Celebrating ‘Ma’ Rainey: “I see people from all races... this looks like Columbus.”

Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 6:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Some exciting news: It’s Columbus native and former blues singer Ma Rainey’s Birthday! Known as the “Mother of the Blues,” Rainey lived an eccentric life in the late 1800′s and 1900′s... and it all started right here in Columbus.

Wednesday, city leaders came together to honor her legacy and make an announcement about a recent Grammy award presented in her honor.

“She kisses me, and she holds me tight, and tells me baby everything’s alright. That’s how I know.” Those are lyrics from one of Rainey’s songs.

Her great, great nephew, Rodney Nix was in attendance.

“I got up this morning, was going to put on a suit and tie... then I thought about who I was honoring... so I put her picture on,” Nix said.

Worldwide icon Gertrude “Ma” Rainey was born in 1886. At one time, Rainey lived in a home on Fifth Avenue in the Fountain City. It’s now preserved as a landmark museum for the early-twentieth-century blues singer, and also a place people travel far and wide to see.

Now, a special place inside of her home holds the Grammy that was presented to her family this year. Nix handed it over.

“It hadn’t really dawned on me that I was giving it away, but having done so, it’s in the best place for it,” Nix told us.

The celebration brought people together from all walks of life.

“I see people from all races and all of us here... this looks like Columbus, Georgia,” Columbus City Manager Isaiah Hugley said. “This audience looks just like Columbus, and I am proud of it.”

But the Birthday celebration for Ma Rainey is just getting started in the Fountain City. An event that was scheduled this upcoming Saturday night at the Liberty Theatre from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. has been postponed.

Also, a festival is in the works for May of next year. Chief Music Officer for the Music and Entertainment Council, Arreasha Z. Lawrence, is working with Columbus city council for Ma Fest.

“We have relationships that have been built not just here, but statewide, nationwide, globally,” Lawrence explained. “We want our youth, young people, anyone in arts to have access. Access is everything.”

“It’s been interesting to experience Ma Rainey in Europe when I was in the service, and virtually no one here knew who she was,” Nix concluded. “To see that transition has been an amazing process.”

We will keep you updated on Ma Fest slated to happen in May of 2024 both on air and online.