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One Record at a Time: Perry Thompson of The Rhythm and Blues Preservation Society

The Rhythm and Blues Preservation Society is a nonprofit organization with a mission to preserve Black music culture one record at a time worldwide via education, live music performances, and multimedia production.

Just ten years ago, C.E.O./President of The Rhythm and Blues Preservation Society, Mr. Perry Thompson, left his home city of Queens, NY, for the Jersey shore town of Atlantic City. Moving from the Empire State to the Garden State was a change, but Thompson never left his past behind. Thompson discovered his passion for music in Queens as his parents listened to R&B, jazz, calypso, reggae, and the blues. For this reason, music has always gotten Thompson through his struggles as he stated, “Growing up was challenging for me because I'm a legally blind person… You know, I was often teased a lot in school… I was depressed at times, but the one thing that kept me going was having a gift to music.”

With his gift, Thompson attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Performing Arts in Manhattan, NY. Here, Thompson realized that he was more interested in the production aspect of music-making, so he focused on audio engineering at school and with internships. Growing up in New York, Thompson was surrounded by a booming music industry where his gift was able to shine. Despite being from one of the most influential cities for the music industry on the East Coast, something in Thompson craved a change of scenery. So, in 2014, Perry Thomspon moved to Atlantic City and brought his gift to us.

Not many people know about Atlantic City’s music influence. As Thompson put it, “[Atlantic City] definitely has a rich history of music and music coaching in general… The city isn’t as big as everyone thinks it is. It’s very quaint and small. But at the same time, you get a lot of tourism and have such different events in Atlantic City when it comes to music.” Atlantic City certainly stays true to its musical roots today. It is constantly booming with concerts and shows. There is always something happening at Boardwalk Hall, and most casinos have their music venues where famous musicians come to perform. Many stars have been born in Atlantic City, especially those who play an important role in the history of black music. According to Thompson, “When it comes to black music in Atlantic City, the legendary Nina Simone– she got a start in Atlantic City… And there was a building called Club Harlem, which is a very famous club in Atlantic City, where black entertainers would perform. [Simone] was one of them who performed.” Because people of color are marginalized and discriminated against, their history and stories are often overlooked or erased altogether. Organizations that preserve black music, such as The Rhythm and Blues Preservation Society, are crucial for black history, as music shares stories and allows for voices to be heard.

For this reason, Thompson states he had been dreaming of making the RBPS for years. So, on December 18th, 2018, he founded The Rythm and Blues Preservation Society as a nonprofit organization in Atlantic City. Since then, the RBSP has grown tremendously. Four years ago, Vice President Rev. Dr. Sonja Elise Friedman “Queen Diva” joined. According to Thompson, “[Friedman] really has been a tremendous help. I'm very fortunate to have her to be employed with our organization.” Also among the executive team is Chief Information Security Officer Mr. Gabriel H. Freeman, Visiting Performing Artist Ayanda Sunshine, and Interior and Costume Designer/Image & Styling Director Carrie Rice.

In just six years, Mr. Perry Thompson and his Executive Team have done tremendous work uplifting black artists and preserving black music. The Rythm and Blues Preservation Society has held lectures in many colleges and universities worldwide. They have also set up library curations in both HBCUs(Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and PWIs(Predominantly White Institutions), seeking to educate young adults of all races, cultures, and backgrounds on the importance of preserving black music. In our lovely Garden State, these colleges and universities include Atlantic Cape Community College, Stockton University, Seton Hall University, Rutgers-Camden, Rowan College South Jersey, and Ramapo College of New Jersey. On February 21st, 2022, Stockton’s Department of African American Studies in Atlantic City proclaimed “The Rhythm and Blues Preservation Society Day,” recognized by Former Mayor of Atlantic City Donald J. Guardian and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. The Rhythm and Blues Preservation Society’s reach has gone beyond New Jersey. Within the U.S., they have libraries in colleges in states such as Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia. The RBPS also has international connections with two college libraries in London, England, and with black hip-hop books at two Canadian universities: the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto. Not only has The Rhythm and Blues Society expanded Atlantic City’s influence and connected it to cities and universities from across the globe, but it has also emphasized that black music and racism towards people of color are not just American things. Black musicians from all over the world deserve to have their stories told and remembered.

As the RBPS expands its outreach, it will one day have more chapters as Thompson stated, “..we want to have branches throughout the country. That's our main goal because it's a society. So we want to have branches of our organization, not just here, but in different states.” For those who want to see what the RBSP is all about, for Black Music Month, every Thursday in June, The Rhythm and Blues Preservation Society will hold an independent artist showcase in Atlantic City. These showcases will spotlight the music and talents of local black musicians in all different types of genres. As Thompson perfectly summed up the RBPS, “...[people] can learn from us the history of black music culture. You know, so that's what, that's what we're about. We're very adamant about the preserving of black music culture, the education of black music culture, because every music has been influenced by black music.”

            The Rythm and Blues Preservation Society’s Independent Artist Showcase is looking for sponsors. If interested, please email at info@rhythmbluesps.org or call at (609) 727-1744.

            The Rhythm and Blues Society is a nonprofit organization that accepts donations. You can email them at info@rhythmbluesps.org or donate via PayPal: PayPal.me/RBPS18 , CashApp, or Venmo: @RBPSOC

 

 

 

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