The Fort Worth African American Roots Music Festival aims to make the local music scene more inclusive

Jackie Venson, seated, holds a black electric guitar and smiles off to her left

Jackie Venson is one of the headliners for the 2023 Fort Worth African American Roots Music Festival.
Photo: Ismael Quintanilla

The third annual Fort Worth African American Roots Music Festival (FWAAMFest, for short) kicks off at noon Saturday inside the Southside Preservation Hall.

Billed as the only festival of its kind in the country with this specific focus — old-time, jug band, early blues and jazz music, predominantly, and which is Black-led and showcases Black artists — the event is an opportunity for listeners to really hear the foundational sounds of genres they may have long adored.

FWAAMFest is produced by Decolonizing the Music Room, the Fort Worth nonprofit founded in 2019 which, per press materials, “works to center Black, Brown, Indigenous and Asian voices in music education and related fields.”

Here’s a glimpse at last year’s event.

“The 2022 festival showed how valuable and engaging this kind of event can be, for local community members and for welcoming new visitors to Fort Worth,” said Brandi Waller-Pace, the founder and executive director of Decolonizing the Music Room, in a statement. “FWAAMFest is contributing to a more inclusive local music scene, and there is excitement about hearing amazing artists while also learning about the music and culture.”

Headliners for this year’s FWAAMFest include rising Austin star Jackie Venson, Tray Wellington and Jake Blount.

Additional performers and presenters who will take to the stage on Fort Worth’s Near Southside include Hubby Jenkins, Justin Golden, Justin Robinson, Junious Brickhouse, Joseph Johnson, Angela Wellman and the Sable Sisters.

“Black musicians have been there since the beginning of this music, yet there is little to no representation in the large music festivals that cater to this genre,” said Waller-Pace in a statement. “We aim to change that.”

Given that intention, the Fort Worth African American Roots Music Festival is a much-needed re-contextualizing of beloved genres. And particularly so in Fort Worth, where the artistic contributions of Brown and Black artists can be somewhat elided in the public discourse.

Should you find yourself inside the Southside Preservation Hall this weekend, consider how there are no significant tributes to the incredibly rich, profoundly influential jazz artists like Ornette Coleman, Ronald Shannon Jackson or Dewey Redman, to name just three of the city’s incandescently talented native sons.

The third annual Fort Worth African American Roots Music Festival at Southside Preservation Hall, Fort Worth. Noon Saturday. Tickets, which include access to all scheduled performances, are $50 per person for adults, $30 for students and educators with ID, and $15 for children ages 3-13.

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.