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Jazz Fest started stormy but then nothin’ but blue skies prevailed

LOUISIANA WEEKLY — With some calculated planning matched by flexibility, Fest fans really could do well musically despite sudden cloud bursts that warranted taking shelter by most, but not all, folks. Crazy young and old music maniacs just stood out there in their boots and rain ponchos seemingly rejoicing in the experience. Been there, done that.

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By Geraldine Wyckoff

It’s impossible to ignore/forget how the first day, Thursday, April 25, of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage’s 50th anniversary began. It rained torrentially, enough so that the opening of the festival’s gates was delayed for an hour and a half. That the festival organizers were able to get it all going again so fast was both remarkable and appreciated by attendees. Of course, Jazz Fest and many regular festival-goers have much experience with downpours and the resulting muddy conditions. Let the show go on!

With some calculated planning matched by flexibility, Fest fans really could do well musically despite sudden cloud bursts that warranted taking shelter by most, but not all, folks. Crazy young and old music maniacs just stood out there in their boots and rain ponchos seemingly rejoicing in the experience. Been there, done that.

The joyful voices of Arthur and the Friends Community Choir simply drowned out the sound of the rain pounding on the roof of the Gospel Tent. A powerful ensemble of some 40-plus members, it was driven by a great band of young musicians with the drummer really hitting on all cylinders. The ever in motion, Rosalie “The Tambourine Lady” Washington, added the ring of the tambourine to the percussive element of the set that included some screamin’ solo vocalists.

Even the Gospel Tent staff was dancing on Sunday when octogenarian Andrew Jackson Sr., the leader of the Legendary Rocks of Harmony, stood at the edge of the stage and with the strength of a much younger man belted out, “I’m Still Here.” His son, Andrew Jr., joined him and soon thereafter took off his deep green jacket and got down on the floor with his microphone. All the veterans in this group, which has been together for 60 years, got into the action and spirit. The fine guitarist offered a wonderful rendition of “Amazing Grace” and even the keyboardist jumped up to dance. “Do we look good?” Jackson asked the crowd. Wow, yes they looked as good as they sounded with their green suits and vests set off by their yellow shirts.

 

The Cultural Exchange Pavilion, the dancing-est spot at the Fest, was a great place to be, rain or shine. It must have been around 4 p.m. Thursday, just after drummer Gerald French & the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band’s exhilarating set in Economy Hall that blue skies appeared in the west. It was the perfect time to celebrate by jumping on Martinique’s Chouval Bwa’s fanciful carousel, located next to the Pavilion, while the band, complete with percussion instruments, an accordionist and vocalists, plays in its center. The music so beautifully accompanies the ride on the hand-carved and man-powered carousel that looks innocent enough until it really gets going. In this case, New Orleans’ term for a merry-go-round, flying-horses, suits the ride well. Whee…

New Orleans headliners took over the Jazz Tent on Friday including established groups such as trumpeter Terence Blanchard & the E-Collective and the all-star band, Astral Project. Lovers of those deep, low tones certainly dug on the group baritone saxophonist Roger Lewis (Dirty Dozen, Treme Brass Band) put together for his appropriately titled “Baritone Bliss,” that included Lewis, Tony Dagradi, Calvin Johnson, Khari Allen Lee and more on bari plus a bass saxophonist who really held down the bottom. Dedicated to the late saxophonist Tim Green, who once played with this unit, the Bliss’ selections offered an appealing variety of genre’s from Dagradi’s “Mandela” to old-school rhythm and blues.

Saxophonist Kidd Jordan, who performed with his four musical offspring on Saturday, sat in the front row of the Jazz Tent listening to pianist Ellis Marsalis and his hugely talented four sons close out the modern jazz fest mecca on Sunday. The set was dedicated to wife and mother Delores Marsalis, who passed away in 2017. Like the Rocks of Harmony’s lead vocalist, Andrew Jackson Sr. mentioned above, the Marsalis patriarch doesn’t lay back but continues to push the music forward with his improvisations. The show was one of great jazz ability and of the musicians’ visible admiration of each other’s intuitive and educated prowess.

The Marsalis Brothers: Brandford, Wynton and Delfeayo (Photo by:

Sunday began with a one-two punch of the blues starting with the Mississippi hill country dynamo singer, drummer and guitarist Cedric Burnside, the grandson of the late, legendary R.L. Burnside. Playing in a duo and switching from guitar to drums, Burnside happily attacked the snare and tom, putting his whole body into the song “Don’t Leave Me Girl.” Burnside’s stripped-down blues style stood in contrast to that of his fellow Mississippi native, guitarist/vocalist Mr. Sipp “The Mississippi Blues Child,” who played fronting a full band with horns in the Blues Tent the previous day. Nonetheless, that the two acts shared a common ancestry was evident. By the way, Mr. Sipp demanded that everyone in the crowd get on their feet, which is just what they always want to do in the often overly restricted Blues Tent.

The commonality shared by Burnside and Mr. Sipp also, unexpectedly, prevailed when Mdou Moctar, a resident of Niger, Africa, who as a guitarist, songwriter and vocalist specializes in electrifying and modernizing the music of the Saharan Tuareg people, performed directly after Burnside. Highly influenced by guitarist Jimi Hendrix with deep roots in the tradition of his people, Moctar demonstrated the full circle of the African diaspora. The music and rhythms were, through those enslaved, brought from the continent to points west including the Southern United States and remain a strong element in the blues. Moctar embraced the influences of Black American artists thus he returned their music to its homeland. Burnside’s drumming and the forceful style of Moctar’s drummer spoke of their rhythmic roots. Music is one world.

This article originally appeared in the Louisiana Weekly

Black History

At the 93rd Academy Awards, Blacks and Asian Take Home Top Honors

According to USA Today, nine of the 20 acting nominees were people of color as compared to #OscarsSoWhite in 2015 and 2016 when all of the nominated actors were white.

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     The 93rd annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Awards kicked off Sunday night at Union Station in Los Angeles with Regina King sashaying in to present the first awards, which were for screenplays.

     She first addressed the elephant in the universe: “I know many of you want to reach for your remote when you feel Hollywood is preaching to you but as the mother of a Black son who fears for his safety, no fame or fortune changes that.

      People have been “vaxxed,” tested, retested, socially distanced, and we are following all of the rigorous protocols that got us back to work safely.  So just like on a movie set, when we are rolling, masks off.”

     Daniel Kaluuya won supporting actor for his role as Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah” and in his acceptance speech said to Hampton who was killed in 1969:   “[t]hank you for your light . . . .  Thank you so much for showing me myself.”

    Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson were the first Black women to win an Oscar for make-up and hairstyling for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”  The film also won an Oscar for best costume design.

    The awards were presented by Don Cheadle and Neal acknowledged her grandfather, a Tuskegee airman.

     In her acceptance speech, Neal said “I can picture Black, trans women standing up for [Ma Rainey], and Asian sisters and our Latina sisters and Indigenous women, and I know that one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking.  It will be normal.”

      According to USA Today, nine of the 20 acting nominees were people of color as compared to #OscarsSoWhite in 2015 and 2016 when all of the nominated actors were white.

    “Soul” won for a best-animated feature and best original score and advisor Dr. Johnetta Cole was given a shout-out.  It was Pixar’s first film to feature a Black character in the lead, voiced by Jamie Foxx.

    Tyler Perry and The Perry Foundation have presented the humanitarian award and Perry encouraged all to “stand in the middle and refuse hate.”

     Oakland’s own Zendaya presented awards and Vallejo’s own H.E.R. garnered an Oscar for the original song, “Fight For You,” which was in “Judas and the Black Messiah.”   H.E.R. is now halfway to an EGOT, having received an Oscar and a Grammy, a Tony award for theater, and an Emmy for television..

     The “In Memoriam” tribute introduced by Angela Bassett and underscored by Stevie Wonder’s, “Always,” included Cicely Tyson, Yaphet Kotto, Paula Kelly, Earl Cameron, Brenda Banks, Jonas Gwangwa, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Charles Gregory Ross, Ja’net Dubois, DMX and Chadwick Boseman.

One notable miss from the tribute was Naya Rivera.

A non-award highlight was when Lil Rel Howery and Quest Love, whose movie “Summer of Soul” comes out July 2, got Glenn Close to do “Da Butt”.

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Arts and Culture

APPLICATIONS FOR SAN FRANCISCO’S $3 MILLION MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT VENUE FUND TO OPEN APRIL 21

The Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund will offer grants of at least $10,000 to every eligible entertainment venue in San Francisco, which have been struggling to remain in business as a result of COVID-19

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San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today announced the City’s Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund will begin accepting applications for grants on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. The fund was established to provide financial support to San Francisco-based live music and entertainment venues in order to prevent their permanent closure due to the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Venue Fund advances the Economic Recovery Task Force’s recommendations to support the arts, culture, hospitality, and entertainment sector. The fund is also aligned with San Francisco’s other efforts to support entertainment venues, including Mayor Breed’s $2.5 million in fee and tax relief for entertainment venues and the proposals to support arts and culture in the Mayor’s Small Business Recovery Act legislation.
“These music and entertainment venues are part of what makes San Francisco such a special place to live and visit,” said Mayor Breed. “This past year has been devastating for the entertainment sector, and these local funds will help these businesses hang on until they can start operating again.”
In March 2021, Mayor Breed and Supervisor Matt Haney agreed to allocate $3 million to the fund as part of $24.8 million for small business loans and grants in the current year surplus spending plan. The first round of grants will expend all $3 million in equal amounts to every venue eligible to receive funding. Grants will be at least $10,000 for each venue, although that amount will vary based on how many venues qualify for the program.
“Our independent music and nightlife venues have been hit hard over the last year, and desperately need the support that this fund will provide,” said Supervisor Matt Haney. “Nightlife and entertainment are cornerstones of our city’s economy and culture. As we reopen and recover, we need our city’s venues to not only survive, but to be even stronger.”
The fund is administered by San Francisco’s Office of Small Business, and was developed in consultation with stakeholders from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the Entertainment Commission, the Small Business Commission, the San Francisco Venue Coalition, and the Independent Venue Alliance.
The fund is also available to receive donations from the public. Any private donations received before the first round of grants is issued will be distributed as part of that round. If additional money is added to the fund by the City or through donations after the first round of grants is issued, that money will be awarded in subsequent rounds of grants. Members of the public interested in donating may find out more information at sfosb.org/venuefund
“San Francisco’s storied live music venues bring more than just economic activity to our City; they are the beating heart of our shared culture, diversity, and sense of identity,” said Ben Bleiman, President of the San Francisco Entertainment Commission. “But due to the pandemic, many of them are teetering on the edge of permanent closure. We applaud Mayor Breed, Supervisor Haney, and our San Francisco leaders for swift, decisive action to establish the Music & Entertainment Venue Fund. These grants will play a crucial role in saving our live music venues before it’s too late.”
“Live music venues have not been able to be open for even a single day, at any capacity, for over a year. They have been among the hardest hit businesses in San Francisco, and as a result are hanging on by a thread,” said Sharky Laguana, President of the San Francisco Small Business Commission. “Many have been forced to permanently close. Music is a central part of San Francisco’s identity and history, and speaking as a musician, I don’t want to even think about our City without our beloved venues. This aid will make a big difference, and help keep music alive in San Francisco. Thank you Mayor Breed and Supervisor Haney for creating the Music & Entertainment Venue Fund.”
Applications open on April 21 and the deadline is May 5, 2021. Venues eligible to receive funding must have held a Place of Entertainment permit from the Entertainment Commission prior to the start of the pandemic and must be able to demonstrate a track record of substantial live entertainment programming, among other eligibility criteria.
Venues interested in applying and members of the public interested in donating to the fund can learn more at sfosb.org/venuefund
 

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Activism

Civil Rights Before the Loving Decision

Loving v. Virginia was a landmark civil rights case in 1967 that recognized marriage as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

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Not so recently in the United States, same sex marriages were illegal. In the last century, there were laws on the books that prohibited folks from different races marrying.  

Loving v. Virginia was a landmark civil rights case in 1967 that recognized marriage as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

In 1958, Mildred Loving, a Black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were convicted and sentenced to a year in prison for violating the state of Virginia’s laws prohibiting their marriage.

That conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1968, ending discrimination in marriage based on race.

The Loving decision was a catalyst in 2015 to help abolish discrimination in marriage in same-sex marriages, which allowed for equality in the LGBTQ communities of all races including this author.

Before the Loving decision, Joan Steinau, a white woman, married Julius Lester, who at the time was a singer and a photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  Julius later became a writer.  

Joan and Julius were divorced in 1970.

Next month, Joan’s memoir, “Loving before Loving:  A Marriage in Black and White,” will be released. In the book, she recounts her marriage to Julius Lester before the Loving decision in the midst of the civil rights era as a wife, mother, and activist. 

In an interview with the Post, she said,   “Given both the erasure and distortion of Black lives as presented in the white-led media, the existence of a robust Black press . . .has been essential to the survival and thriving of Black community.”

Quoting the Chicago Daily Defender in her memoir, she said, “When one of its reporters asked President Truman, after he said school integration might lead to intermarriage, ‘Would you want your daughter to marry a Black man if she loved him?’ The president responded with a typical segregationist attitude of the time, ‘She won’t love anybody that’s not her color.’   It was important for the Black reporter to be there, because of course he assumed the possibility that naturally she could love anyone and pointed that out with his question.”

She added,  “That’s just one example of a long history of significant advocacy and reportage by hundreds of Black newspapers over the last 150 years. The Post News Group has jumped into the gap regionally to fill this important space, and I’m grateful for it. Until we have true representation of all experiences/perspectives at major media outlets, we will continue to need media targeted to excluded groups.

“My own history with Oakland/Berkeley dates to the 1980s when I began to visit from the East Coast and plot a way to move here. In 1991, my wife and I did settle in Berkeley. We immediately joined a predominantly Black church in Oakland and began creating a friendship circle. The diverse culture here was high on our list of reasons to move from our predominantly white area in New England. And it has been everything we hoped for.”

Joan Lester dedicates this memoir to her wife, Carole.  In addition to this memoir, she is a commentator, columnist and book author.

“Loving before Loving A Marriage in Black and White” by Joan Steinau Lester is available for pre-order now and on sale on May 18 on Amazon and at local bookstores.

For more information log onto JoanLester.com.

Wikipedia was a source for this story.

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