Today is Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia.
You can cry the 1040 blues because the Tax Man cometh on April 18.
The 2017 Jazz Masters are in the history book. With threats to its funding, will the National Endowment for the Arts itself be history? First, a recap of #NEAJazz17.
The celebration kicked off with the NEA Jazz Masters Listening Party at NPR, moderated by Jason Moran. The Jazz Masters and Fitz Gitler (representing his father) were joined in conversation by musicians whose lives they have influenced. They generously – and humorously – shared stories about their musical journey.
On April 3, the NEA held a tribute concert in the Jazz Masters’ honor at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
While joy filled the air, there are some discordant notes. If the NEA is defunded, the Class of 2017 may be the last Jazz Masters. The New York Times reported:
President Trump’s budget proposal last month called for eliminating the endowment entirely — the first time any president has proposed such a step. While some members of Congress in his own Republican Party have opposed the move, it is a reminder of the agency’s vulnerability.
Created in 1965, the endowment provides funding to arts organizations, including jazz projects that are supported with dozens of grants each year. It also sends nearly half of its funding budget to regional arts organizations that disperse funds themselves.
The NEA can’t advocate for its own survival. So, as jazz and film critic Gary Giddins noted, it’s “jazz advocacy of the hip, by the hip and for the hip shall not perish from the Earth.”
Truth is, NEA is about more than jazz.
Founded by the National Museum of American History in 2002, April is Jazz Appreciation Month.
On Monday, April 3, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts will celebrate the 2017 NEA Jazz Masters at an all-star concert featuring music from their careers to tell the story of their lives.
The event will be moderated by Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran, who said in a statement:
This will be another special celebration for people who have been integral to the ever evolving stage of jazz. From the journalist, to the innovator, each of the honorees has demonstrated a timeless devotion to jazz ethics. Each honoree arrives at the music from a different avenue and helps focus the audience’s vision of as the music continues to evolve. Kudos to the NEA for continuing to honor artists who have devoted their livelihoods to contributing to the cultural fabric of America.
The tribute concert will feature conversations with the 2017 NEA Jazz Masters alongside musicians whose lives they have influenced. The performers will include NEA Jazz Masters Paquito D’Rivera and Lee Konitz; National Medal of Arts recipient and Kennedy Center Honoree Jessye Norman; vocalist Dianne Reeves; multi-instrumentalist Booker T. Jones; Sherrie Maricle and the Diva Jazz Orchestra; and Hammond B-3 artist Matthew Whitaker, a 15-year-old protégé of Dr. Lonnie Smith.
The free concert is “sold out.” You can view a live-stream of the event beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET at arts.gov, Kennedy-Center.org and NPR.org/Music. The concert will be broadcast live on SiriusXM Channel 67, Real Jazz.
Two years ago on this day I launched All That Philly Jazz, a public history project that is telling the story of Philadelphia’s rich jazz legacy.
In documenting the places where jazz history unfolded, I also want to contextualize the impact of jazz musicians and the jazz culture. Fact is, the jazz culture was about “intersectionality” before the term was coined. As Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron notes in her column, “Ridge Avenue’s last standing jazz club,” gay performers such as the “Sepia Gloria Swanson” were an integral part of the scene.
In a piece for PlanPhilly, I wrote about why historic preservation matters:
1409 Lombard Street helps tell the story of artistic greats like Lady Day, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Nina Simone and McCoy Tyner. It also tells the story of disruption and defiance. In remarks to the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said jazz is “triumphant music.” If walls could talk, they would tell how the jazz culture broke down social barriers. The first racially integrated nightspot in Center City was a jazz club, the Downbeat. For the first time, blacks and whites mixed on an equal basis. Jazz musicians created a cultural identity that was “a steppingstone” to the Civil Rights Movement.
At its core, historic preservation is about storytelling. The question then becomes: Who decides what gets saved and whose story gets told? The built environment reflects racial inequalities. Given African Americans’ socioeconomic status, few of the buildings associated with black history meet preservation standards regarding architectural significance. Although unadorned, they are places that tell a more complete American story. The stories of faith, resistance, and triumph are relevant to today’s social justice activists.
February is Black History Month. This year’s commemoration is special because we are still celebrating the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
I’ve visited the museum twice; my next visit is later this month. The museum can be overwhelming so I methodically focus on one floor at a time, beginning with the History Galleries.
It is as emotionally wrenching as you would imagine. It is also motivating and inspiring. I thanked the ancestors for surviving the brutality of slavery and maintaining their humanity, their “soul value.” I am empowered by their enduring legacy of struggle and resistance.
Last week, I checked out the Culture Galleries.
It was sheer joy to experience black culture in all its glory – music, fashion, dance, culinary and visual arts, as well as the performing arts.
I ended each visit at Contemplative Court where I sat and, well, contemplated how we got over.
On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees from entering the United States and suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days. The executive order established a 90-day ban on citizens from “countries of particular concern” and created an “extreme vetting” process to “ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.”
On Saturday, protests erupted at airports across the country.
On Sunday, Trump issued a statement clarifying the “extreme vetting” process:
America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave.
We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say. My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror. To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting.
This is not about religion - this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days.
With the exception of Syria, Trump’s executive order does not name any countries. Instead, it incorporates by reference the majority Muslim countries identified in a memo by Barack Obama’s Department of Homeland Security as “countries of concern” – Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
DHS is tasked with implementing the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act. Congresspersons who voted for the Act flocked to airports to denounce Trump’s “Muslim ban.” Congressman Bob Brady and Sen. Bob Casey joined the thousands of protesters at Philadelphia airport. Casey was still clad in his white tie tuxedo for the Academy of Music’s annual ball.
Brady and Casey failed to mention they voted for the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act which was included in the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act.
It should be noted that Philadelphia’s population is 44 percent African American. The city is home to an estimated 200,000 Muslims of whom 85 percent are black. Yet few African Americans participated in the #PHLairport protests.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued to block implementation of the executive order. U.S. District Court Judge Ann M. Donnelly from the Eastern District of New York, an Obama appointee, blocked part of the order. Donnelly ruled that refugees and foreign nationals who were legally on their way to the U.S. before the executive order was issued must be allowed entry. The ruling covers airport detainees and those already in transit, 100 to 200 foreign nationals. The executive order was not struck down.
In a statement, DHS said it would comply with the court orders:
Upon issuance of the court orders yesterday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immediately began taking steps to comply with the orders. Concurrently, the Department of Homeland Security continues to work with our partners in the Departments of Justice and State to implement President Trump’s executive order on protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.
We are committed to ensuring that all individuals affected by the executive orders, including those affected by the court orders, are being provided all rights afforded under the law. We are also working closely with airline partners to prevent travelers who would not be granted entry under the executive orders from boarding international flights to the U.S. Therefore, we do not anticipate that further individuals traveling by air to the United States will be affected.
Now get this: The ACLU represents illegal immigrants who ignore our borders, immigration laws and judicial deportation orders. They now complain CBP agents are ignoring the court orders.
One week into the Age of Trump, up is down and down is up.