Re-posted from The Aquarian

May 23, 2022

Around Memorial Day Weekend 1970 when I was five years old, my grandmother won me yet another prize at a wheel of chance on the Asbury Park Boardwalk: a copy of The Beatles’ Abbey Road, my first big-boy LP. A few weeks later, civil unrest broke out throughout the city, and I didn’t step foot onto the AP boardwalk for a decade!

The West Side of Asbury Park – a mecca not only for jazz, soul, and R&B, but black entrepreneurship – was burned down by its own residents in protest of racial and economic injustice in the city and throughout the country. Until very recently, I never wanted to venture to the shell that remained of Asbury’s West Side, but now I do, and it makes my soul sing to see how its returning to its former glory.

One of the reasons for that is a valiant and noble group of music and history lovers known as Asbury Park African-American Music Project. They are refurbishing the Turf Club, the only standing venue of what once was the Jersey Shore’s take on 52nd street. Dozens of nightclubs, such as the Orchid Lounge, where a young Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band, got his musical start, were just steps apart.

But only the Turf Club now remains, and a benefit for its revitalization as a community venue for music and culture will take place 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Sunday, June 5 in the nearby garden of Blackbird Commons, 131 Atkins Avenue.

“Throwback Sunday: A Jazz Cocktail Sip” will feature live jazz by the Jimmy Givens Trio, southern food, cocktails, and the Turf Club Story, which also can be enjoyed among many others within AP-AMP’s digital museum hereTickets are $50 and sponsorships are available at If you love Asbury Park, its music, and history, you won’t miss it because those things that we love are going to get even better thanks to the passionate work of AP-AMP. 

I spoke with some of the founding board members about their inspiring efforts. They include:

  • President Jennifer Souder, an Asbury Planning and Public Library board member trained in landscape architecture and urban planning with a focus on integrating cultural narratives, equity and sustainability into the built environment
  • Treasurer Yvonne Clayton, an Asbury Councilwoman and Planning Board member who grew up and still lives on Springwood Avenue and is a retired corporate leader
  • Dr. Melissa Keeling, an accomplished professional musician, composer and music educator who earned a Doctor of Musical Arts – Music Performance (flute) at City University of New York, is a professor at Western Kentucky University, and became involved in AP-AMP while living in Asbury.

Also a founding board member is Secretary Kathleen Melgar, director of the Asbury Park Public Library, an employee there for more than 15 years who is committed to prioritizing community engagement and local history.

I also spoke with Asbury native Charles Trott, a visual artist and arts history educator who created AP-AMP’s logo and is the founder of Diasporic Images of Africa, which primarily uses visual art to show Africa’s connection to countries and cultures around the world. Charles serves on AP-AMP’s Advisory Committee with lifelong Asbury resident Ruben Bray, head security office at the city’s Bradley School and a DJ/sound specialist with Total Xperience Entertainment Group, and Bruce Booker, an artist of many talents living in Asbury Park who creates gardens and woodworks, as well as film documentation of community life as the owner of the There You Go Productions. 

I also spoke with Madonna Carter Jackson, an author-photographer who lived more than 30 years in Asbury and graduated from APHS Class of 1967. She has written several books about Asbury Park’s West Side that transform her father’s archive of hundreds of black and white negatives into a pictorial journey as seen through the camera lens of Joseph A. Carter Sr. (1917-1980). Throughout her career, Madonna has owned and operated three Carter’s Photographic Studios in New Jersey, Florida, and South Carolina. Joseph Carter’s photos now can be enjoyed online as Asbury Park A West Side Story on Facebook.

I hope you appreciate the following story about Asbury Park African-American Music Project and the city’s wonderful West Side enough to support them! STREAM AP-AMP here!

What is the Asbury Park African-American Music Project?

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