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Eric Xavier Dawson
A jazz saxophonist from Kinston, NC., who grew up around music.  His father was a jazz and rhythm and blues musician, who had “jam sessions” in the family home.  “I would play keys and try to teach myself.  Then, I got into my dad’s record collection and he had a lot of Grover Washington.  I thought Grover was the coolest dude on saxophone”.  In the fifth grade, Eric told his father he wanted to play saxophone, and a year later, his father brought him one. Eric states that he immediately tried to transcribe everything Grover Washington played. Though his specific experiences growing up with a musician father were very influential to Eric’s musical career, he reports that others in his Kingston community, a notable hotbed for jazz, soul, funk and r&b, were also impressive. ”There were a lot of older musicians around and, as a kid, it’s amazing to hear people right around the corner who can sound like what you might hear on the radio. When you are seeing great musicians in your hometown, that’s a different experience than being in church and seeing a piano player and a rhythmic section playing gospel music”.

Eric’s musical accomplishments have been recognized by the African American Music Trails, a major project of the North Carolina Arts Council to recognize musicians from certain eastern North Carolina counties who have represented the music well, “whether it’s gospel, blues, jazz or r & b.  I really appreciate this because you do see an overrepresentation of white musicians, as if African-American musicians never existed.  To see an organization make efforts to recognize that and give opportunities to play means a lot; and, the effect of that long term is more diversity of programming in all types of festivals.”

Eric highly values live jazz performances. “The record really isn’t fair to the live musician.  Think of the song as the subject of a conversation. No matter how many times we have that conversation, we’re not going to talk about it the same way.  The song title is an open-ended question and everybody’s personalities are mixing in the space.  As long as there is a sense of unity and happiness on the stage, the audience in drawn in.  Jazz is very inclusive, and is a personal type of music”.

Mawuena Agbeblewu
A 17 year IT Professional based in Durham, NC. Mawuena is also one of the co-founders of African Rhythms Project, a project that brings regular celebrations of African Music and the Arts. Mawuena’s passion is making known to the world, potentials, creativity and talents within the African culture through Music & the Arts. Mawuena hopes to bring to the Board through his extensive travel experience, the development of district, regional, national and global events and activities. Mawuena is excited about the Durham Jazz Foundation being a tie from the remote communities to the prime urban settlements of the world through Music and the Arts.

Dr. Beverly McLaughlin 
Dr. “Mack” is a retired licensed psychologist, a career to which she dedicated her professional life for over 30 years, and collaborated through clinical work with thousands of clients including private practice, universities, clinics, public school systems, and several other business institutes. Her specialty area was empowering, especially, African American, females to develop healthy boundaries and maximize their potential.

Beverly brings to the DJRF her continued passion for human development. Through the health and wellness created by Jazz and community engagement, her focus for the DJRF will be on AFRIKIKO’S, an evolving home-based art studio concept and dedicated space, designed to spotlight artists of all types, and present educational lectures, quality food, and outstanding music. Beverly has travelled extensively, throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, SA and the Caribbean. Future goals for AFRIKIKO’S include sponsoring international travel for cultural exchange.

Dr. Mack has leisure interests in yoga, horseback riding, culinary arts, and ALL THAT’s JAZZ!     

Robert Trowers  
Robert Trowers has been an affiliate of and an advocate for the Durham Jazz Renaissance Foundation for several years, and we all are so delighted that he has recently agreed to serve on the Board of Directors.  Currently on faculty as a Professor of Jazz Studies at North Carolina Central University, Robert is a New York native and a 30-year veteran of the international jazz circuit. He has played with some of the finest and best-known ensembles and artists of jazz in the world.  A partial listing of his performance credits include the Lionel Hampton, Illinois Jacquet and Count Basie Orchestras, stints with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra under Wynton Marsalis, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band under Jon Faddis, Randy Weston’s African Rhythms, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, Tony Bennett and David Murray.  In addition, he completed two CDs for Concord Records, “Synopsis” and “Point of View”. Robert may frequently be found offering expertise in jazz reviews during jazz programming on WNCU, North Carolina Central’s highly ranked radio station.  brings to the Foundation a special enhancement to our educational component, jazz workshops and summer jazz camps.  Thank you, Robert, for joining the Board and the dedicated work this position entails.

Dianne Pledger  
The Durham Jazz Renaissance Foundation (DJRF) introduces a very special member of our Board of Directors, Mrs. Dianne Pledger, President,  Pledger Consulting Company.  Mrs. Pledger’s formal education and career history speak for themselves in reference to the quality of experience she brings to the service of our Board. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a concentration in Journalism/Communications from North Carolina Central University (1979). She has completed course work in Business Management/Entrepreneurial Development (1994) at the University of Texas at Austin School of Business and holds a Paralegal Degree (1988) from Lawton College, Oakland, California. Dianne has over 30 years of experience as a public relations and development professional with emphasis on the arts management, research, grant writing, marketing and event production.  She has extensive experience in project development and implementation, local regional and national collaboration, event management and fundraising. Having worked as a consultant for the last 15 years, her skills and talents include board development, strategic planning sessions, capital campaigns/fundraising analysis, and event and special promotions.

Of most primary work recognition, Mrs. Pledger served as an ambassador for arts and culture as the President/CEO of St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation, Inc./Hayti Heritage Center from 1991-2011, where she successfully produced the Bull Durham Blues Festival, recognized as the largest blues festival in the state of North Carolina and won the “Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Promoter of the Year” in 2003, an award given by The Blues Foundation annually.

Mrs. Pledger has won numerous awards for her contributions to the arts and community service. For examples, she developed the North Carolina Culture Tour website designed to market historic land marks and organizations of color across the State. The project, which showcases 14 organizations statewide, was funded by the North Carolina Arts Council as a pilot program and continues to reach the cultural heritage tourist in the state and across the nation. (www.ncculturetour.org).

Dianne has participated on several arts panels for the Southern Arts Federation, Atlanta, Ga., State of Louisiana Arts Council, North Carolina Arts Council, The Arts and Science Council of Mecklenburg County, Charlotte, NC, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, United Arts Council of Wake County and Durham Arts Council.

Mrs. Pledger is married to Mr. Vincent L. Pledger and they reside in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is currently working with clients throughout the Triangle, NC and the US as an independent consultant for non-profit management, grant writing, and special promotions.

The Durham Jazz Renaissance Foundation Board feels honored, and is proud to have the  outstanding, experienced person we find in Mrs. Dianne Pledger. Thanks so much, Dianne! Looking forward to enhancing our future, together.

William McLaughlin 
William McLaughlin is a practicing pharmacist for over 37 years, a pianist for 45 years and a jazz musician whose interest in jazz has followed him since high school.  He has been known throughout the City of Durham, Durham County and the State of North Carolina community as an avid jazz artist committed to keeping the art of jazz alive, especially in communities of color.  In 1988, he established the Winston Band and continues to be the owner, conductor and keyboard artist. His fervent desire is to re-introduce jazz to African-American youth.

Charles Robinson 
The Durham Jazz Renaissance Foundation (DJRF) welcomes to our Board of Directors, Mr. Charles Everett Robinson. Mr. Robinson joins the Board bringing clarity of thought, scrutiny of language and a willingness to “get the job done” with excellence in organizational skills.  Mr. Robinson’s background includes a J.D. from Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia (1983).   From 1983 to 2008 he was a trial and appellate lawyer in both state and federal courts, and his law practice experience included the U.S. Marine Corps from 1983 to 1986, where he attained the rank of Captain; licensed private practice in Oklahoma from 1987 to 1989; licensed and public service with the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office from 1990 to 1993; and, licensed private practice in North Carolina from 1993 to 2008.  In 2010, subsequent to having decided to make a transition from the “courtroom to the classroom”, Charles began a career as a college professor.  Since 2010 to present, Charles has been an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Mount Olive in Mount Olive, North Carolina.

Mr. Robinson’s interests include life member activities in Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, church worship at Trinity A.M.E. Zion in Wilson North Carolina, and family life with his wife, Angela, also in Wilson.





The Durham Jazz Renaissance Foundation is proud to include the following list of individuals as Board Members. To see a more comprehensive list of their achievements, please take a moment to read the bios which have been provided for your convenience.

2010 - 2016

Eric Xavier Dawson

Mawuena Agbeblewu

Dr. Beverly McLaughlin, Executive Secretary

Robert Trowers

Dianne Pledger

William McLaughlin, Excutive Director

Charles Robinson, President

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