Gospel Artist / Founder & Director of the Black Pioneer Heritage Singers & Youth Empowerment Manager, Edmonton, AB. Born: Edmonton, AB.
Junetta Jamerson is a fifth-generation descendant of a very musical Black-American family that settled in Wildwood, Alberta in 1911 (her father, LeVero Carter, is considered the father of gospel music in Edmonton). As a lifelong Edmonton resident, she has been singing gospel in and around the city since she was a child. Junetta has gone on to be a choir director, voice-over artist, actor, producer and professional, traditional Gospel singer.
In choirs, her powerful pipes have shared the stage with the likes of Frank Wilson and The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, and as a solo artist she has performed with greats such as, Solomon Burke and Ron Kenoly. One of the few authentic gospel sopranos in Alberta, her voice has been said to have been “touched by God” and has the ability to put some “good” back in the “good news.”
As founder and director of the Black Pioneer Heritage Singers, Junetta has answered the calling to preserve the vocal and musical craft and achievement her people brought with them to Alberta a century ago. “Authentic Black gospel,” says Junetta, “the kind that’s really true to our distinct heritage of faith—that’s something a lot of people don’t think of when they think of what’s supposed to be Alberta’s ‘authentic’ cultural fabric. But anybody who encounters it, never forgets it! It’s amazing that a sound which is obviously from the Southern U.S. is now uniquely Albertan.” Festival favourites, the Heritage Singers tour Canada and the USA during summers.
As one of Canada’s most acclaimed choirs, the Black Pioneer Heritage Singers delivered a feature performance in the Command Performance for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, in 2005. Directing the Heritage Singers and accompanied by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Senator Tommy Banks and trumpet virtuoso Jens Lindeman, Junetta raised the bar for professional excellence in Edmonton’s gospel music scene. She most recently arranged and directed a choral performance for country star Johnny Reid at the Canadian Country Music Awards on September, 2010, aptly titled, “Today I’m Gonna Try and Change the World.”
Her most memorable project was as a member of the Albertan contingency for the Smithsonian Institute’s Folklife Festival, a two-week event at the Washington, D.C. Mall in 2006. With close to a million people in attendance, she delivered electrifying performances as a singer and as an oral historian during the extravaganza that was the highlight of her career.
Previously a senior staff member at Edmonton’s Centre for Race and Culture, Junetta oversaw three dynamic programmes: the Keshotu Leadership Academy (KLA) for African-Canadian teens; the Aboriginal Leadership Academy; and the Bamboo Shield for Asian-Canadian youth. As the founding operational director of the KLA, she drew together a diverse staff of mentors. Together, they use performing arts training to teach leadership skills to African-Canadian teens hailing from Edmonton, Toronto, Mogadishu, Nairobi and beyond. Beginning with sessions on media literacy, African histories, educational & professional networking and more, the KLA students co-create scripts, songs, music and choreography for full-length musical plays. The students are equipped with the tools to give voice to issues that affect them personally and globally as African descended citizens of the world. The result is a profound increase in confidence that will serve the students throughout their development as learners and professionals.
Keshotu Leadership Academy’s track record speaks for itself: Of the Grade 12 graduates, 100% have gone on to attend post-secondary institution – and not all were on a path to achieve that.
Honours: Junetta has received numerous awards and commendations, including the Big Miller Award; the Gospel Music Association of Canada’s Covenant Award for Best Gospel Album; Top 40 Under 40, Edmonton’s Avenue Magazine (was also featured on the cover); Global TV Edmonton’s Woman of Vision and Edmonton Icon.
Favourite book? Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. This book dared to look at a side of the struggle and Black mobility that I had not considered, but, in fact, had manifested in aspects of my childhood and lineage.
Favourite quote? “When He hath tried me I shall come forth as gold.” – Job 23:10
Given the chance, what would you love to do that you haven’t done yet? Produce a live recording of the of intersectionality of African-American and Aboriginal musical offerings. Many of the families of my community are mixed with American-Indian and/or Canadian-Aboriginal peoples. I believe the musical coming together could originate or renew a powerful cooperation of our two nations.
Who inspires you? My husband-brother Ricki Leon Jamerson is truly a man’s man. My kids, are beautiful little Black people with bright, shiny dark eyes, full of ferocious intelligence.
Why do you do what you do? Successive generations should not be at the same level as previous ones. There should be an overall upwards progression. If there is not, then the reasons for this lack of mobility and actualization need to be analyzed, articulated and then annihilated. To me, wasted Black potential takes away not only from our race, but from the prosperity and evolution of the entire human race.