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James W. Dodge Memorial Foreign Language Advocate Award

The 53rd Annual Northeast Conference Awards 2006 James W. Dodge Memorial Foreign Language Advocate Award, given outside the profession in recognition of work on behalf of languages: Taj Mahal and Carole Fredericks (posthumous award)

Read the Congratulations offered by Jean-Jaques Goldman and Restos du Coeur.

The Awards Committee of the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages has chosen this year to honor both the late beloved music diva Carole Fredericks and her brother, legendary blues icon Taj Mahal, natives of Springfield, Massachusetts, for the spotlight they shine on the vast potential of music to foster genuine intercultural communication Taj and Carole and to maintain cultural heritages. Both Carole and Taj help us, as foreign language teachers, to do the difficult work of showing Americans that English and American culture are not some "norm" against which all other languages and societies should be judged. We honor Carole and Taj, but through the award presented to them, we also hope to acknowledge how much musicians contribute to that work. The Dodge Award has been given to politicians, business people, association leaders, and even the television show “Sesame Street,” but this is the first time it has been presented to artists.

The Northeast Conference recognizes Ms. Fredericks posthumously for her career in France: although she left the U.S. knowing no French, she learned the language and culture through her music. At the time of her death, Ms. Fredericks spoke fluent French and was a headliner act in Europe and Africa. A member of Fredericks Goldman Jones, one of France’s best known music groups, she had infused rhythm and blues as well as soul and gospel into mainstream French music. She was a revered celebrity and a humanitarian in her adopted country. Although she was very open about her cultural roots, most of her fans had no idea that she was an American from Springfield, Massachusetts, and few in her hometown knew what she had accomplished. Fredericks’ album “Springfield” swept the Gospel category of the 2004 JPF music awards.

Carole Denise Fredericks is counted among the few Americans laid to rest in the historic Montmartre Cemetery in Paris where numerous French luminaries such as painter Edgar Degas and cinematographer François Truffaut are also buried. It is quite an honor for a woman whose name is just now being recognized in the United States. But that is changing. With support from the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF), the Fredericks family has been using the diva’s soulful songs to help thousands of American students learn French. Her uniquely inspirational story, coupled with her engaging and meaningful music, are thus honored and recognized by our profession.

A two–time Grammy winner known for cross-cultural musical collaborations, Mr. Mahal has attracted a worldwide listening audience to the blues. His music is characterized by a distinctive blend of French, Caribbean, Latin and African rhythms with country blues. Throughout his career, Mr. Mahal has combined blues music with French and African languages to bring an ever more diverse listening audience to the genre. He was recently named the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Official Blues artist by Governor Mitt Romney at a ceremony in Springfield. Mr. Mahal visited the students of NECTFL Conference Chair Nancy Gadbois on this occasion, and the students performed Carole Fredericks’ songs for him and his siblings.

Although Taj's music has not yet been used as his sister’s has by the foreign language educational community, he has actively sought opportunities to integrate himself into other cultural worlds via music. He has developed a global perspective through travel to Hawaii, the Caribbean, Australia, South American, and West Africa. His experiences with griots there are especially compelling. Proficient on more than twenty musical instruments, he brings American listeners another way of looking at the world with each new musical project he embarks upon.

As Taj states: “My thoughts about music have always been to find out how it functioned in our ancient societies when music was more a part of the life of the communities and groups of people. Music was the way that many stories, past glories or past sorrows were communicated to the next generation. In this country, our music was shared with other groups of people who may not have had a way to express life’s sorrows. You can better understand another person’s lifestyle or how they communicate their trails or tribulations or their joy or excitement about anything – through their music. It is an on-growing and ongoing process.” (interviewed by Phil Aldridge for Blues Matters Magazine).

Taj Mahal credits his mother and father with instilling in him a sense of the role and power of music, as well as an appreciation for the myriad cultures that constitute his heritage. He has played with many other eminent artists and his repertoire includes film and theater scores. Mr. Mahal has served as a consultant to PBS on the musical history of the banjo and was featured in Martin Scorsese’s The Blues. Among his many other honors, he received the “United States Congressional Recognition Award” for a lifetime of contribution to the world’s music.

Carole Fredericks and Taj Mahal receive the Dodge Award together in recognition of their combined lifetime careers as bilingual recording artists, of their creation of multicultural music, and of their promotion of the advantages of knowing other cultures through the study of other languages.

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Congratulations / Félicitations

On Friday, March 31, 2006 Fabrice Jaumont and Cultural Services of the French Embassy hosted a reception to recognize Carole Fredericks and Taj Mahal as recipients of the James W. Dodge Memorial Foreign Language Advocate Award. A message from composer / musician Jean-Jacques Goldman was written in honor of Carole Fredericks specifically for this ocaision. Merci beaucoup to Mme Margot Steinhart for the French reading of Jean-Jacques' message. Merci beaucoup to Mme. Jayne Abrate for the translation and for reading the message in English.

Je suis particulièrement touché par la remise de cette distinction à notre amie Carole.
I am especially touched by this award given to our friend Carole.

Carole est née une première fois aux Etats-Unis, le pays de ses parents, de son enfance, de sa formation, de sa culture musicale.
Carole was born once in the United States, the land of her parents, of her childhood, of her preparation, of her musical culture.

Une seconde fois en France, pays de sa reconnaissance artistique, de ses amours et amis, de ses plaisirs, de son domicile.
She was born a second time in France, the land of her artistic recognition, her loves and friends, of her pleasures, of her home.

Une troisième fois au Sénégal, le pays de ses racines, de son cœur, peut être celui où elle se sentait le mieux, le pays de son départ aussi.
Yet a third time she was born in Senegal, the land of her roots, of her heart, perhaps the place where she felt best, the land of her departure, as well.

Bien que profondément Américaine, Carole était un symbole de ce mixage de cultures qu'elle incarnait de la plus belle des façons : par sa voix, par la musique.
Although Carole was profoundly American, she was symbol of the mix of cultures that she represented in the most beautiful way: by her voice, through the music.

Nous vous remercions pour ce geste qui honore sa mémoire.
Thank you for this gesture which honors her memory.

En France elle est toujours présente, par ses chansons et dans nombre de cœurs. A travers elle c'est aussi l'Amérique que nous aimons.
She lives still in France, through her songs and in many hearts. Through her, it is the America that we love.

Jean-Jacques Goldman

Les Restaurants du Coeur sont très heureux que le talent de Carole soit honoré de ce titre prestigieux. Pour le plus grand bonheur de l'association, Carole s'était si souvent faite l'ambassadrice de leur cause, et son souvenir demeure toujours très vivant parmi nous. Amitiés.

L'équipe des Restos

The Restos du Coeur are very happy that Carole's talent has been honored by this prestigious award. The association was thrilled that Carole was so often an ambassador of its cause, and her memory is still very much alive among us all. With friendship.

The Restos Crew (Team)

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