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US Jazz and Democracy Project Founder in Banjul

Jul 1, 2011, 11:42 AM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Dr. Wesley J. Watkins IV, founder of the Jazz and Democracy Project based in the United States and a visiting speaker is currently in Banjul for a week-long program with Gambian high schools, students of the University of The Gambia, as well as Gambian journalists and bloggers.

Accompanied by three colleagues, Dr. Wes as he is called by his students, yesterday engaged Gambian journalists and bloggers in a blogging session, which also coincided with a press conference on his visit to The Gambia.

Dr. Watkins, who is also an arts learning anchor school facilitator in Oakland Unified School district, told journalists at a news conference held at the GPU Secretariat that the Jazz and Democracy Project uses jazz as a metaphor to bring American democracy to life, enriches the study of US history in elementary, middle, and high school, and inspires youth to become active, positive contributors to their community.

Currently in Banjul courtesy of the US Embassy, Dr Wes said students explore the importance of listening, critical thinking, voice, choice, preparation, participation, cooperation, peaceful negotiation   and American classic music, which, he added, is Jazz.

Having developed a streamlined 12-lesson curriculum that include a goal different from the original Thorn Hill collaboration, Dr Wes also told journalists that the Jazz and Democracy Project is a school curriculum and a service he provides to middle and high schools.

The program, he added, works on bringing democracy to life through the Jazz music.

According to him, the project brings American democracy to life.

“It uses our nation’s classical music - itself as an engaging, living, breathing example of democracy in sonic motion to help students gain a profound understanding of the ideals that constitute our nation’s constitution and system of government,” he stated.

He further stated that leading directly from this new understanding, the project provides a structure - The Democracy Jam - for students to learn how they can take part in shaping a more perfect union, both today and in the future.