Michelle Jacques─one of the main performers on Sunday, October 24─ is a Lousiana native who has been deemed Oakland’s own “Queen of New Orleans Music.” As a founding member of a capella quintet Street Sounds, Jacques has toured all over the country and world, performing with several famous artists along the way.
Jacques is also a leading member of the Governor's Board of The Recording Academy, and director of the Select Vocal Ensemble and Middle School Solo at Oakland School for the Arts.
Along with performing, Jacques presents educational productions for the San Francisco Symphony's Adventures in Music, the Bay Area Discovery Museum, the Oakland Youth Chorus, and many others.
The Unrecognized Voices of Louisiana
An Interview with Michelle Jacques (June 29, 2021)
by Silvia Rodriguez
As local artists prepare for the Festival's autumn program, I spoke to Michelle Jacques about her latest project, Daughters of the Delta, which focuses on the unspoken contributions women made to music across more than half a century during the Jim Crow era Great Migration.
Commissioned by SFIAF and set to premiere in 2022 at Plymouth Church of Jazz and Justice, Jacques plans to perform some of the new material from Daughters at Fort Mason on October 24. From discussing the historical context of the project, to her takeaways thus far, Jacques highlights the importance of educating the younger generations about the repressed voices in history.
Daughters of the Delta features four genres of music─spiritual, gospel, jazz, and blues─each representing a specific sociopolitical environment that the Black women had to endure during the 19th and 20th centuries. Jacques composed original music inspired by her research of the deceased artists, each representing a period in time.
For far too long, the voices of Black women during the great migration have been hidden from the public. This motivated Jacques to do this project. She wanted to educate people on the significant contributions of Black women in the art, music, and literature of today. The strength and courage these women had in these grueling times manifest through songs and music.
Jacques had many motivations in creating this project, one of which is the importance of educating the youth of this country about its real history. Jacques gives her stance on the topic of critical race theory being taught in schools stating, “We are never going to grow in this country unless we address why racism still exists.” The initiatives to restrict how the history of the US is taught, renders children ignorant about the current oppression of people of color.
Jacques stated, “Pretending that racism does not exist is not reality.” Thereby creating a space for discussion through music and art can bring more awareness to the systematic racism that still resides in our country.
One of Jacques’s greatest motivations to begin this show was her own mother. As a woman who had nothing in New Orleans during the great migration, Jacques’ mother endured the great migration with strength and perseverance to give her family a better life. Because of the racism that was very prevalent in Louisiana during the Jim Crow era, Jacques’ mother moved to California in hopes of creating a better life for her family and herself. Her family is just one of the many examples of the role that women played in the great migration which can be seen in Daughters of the Delta.
Songs, as Jacques states, are the best way to educate not only children but the adults of this country as well.