Victory

Rename Kenton Hall at UNT

This petition made change with 2,354 supporters!


CW: mentions of graphic sexual assault

Stan Kenton had a long past of bigotry, alleged incestuous rape, abuse, and pedophilia. Let's change the name of this hall to honor someone who doesn't have a racist and predatory past. We are proposing to name the hall after an important and respectable Black jazz musician. After all, jazz is an art form created by African Americans, and the number of influential Black jazz musicians is seemingly never-ending. Let's make the University of North Texas' jazz program a safer place for everyone to learn. 

The main jazz performance hall and classroom at the University of North Texas is still currently named Kenton Hall, even though many people within the university are aware of his dark past.

Racist remarks made by Kenton have recently resurfaced from an old publication:
"The harmonic structure of Negro jazz was not enough to satisfy Europeans. Their ears are accustomed to more complex harmony and melody." He then continues to say that his band has "played music more advanced in harmonic and melodic content than Duke (Ellington’s)," as if that matters or makes one's music better.

THIS PERSON SHOULD NOT HAVE A PERFORMANCE HALL NAMED AFTER HIM!!!!

Kenton also allegedly had a long abusive relationship with his daughter, in which he would repeatedly rape his under-aged daughter. His daughter Leslie Kenton, who passed away in 2016, wrote detailed accounts of their relationship in her 2010 memoir entitled "Love Affair: The Memoir of a Forbidden Father-Daughter Relationship." According to her memoir, this sexual relationship began when she was just 11 years old and continued for three years.

Here is an excerpt from Leslie Kenton's memoir:

“I don’t know if I ever went to sleep or not. The next thing I knew his massive body was on top of mine. In a rough voice he started to repeat my name: ‘Leslie. Leslie. Oh, Leslie.’ His hands stroked my body in ways that frightened me. It felt like he was trying to take me into a strange universe—a place where I didn’t know the rules. What was he doing? What did he want? What did he expect of me? I reassured myself that it must be OK. After all, he was my father. He was my pal . . . . Then came the pain. . . . Out of here. I’m out of here. From the ceiling I look down at the bed, at the bodies of the two people beneath me, twisted on each other.”

THIS PERSON SHOULD NOT HAVE A PERFORMANCE HALL NAMED AFTER HIM!!!!

I am an alumni of the UNT jazz program (2014-2018). I first remember hearing about Kenton's abusive past in 2014, when my Jazz Records professor nonchalantly brought up the fact that Kenton had repeatedly abused his daughter. This professor basically made light of this, saying "well I guess that happened haha oh well," and continued on to sing praises about Kenton's music, as we sat in Kenton Hall. This was the kind of interaction that made me feel uneasy, unheard, and at times, unsafe, at UNT.


No official public statement was ever made about Kenton's past by any faculty, and I never understood why Kenton's bigoted and abusive past was never formally brought up. The department head of the jazz program at the time was aware of this and had the name change on his long list of things to do within the program. He would refer to the hall as Room 282 rather than Kenton Hall, for obvious reasons. His efforts existed but no public statements were ever made about this issue, and no real change has since come to fruition.

I emailed the current jazz department head at UNT about this and he responded, stating his concern. He said that there is a meeting with the Deans being held in the week of June 18th 2020  to "discuss these issues." It is clear that he is concerned about this issue and wants the hall to be renamed, but also explained that "renaming an honorific room is not at the hands of the Division. It is significantly higher up in the administration."  

In signing this petition, we will be showing the higher-ups in the University of North Texas administration how important this issue is. By having a classroom/performance hall named after a bigot and alleged abuser, we are essentially supporting this type of behavior. We are proposing that this hall name is changed to honor a respectable Black jazz musician.

The dispassionate responses to this issue and continued respect of an abuser like Stan Kenton from the UNT faculty is one of the reasons that I and others have subconsciously decided to distance ourselves from their alma mater since graduating (and in some ways, jazz altogether). And I don't like that. I want an alma mater that we can be proud of! I want an alma mater where people of all races, genders, religions, and sexual orientations can feel safe to learn and improve upon their craft. By signing this petition, you are helping us come closer to making this safer and more open learning environment a reality.

 



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