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2019 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – A Melting Pot of the Finest Music

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The 2019 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival kicked off its 50th year anniversary with a bang. The annual two-weekend fest featured world-renown musicians, tempting food concession stands, a friendly crowd of music fans and a positive vibe that was even warmer than the sun.

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By Dwight Brown, NNPA Newswire Film Critic

The 2019 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival kicked off its 50th year anniversary with a bang. The annual two-weekend fest featured world-renown musicians, tempting food concession stands, a friendly crowd of music fans and a positive vibe that was even warmer than the sun.

Jazz Fest dates back to 1970, when Mahalia Jackson and Duke Ellington graced the stages for famed producer/impresario George Wein. Over the years that spirit has developed into a festival that embraces indigenous music, jazz, blues, soul, funk, Dixieland and Zydeco, rock, pop, country, Latin music, folk and other genres.

As you walk around the Fair Grounds where the fest takes place, on lush lawns or soft sand, you encounter various stages and gigantic white musical tents (jazz, blues, gospel). There’s a wide variety of food booths (ever hear of Alligator Pie?), arts and crafts tents and cultural centers too.

This year, the list of vibrant acts included artists like these:

Ziggy Marley: Legendary singer Bob Marley had 12 children. The most famous is Ziggy Marley, who heads the band Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers. His career has spanned 15 years and his latest album “Rebellion Rises,” which continues his father’s legacy of social awareness, formed the basis of his energetic performance on The Congo Square Stage, which is usually reserved for African Heritage music. Dancing to a reggae beat and swaying in unison with his backup singers, Ziggy’s optimistic vibe lit the crowd up. One of the biggest treats for his sundrenched fans was his classic, “True to Myself.” Bob had a once-in-a-lifetime voice. Ziggy has a verve all his own and he passes on his father’s spirit of peace and love.

Tom Jones: He’s been around since the ‘60s, currently appears on The Voice UK and Tom Jones’ set was on Gentilly Stage, second largest at NOJHF. Stripped down to just a guitar, a bass and drums, Jones’ band captured a strong beat as his baritone voice bellowed through the air. He performed like he was a young rocker in his prime, and not like a 79-year-old man. Screaming “Maybe there ain’t no heaven.  Maybe there ain’t no hell,” the lyrics from his hit song “Burning Hell,” Jones held the audience in the palm of his hand. He was in fine voice, oblivious to the ravages of time and displaying enough British swagger to start a street fight. As his concert continued, with something old and something new, the crowd was amazed that this is the man who rose to fame in 1965 with “What’s New Pussycat.” That’s 55 years ago and counting!

Mavis Staples: As Mavis Staples approaches 80 years of age, she’s turned back the clock by working with younger producers (Ben Harper), exploring music that takes her out of her comfort zone of R&B, Blues, Soul and Gospel, and incorporating those sounds into whatever music she tackles. Innovation came to mind when she launched into The Talking Heads “Slippery People.” Backed by a top-notch band, she infused a funky gospel spirit into her arrangement: “What’s the matter with him? He’s alright. How do you know? The lord won’t mind. Don’t play no games, he’s alright
Love from the bottom to the top.” Emphasizing the syncopation, swirling around on stage, throwing her hands in the air, shuffling her shoulders and occasionally letting out her famous earthy growl, she slayed the crowd. It was a song that the Staple Singers had covered in the mid ‘80s, and Mavis, like she always does, made it her own. The crowd inside the Jazz Tent was so large it spilled outside. They all knew they were watching an icon create a moment that was going to be memorable for years to come. Staples was equally strong with the socially conscious Buffalo Springfield hit “For What It’s Worth.”

Chris Stapleton: Stapleton used to be known for writing hit songs for country music stars like Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney and Blake Shelton. That changed one night in 2015 on a broadcast of the Country Music Awards when he dueted with Justin Timberlake. They sang harmony together on “Tennessee Whiskey,” and Stapleton flaunted a supple, elastic voice that was far more flexible and soulful than that of most country western singers. As he took his place on Acura, the biggest stage at NOJHF, the audience had grown deep into the thousands and the Grammy-winner didn’t disappoint. Catchy songs like “Traveler” and “Broken Halos” played to country music fans. His performance of “Millionaire” was more reminiscent of a southern/soul/rock style, the kind that rock legends like Delaney & Bonnie or Leon Russell coined back in the 70s when they blended genres. With his gravelly voice, Stapleton led the listeners through his stable of songs, ending the night with the aforementioned “Tennessee Whiskey,” a sweet song even Patti LaBelle covers in her concerts.

Gary Clark Jr.: Out on a tour that will last at least until September, Clark did his usual opening song, “Bright Lights.” It’s the perfect song to use to begin a set, as he sings to the audience, “You gonna know my name by the end of the night.” This gifted lead guitarist is often mentioned in the same breath with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Prince. He’s not as enigmatic as the Jimi, as melodious as Eric nor as dynamic on stage as Prince, but he lets his strumming do the talking. A modern, wide-brimmed hat along with his signature red Fender Stratocaster solidifies his brand. Classic songs like “When My Train Pulls In” and “Gotta Get Into Something” pushed the crowd into a fervor.

Rita Coolidge: Known as the first person to sing the song “Superstar,” and later credited for co-writing it, Rita Coolidge stepped on to the stage dressed in a white blouse and pants with white sneakers. Her set list started with the feminist song “Basic Lady:” “Basic lady doesn’t need a diamond ring…”  She sashayed around the stage with great confidence as her country-sounding band played on. Her voice was not as rich and smooth as it has been (the 2005 jazz album “And So Is Love” features her smoothest vocals), but her star power was making up for it. Fans liked her most popular hits the best: “Higher and Higher” and “We’re All Alone.”

Gladys Knight: She’s got more hits than most, a stronger voice than many and her fans know the words to her songs as well as she. So, when Gladys Knight asked the crowd to sing along with her, she got a backup chorus that was in tune and well-rehearsed. Strutting around in a black jumpsuit with a white blouse, Knight commanded her band and crooned. After several residencies in Vegas, this show woman knows exactly how to make an audience happy. With a great sense of urgency, she sang: “I’ve got to use my imagination. To think of good reasons. To keep on keepin’ on (keep on keepin’ on)…” The Pips were missed but ably replaced by a gigantic crowd of well-wishers. “The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” was just one in a string of tunes to come that had the audience remembering how Gladys Knight has been such a unique talent for five decades.

Los Lobos: This rock band from East Los Angeles defies categories. Hints of Tex-Mex, zydeco, R&B, blues and other genres are the sounds that make their music distinctive. Their brand of brown-eyed soul has made them a vibrant presence on the music scene since the 1970s. Different members have come and gone over the years, but their affable vibe has remained the same. The band’s name means “The Wolves,” so when they broke into one of their most famous songs, “Will the Wolf Survive?” the audience was particularly happy. Also, of great interest was their rendition of “La Bamba:” the group’s leader, David Hidalgo, sang it, just like he did for the movie of the same name. Actor Lou Diamond Phillips played the lead character Richie Valens in that film, but when it was time to sing, he was miming to Hidalgo’s savory vocals.

These were but a few of the magical roster that had attracted artists from everywhere, who were performing all kinds of music: Diana Ross, Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band, The Doobie Brothers, Santana, Gregory Porter, Katy Perry, Al Green and Bonnie Raitt were all a part of the festivities along with many others.

The 2019 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was a big gumbo of music that gave NOLA audiences lots to savor.

Visit NNPA Newswire Film Critic Dwight Brown at DwightBrownInk.com and BlackPressUSA.com.

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NNPA – Black Press w/ Hendriks Video Interview

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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