I wanted to learn more about the under-told story of the man who wrote:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
It was not self-evident to Thomas Jefferson that his 600 slaves, among whom was his baby-mama, Sally Hemings, were similarly endowed by the Creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The multi-media exhibition tells the stories of six slave families who lived and worked at Monticello—the Fossett, Gillette, Granger, Hemings, Hern and Hubbard families—and their descendants.
Can’t make it to Philly? No problem. Michael Hill's Blues Mob's also tells the story behind the third president of the United States.
On Saturday, I went on a tour of the historic Uptown Theater. Opened on Feb. 16, 1929, the Uptown began life as a movie house. In the 1950s, it became a jazz venue. The jazz greats who graced the Uptown stage included Count Basie, Sarah Vaughn, Gloria Lynne, Cannonball Adderly, Nancy Wilson, Ramsey Lewis, Oscar Brown, Jr., Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and Jimmy Smith.
According to the docent, John Coltrane and Miles Davis played there one Christmas Day, but after the first show, they left for New York City because the promoter didn’t pay them.
In 1958, legendary disc jockey Georgie Woods began producing rhythm & blues shows at the Uptown. The 2,040-seat theater became a stop on the “chitlin’ circuit.”
The Uptown was where jazz met R&B. Saxophonist Sam Reed was the house bandleader. The Sam Reed Orchestra included Bootsie Barnes, Jimmy Heath and Odean Pope.
The Uptown’s heyday was the 1960s and ‘70s. Since the final curtain in 1978, the interior of the Uptown has deteriorated almost beyond recognition. With the exception of the seats, none of the original artifacts remain.
Linda Richardson, president of the Uptown Entertainment & Development Corporation (UEDC), hopes to bring back the good times. In 2001, UEDC purchased the theater with the goal of renovating the theater into a technology center, artist lofts and office space.”
Philadelphia’s traditional public schools are in a death spiral. While public school children are warehoused in schools with no nurses or guidance counselors, school leaders and City Council are throwing shade on each other over who’s to blame for the financial crisis.
At a news conference, Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite Jr. threw down the gauntlet:
Let’s stop acting like these are other people’s children. They are our children. Today we’re asking City Council to save the children of Philadelphia from significant budget cuts.
City Council President Darrell Clarke posted his response on Facebook:
For the fourth consecutive year, City Council has voted to increase funding for the School District of Philadelphia. But instead of talking about how best to utilize new revenues to improve education outcomes, the District is dealing with a current-year budget deficit of its own making. Last fall, City Council authorized an additional $50 million at the request of Superintendent Hite. The School District then proceeded to leave that $50 million on the table.
Considering City Council is the only funding authority that has consistently increased revenues for the state-controlled School District of Philadelphia over the last four years, this disrespect toward City taxpayers is disturbing and unfair. While other large cities are enhancing services and infrastructure following the Great Recession, the City of Philadelphia remains in perpetual recession thanks to the School District’s ongoing fiscal challenges. Instead of improving core City functions like public safety, we are looking for more ways to squeeze money from our residents to send to a School District that feels it is not accountable to us.
At a June 12th meeting with the School District of Philadelphia, WPDC was suddenly informed that the sales process has been accelerated “only” in the case of William Penn High School stating “political pressure” by City Council as the reason behind the accelerated process. WPDC aims to communicate to the public the unacceptable shift in process as well as the community’s protest of the William Penn High School being developed without community participation or consideration to the future of our beloved neighborhood, history or future.
Clarke has refused to meet with WPDC, which is comprised of Yorktown homeowners and other stakeholders who would be directly impacted by the development of the William Penn campus. Yorktown is in Clarke’s district. They are his constituents.
In this pay to play city, elected officials are playing their constituents for fools. As blues legend Bobby “Blue” Bland would say, I “pity the fool” who thinks they will not be held accountable when they come seeking votes in 2015 and beyond.
Folks, Republicans can’t help it. As former Texas governor Ann Richards said about George Bush (the first), “Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”
In its latest iteration of African American “outreach,” the GOP is celebrating Black Music Month.
What Republicans don’t get is that the policies that opened the door to opportunities are the same policies that they now oppose. The policies include affirmative action, minority business set-asides (and here) and equitable funding of traditional public schools.
James Brown recorded “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing” in 1969. Forty-five years later, the GOP has closed the door to opportunity.
It’s no secret that I love music. So I celebrate black music every month. However, the official designation of June as Black Music Month came about through the efforts of Grammy award-winning songwriter and producer -- and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee -- Kenny Gamble.
In a 2013 interview, Mr. Gamble told The Root about the catalyst for the celebration:
The Black Music Association was a trade association at the time, and it was an educational forum for young producers and writers -- African Americans in particular -- where they could discuss the benefits of the music industry. History says that most African Americans in the industry were robbed of their songs and their property. The Black Music Association spoke to the marketing of black music. The whole theme was “Black Music Is Green,” and it dealt with the economics of African-American music. It was very helpful not only to us but also the industry at large.
Then the Black Music Association created Black Music Month, which was another original, because October was Country Music Month. What happens when you have a music month? You get additional marketing dollars, and it helps to market and promote the artists.
There was a guy named Clarence Avant who was pretty close to Democratic politicians like [President Jimmy] Carter. The administration had a country music night at the White House, so I called and asked, “Hey, Clarence, can you get us a black music night at the White House?” Thank God he was successful, and it was a beautiful night on the White House lawn.
Chuck Berry was there, so he did “Lucille,” playing his guitar. Little Richard was there, and Evelyn “Champagne” King was a young artist then, so she sang her first or second record. Billy Eckstine, who’s a legend, he sang, too. The whole atmosphere of the evening reflected an idea whose time had come, and it was good to see the whole music industry there and celebrating this original American music. When you talk about jazz, the blues and rhythm and blues, this is what America produced, and it has influenced many other types of music.
Our country is home to a proud legacy of African-American musicians whose songs transcend genre. They make us move, make us think, and make us feel the full range of emotion -- from the pain of isolation to the power of human connection. During African-American Music Appreciation Month, we celebrate artists whose works both tell and shape our Nation’s story.
For centuries, African-American music has lifted the voices of those whose poetry is born from struggle. As generations of slaves toiled in the most brutal of conditions, they joined their voices in faithful chords that both captured the depths of their sorrow and wove visions of a brighter day. At a time when dance floors were divided, rhythm and blues and rock and roll helped bring us together. And as activists marched for their civil rights, they faced hatred with song. Theirs was a movement with a soundtrack -- spirituals that fed their souls and protest songs that sharpened their desire to right the great wrongs of their time.
The influence of African-American artists resounds each day through symphony halls, church sanctuaries, music studios, and vast arenas. It fills us with inspiration and calls us to action. This month, as we honor the history of African-American music, let it continue to give us hope and carry us forward -- as one people and one Nation.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2014 as African-American Music Appreciation Month. I call upon public officials, educators, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate activities and programs that raise awareness and foster appreciation of music that is composed, arranged, or performed by African Americans.
For more information on the origins of Black Music Month, check out Dyana Williams.
Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time – a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves. In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.
Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, “flung up to heaven” – and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring.
Dr. Angelou’s legacy and light will live on in the men and women who were inspired, motivated and comforted by her words – and voice.