William (Bill) Ronald Meyer is a Michigan musician and activist.
Married to Twyla Meyer.
Communist Party reformer
In 1991, Bill Meyer, Michigan was one of several hundred Communist Party USA members to sign the a paper "An initiative to Unite and Renew the Party"-most signatories left the Party after the December 1991 conference to found Committees of Correspondence.
Memorial to Coleman Young
Signatories to the memorial included Bill Meyer.
Bill Meyer is a musician, writer and producer of progressive multimedia events. He travels worldwide performing jazz with several groups. A longtime political activist and aficionado of progressive cinema, Meyer usually writes on the culture pages of the People's World and other journals, and primarily reports on film festivals.
The thing Meyer is probably most known for right now is for being the pianist in the 17-years-running Thursday night jazz jam session at Bert’s Marketplace in Eastern Market. He’s the B in the RGB Trio, along with bassist Ralphe Armstrong and drummer Gayelynn McKinney. It’s the preeminent jazz jam session in town, and it attracts nationally known musicians who are passing through, and, as Meyer says, “Most every artist in Detroit has passed through there.”
Vocalist Dede McNeil started the session in 2001 but let it go after one year. Meyer has been the main cog holding it together since then. It’s a mantle he’s loathe to accept.
“We built it as a community project,” Meyer says of the jam session. “The audience is involved as much as the people on the stage. This is a cultural base for the community and I’m just honored to be a part of it.”
Being part of the community is key to pretty much everything Meyer does. He’s a cultural community activist. His home is in Hamtramck and he’s built strong community ties in his 19 years there. Meyer was a founding member of OneHamtramck, an independent progressive organization dedicated to bringing communities together. Hamtramck, a city known as an immigrant destination, seems the right place for bringing diverse communities together.
OneHamtramck has sponsored three major cultural projects since its beginning in 2007. The first project is “Home Suite: Coming to Hamtramck,” a multimedia film-music-dance project about immigrants who came to Hamtramck and their experience of leaping cultures. Meyer’s compositions are featured in the presentation. “Welcome” is written and sung by Jon Fromer.
The second big OneHamtramck cultural project is the 80-feet by 30-feet mural, “Middle East: Coming to Hamtramck,” which is rooted in Hamtramck’s Yemeni community. It graces the side of Sheeba Restaurant and was created by Dasic Fernandez. The mural features three images of Yemeni Americans – a young girl with a veiled face, a woman wearing a hijab, and an older woman whose eyes reveal deep thoughts. It’s on the side of the building where the Sheeba Restaurant is located.
The newest project is a mural dedicated to the city’s Bangladeshi community. Muralist Marka27 will be painting from June 11-16 on the east wall of Bridge Academy West on the border of Hamtramck and Detroit. A dedication celebration is scheduled there on June 17.
Most of the $50,000 cost of the mural was raised from private donors, a source of pride to Meyer. OneHamtramck is an LLC organized somewhat as a nonprofit would be run. He is quick to point out that OneHamtramck is “non-governmental, no politicians or elected officials. It’s a community-based organization.”
Meyer has opinions when it comes to politics and politicians. “‘Progressive’ is not a strong enough word,” he says. “I define myself as more of a revolutionary, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist. I’m supportive of anybody that wants to bring about a fair and just system.”
Well, that’s a strong opinion. Wonder if he learned that from a book or a video. At the very least Meyer is a do-it-yourself activist. For instance, he and his wife Twyla Meyer have run a film series out of their home for more than 50 years — just because they like to do it.
“It’s always been to experience the filmmaking artistry, to learn about film as an art,” Meyer says. “Although the last 20 years, it’s focused more on progressive cinema, films of progressive social content. It’s a love of art and politics together, progressive politics. I’ve always been a film lover. I used to show films to my friends in the basement when I was a kid with my 8-millimeter projector.”
Although the film screenings have mostly been in the living room, Meyer reaches into the larger film world, attending film festivals in Toronto and Tribeca, and Michael Moore’s festival in Traverse City. He’s written film reviews for People’s World and the Hollywood Progressive magazines.
It’s not just film drama that enthralls Meyer. He’s taken it to the live stage too. Several years back he presented the Real Ambassadors, a jazz musical by Dave Brubeck and Iola Brubeck, at the Detroit International Jazz Festival. Meyer has been music director for several stage productions. One example is The Forgotten Man’s Radio Hour, a musical tour through the turbulent labor politics of the 1930s. And just to prick your memory, he was also music director for Forgotten: The Murder at the Ford Rouge Plant, a jazz opera written by Steve Jones.
Meyer’s jazz band will be playing at Schoolcraft College’s Michigan Jazz Festival in July. And he’s played with numerous noted jazz artists — Cab Calloway, Natalie Cole — and he even toured with trumpeter Marcus Belgrave for several years. But Meyer doesn’t want to be called a jazz musician, and chafes at any notion that would fence in his possibilities.
“I don’t like to have limits,” says Meyer, who was music director at Wayne State University’s school of dance for 30 years. “I’m a musician; there ain’t a style of music I wouldn’t want to play. … That’s what most of my activism is, learning about each other and learning about each other’s cultures.”
2013 11th Annual Douglass-Debs Dinner
Over 180 people attended the thirteenth annual Frederick Douglass-Eugene V. Debs Dinner at UAW Local 600 in Dearborn on November 10th. Honorees were Steve Babson/People Before Banks Coalition and Marjorie Mitchell, the Executive Director of the Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network.
The dinner co-chairs were Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO President Chris Michalakis and Tony Trupiano, host of “First Shift,” the morning talk show on WDTW. The Bill Meyer Group provided the entertainment.
- Addendum to Initiative document Nov. 13 1991
- [https://www.metrotimes.com/detroit/bill-meyers-key-to-life/Content?oid=12295267&utm_source=widget&utm_medium=toc&utm_campaign=rightrail&utm_content=HomeThisWeek Detroit Metro Times, Bill Meyer’s key to life By Larry Gabriel May 2018]
- GDDSA newsletter, January 2013 Volume 14, Issue 1, John Nichols Delights the Audience at Thirteenth Annual Douglass-Debs Dinner, By David Green]