers, Eugene and William, formed “The Morris Trio.” As professional entertainers, they were known throughout California and the nation during the big-band era. Williams spend time in Bakersfield, CA performing at the famous “Swing Club.” She also toured in Stockton, CA where she met young talented pianist, Eugene (Gene) Carson Williams who became her permanent accompanist and beloved husband. The two opened “The Good Friends Inn” in Bakersfield, CA.
After WWII, Leonsya and her husband Gene, moved the family back to Fresno, CA; Williams stopped her professional career to raiser her seven children. Occasionally she would perform with “The Gene Morris Band.”
Later, Williams became the Fresno Unified School District cafeteria manager of Irwin Junior High School, finding her most fulfilling accomplishment helping disadvantage youth. She soon became known as “Mother Williams,” as the community affectionately called her because of her warm smile, words of encouragement, and wiling to give a helping hand to children in need, without judgement. After 19 years of service, Mother Williams retired in 1978; yet, she continued to be active in the community with the youth.