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Black History Month reception to honor African-American artists with local ties

The Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners is set to commemorate Black History Month with a reception at the Gadsden Arts Center and Museum.

Themed “African Americans and the Arts,” the celebration will shine a spotlight on the rich contributions of African-Americans to the world of arts and culture. During the event, the board will pay tribute to distinguished individuals who have made significant impact in their respective fields.

The 2024 Black History Month honorees are: Denisia “Blue June” Andrews, Nat Adderley Jr., Tananarive Due and Dean Mitchell.

Denisia “Blue June” Andrews of Havana is a singer-songwriter and member of the writing/production duo Nova Wav alongside her creative partner Brittany “Chi” Coney. According to the Los Angeles Times, Nova Waw is the music industry’s first female songwriting production team. Andrews, who got her musical start at St. Luke Primitive Baptist Church in Midway, is a Grammy award-winning lyricist who has created songs for Beyonce, Jazmine Sullivan, Rihanna, Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Kirk Franklin and Kelly Clarkson and many others.

In 2018, Andrew’s and creative partner Chi won their first Grammy Award for co-writing and producing “LoveHappy” and co-writing “Nice,” “Friends,” and “Black Effect” on Carter’s album Everything is Love, which was released on June 16, 2018.

In 2020, they co-wrote Beyonce’s charity single Black Parade. It was the most nominated song at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, with four nominations, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The song won Best R&B Performance.

In 2022, they won their next Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance for their work on Jazmine Sullivan’s Pick Up Your Feelings. Later that year, the duo co-wrote eight out of 16 songs on Beyonce’s highly anticipated album Renaissance.  

Nat Adderley, Jr. of Quincy is a world-renowned pianist, composer, arranger, producer, and former musical director for Luther Vandross. He started playing piano as a child and had his first song, “I’m on My Way,” recorded by his uncle Cannonball Adderley on the 1967 album Why Am I Treated So Bad! by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet when the young Nat Adderley was only 11 years old. While at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City, Adderley first met Luther Vandross, who attended Taft High School in the Bronx.

As Luther Vandross’ long-time musical director, Nat’s compositions include “Stop to Love,” “Wait for Love,” “Make Me a Believer,” “Other Side of The World,” and the Grammy-nominated “Give Me the Reason.” His many arrangements for Luther include “Superstar,” “Here and Now,” “So Amazing,” “If Only for One Night,” “If This World Were Mine,” “There’s Nothing Better Than Love,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” and “Never Too Much.” Also, for Luther, Nat produced “My Favorite Things,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Going Out of My Head,” and “The Closer I Get To You” (the Grammy-winning duet with Beyonce). Adderly also produced Luther’s last project, “Live at Radio City Music Hall.” 

Adderly wrote “The Wave” for Kirk Whalum, arranged Natalie Cole’s 1987 recording of “When I Fall In Love,” produced “Just Another Lonely Night” for Johnny Gill, arranged Aretha Franklin’s album Jump To It, produced Gloria Lynne’s album No Detour Ahead, and produced “That’s How Heartaches Are Made” for the Temptations. In 2016 and 2017, Nat produced the CD “Invitation” for Nicolas Bearde and appeared as a pianist on Jay Hoggard’s beautiful CD “Harlem Hieroglyphs.” 

Tananarive Due of Quincy is an award-winning author who teaches Black Horror and Afrofuturism at UCLA. She is an executive producer on Shudder’s groundbreaking documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. She and her husband/collaborator, Steven Barnes, wrote “A Small Town” for Season 2 of Jordan Peele’s “The Twilight Zone” on Paramount Plus and two segments of Shudder’s anthology film Horror Noire. They also co-wrote their upcoming Black Horror graphic novel The Keeper, illustrated by Marco Finnegan. Due and Barnes co-host a podcast, “Lifewriting: Write for Your Life!”

A leading voice in Black speculative fiction for more than 20 years, Due has won an American Book Award, an NAACP Image Award, and a British Fantasy Award, and her writing has been included in best-of-the-year anthologies. Her books include Ghost Summer: Stories, My Soul to Keep, and The Good House. She and her late mother, civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due, co-authored Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights.

Dean Mitchell of Quincy is a world-renowned watercolorist who has captured Quincy’s tobacco houses and his beloved grandmother Marie Brooks, who purchased a paint-by-number set for him when he was five. That simple, historic purchase changed the course of his life forever.  

Dean Mitchell, described by New York Times art critic Michel Kimmelman as a modern-day Vermeer, is known for his watercolors, oils, and acrylic paintings. 

Mitchell is well known for his figurative works, landscapes, and still lifes. In addition to watercolors, he is accomplished in other mediums, including egg temperas, oils, and pastels.

The artist has been featured in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, American Artist, Artist Magazine, Fine Art International, and Art News.

Mitchell has received the American Watercolor Society Gold Medal, Allied Artist of American Gold Medal in Watercolor and Oil, Thomas Moran Award from the Salmagundi Club in New York, Remington Professional League, and for three years in a row, the Best in Show Award from the Mississippi Watercolor Society Grand National Competition. In 2004 and 2007, he received the Autry National Center Award for Watercolor at the Masters of the American West Fine Art Exhibition and Sale. Mitchell is a member of several professional societies, including the American Watercolor Society and the National Watercolor Society.

The Gadsden Arts Center and Museum is located at 13 Madison Street in Quincy.

Attendees of the reception will also be able to view the art exhibit of Jacob Lawrence: Three Series of Prints from the Collections of Dr. and Mrs. Leon Banks & Alitash Kebede Organized by Landau Traveling Exhibitions

Erin Hill – Gadsden County News Service