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The Blues Foundation doing Amazing Things during IBC week!
The Blues Foundation has a program called the HART Fund and this week in the middle of IBC week, the program hosted a health fair for artists that were in town for the challenge.
by JR Robinson
What the heck is IBC week? This was a question that I asked the first time I heard it. Then I heard something about the BMA’s, and the fact that these were both very big events in Memphis. How could that be and so few people in Memphis know about them? Don’t get me wrong, in some circles these letters are a very big deal. But the average person in Memphis knows very little if anything about these hidden gems of our city.
This week at Club 152 on Beale Street there was a health fair. Wait, a health fair in a bar? Yes and that is because this was no ordinary health fair, it was a health fair being put on for Blues artists coming to town from around the world. So now a health fair in a bar makes sence. The Blues Foundation has a program called the HART Fund and this week in the middle of IBC week, the program hosted a health fair for artists that were in town for the challenge.
So for anyone who dosen’t know what the IBC is, let me explain. The IBC is the International Blues Challenge hosted by the Blues Foundation right here in Memphis. A Wikipedia search clears things up very nicely. The International Blues Challenge is a music competition run by the Blues Foundation. Notable blues artists that have competed in the IBC over the years also includes Fiona Boyes, Eden Brent, Michael Burks, Tommy Castro, Sean Costello, Albert Cummings, Larry Garner, Zac Harmon, Homemade Jamz Blues Band, HowellDevine, Richard Johnston, Julian Fauth, Super Chikan, Susan Tedeschi, Southern Avenue, and Watermelon Slim. The 1994 event in particular had a lot of talent as Susan Tedeschi, Michael Burks (who won the Albert King Guitar Award) and a 16 year old Sean Costello competed, although none of them were the eventual winners.
This event brings in thousands of Blues artists every year for a competition and for some of the best new Blues music in the world. Before I move on, let me define that other three letter collection known as the BMA’s. That stands for the Blues Music Awards, I had the honor of attending last year and I can tell you that it is truly one of the most amazing events in our city. Barbara Ballin Newman is the President of the Blues Foundation and has done amazing things with the organization since she took the helm. Her work on the Blues Music Awards is an outstanding example of how Memphis as a city should be presented to the world.
As I discovered this week, there is so much more to the Blues Foundation than a couple big events and a museum. So let’s get back to the health fair in a bar! It turns out the Blues Foundation has a program called the HART Fund and this week the crew was out at Club152 helping artists spend a little time taking care of themselves. The Blues Foundation established the HART Fund (Handy Artists Relief Trust) for Blues musicians and their families in financial need due to a broad range of health concerns. The Fund provides for acute, chronic and preventive medical and dental care as well as funeral and burial expenses. Throughout the year at various events the HART Fund provides free health screenings for musicians, with services including but not limited to checking blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, prostate cancer, Hep C, anemia, thyroid, kidney and liver testing via blood work.
We sat down with Dr. Janice Johnston who is a Blues Foundation Board Member and one of the founders of Arrowhead Health Centers to talk about the HART Fund. Dr. Janice Johnston is a family physician that’s also just happens to be a huge blues fan. She says, “I always wanted to go to the Blues Music Awards and was lucky enough to go with some friends that were nominated some years ago. That’s where I learned about the HART Fund and knew I needed to get involved.” Janice has been on the Board of Directors for the past 6 years and has chaired the HART Fund committee for the past 6 years as well. Since the HART Fund started about 20 years ago it was used as a support system to help blues musicians with medical, dental and funeral expenses. She was able to add the proactive health screenings when she joined as a way of creating fuller program of services for artists.
Janice adds that “It’s always been about the musicians. They fall into the category of non-insured or under insured and often will let health issues slide due to lack of adequate funding. The HART Fund is also there to support the families of Blues artists after they pass with funeral expenses. We see a lot of need for dental help as well.”
Blues artists can reach out directly to the Blues Foundation to apply for assistance. There is more information on the website http://www.blues.org. Many times friends or family members will reach out on the behalf of artist. The program makes it a point to be visible at all Blues Foundation signature events. Janice had this to say about a personal experience she had with an artist in need. “One of the best ones memories I have has with the programs was during our first health screening where we identified a newly diagnosed diabetic, Jonn Richardson. We were able to get him the care and medication he needed and prevent him from getting really sick and needing to go to the ER. But the list goes on and on, helping to negotiate fair pricing (it’s absolutely crazy out there in the healthcare world trying to navigate that on your own), helping to identify Hepatitis C and prostate Cancer as well. I’m super excited about the opportunity we have soon to also offer vision screening services too.
This week is a big week for everyone at the Blues Foundation and they showed how truly amazing they are by doing hundreds of health screening right here in our city for Blues artists from around the world. Here at JustMyMemphis, this is what we call #BeAmazing. So I want to say thank you to Barbara Ballin Newman and Sherry May from Memphis and the entire team of the Blues Foundation for the amazing work they are doing here in our city.
The Blues Foundation established the HART Fund (Handy Artists Relief Trust) for Blues musicians and their families in financial need due to a broad range of health concerns. The Fund provides for acute, chronic and preventive medical and dental care as well as funeral and burial expenses. Throughout the year at various events the HART Fund provides free health screenings for musicians, with services including but not limited to checking blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, prostate cancer, Hep C, anemia, thyroid, kidney and liver testing via blood work.
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