From women’s suffrage to the civil rights movement to the Cold War and beyond, jazz was often right there on the front line in the fight for human rights — and to this day, artists are still carrying on that tradition.

Canadian journalist and radio producer Tom Jokinen took an in-depth look at the role of jazz in those struggles in the award-winning JAZZ.FM91 documentary series The Journey to Jazz and Human Rights. It’s a look at how the music — and the men and women who made the music — laid claim to human rights around the world.

It’s narrated by Toronto actor and singer Alana Bridgewater, who guides listeners through four episodes, each with its own focus: jazz’s role in the fight for civil rights, in economic rights and in women’s rights, and the music’s deployment around the world as a cultural weapon.

Funding for The Journey to Jazz and Human Rights series was provided by Maytree, which is committed to advancing systemic solutions to poverty and strengthening civic communities by taking a human rights approach.

Jokinen travelled throughout the U.S. to speak with artists like Sonny Rollins and Darius Brubeck, along with a number of jazz historians, to distill decades of history and music into this illuminating documentary.

Jokinen spoke to JAZZ.FM91 about how the project came together, what listeners can learn from it — and why it’s so important to acknowledge the struggles of the past as the root causes persist to this day.