Monument Lab asks: What is an appropriate monument for the current City of Philadelphia?
The City of Brotherly Love is currently experiencing a development boom. But the hot real estate market is cold comfort for those living in poverty. Fact is, Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the U.S.
At the preview event, Monument Lab Co-Curator Ken Lum observed that there are “two emerging narratives.” A boom city with new construction and new possibilities that is facing “profound challenges and crises… How will we remember this time?”
I will remember this time as the presence of absence. Developers are erasing African Americans’ presence in the city’s cultural, political and civic life.
I think a closed door would be an appropriate monument.
On April 13, 2015, City Council President Darrell L. Clarke was a guest on “Wake Up With WURD,” hosted by Solomon Jones, on 900AM-WURD. I nearly spilled my coffee when I heard Clarke say, “I’m a developer-friendly Councilperson.” The behind-closed-doors Councilmanic Prerogative is the backdrop to Philadelphia’s development boom.
Councilmembers have arrogated unto themselves the power to sign off or veto any development project in their district. That means nothing gets built without their approval. It also means they should be held accountable when developers don’t hire black workers, don’t contract with black-owned businesses, or don’t respect African Americans’ cultural heritage.
Jazz Appreciation Month 2015 is now in the archives. From Philadelphia to Paris, fans turned out to celebrate America’s classical art form.
But there are early warning signs that all is not well. According to Nielsen‘s 2014 Year End Report, jazz is tied with classical music as the “least consumed” music in the U.S. Jazz represented just 0.3% of all music streamed in 2014, a reflection of its aging audience.
The point about young people that is really critical, is that if we have so many young artists working in jazz, why aren’t they able to engage young people themselves? Most young artists I know do not have a huge youth audience themselves. That’s really critical because at some point the elders are gonna be gone and so who is going to be in the audience? So, I challenge young artists to come up with some strategies and I challenge the curators to come with strategies to help young artists to be able to present their stuff.
If we just add some ingredients from the rest of the entertainment world, people will view jazz as fun once again, and they will come back. If millions didn’t love the music today, there wouldn’t be what we call a catalog, and my father, Thelonious Sphere Monk, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Buddy Rich and so many more, would have disappeared. We wouldn’t have had an International Jazz Day concert streamed to 1.2 billion people in 2013, and 2.5 billion people in 2014. None of that would be possible if there wasn’t an inherent love of this music, ironically by Americans. We often love ourselves, and don’t know it.
So I say to all my friends in jazz -- musicians, promoters, club owners, listeners, and everybody -- let’s bring back the fun. Let’s go big. That will bring the attention, and the money will follow.
To borrow a phrase, listeners just wanna have fun.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the civil rights demonstrations at Girard College in protest of the segregated all-white boarding school. The demonstrations were led by then-Philadelphia NAACP President Cecil B. Moore and legendary radio broadcaster Georgie Woods who served as vice president of the local chapter.
The voice of the community, Georgie, as he was affectionately called, was the “Guy with the Goods.”
Georgie produced and sometimes emceed shows at the famed Uptown Theater. He also staged sold-out “Freedom Shows” that raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Civil Rights Movement.
In addition to a plaque on Philly’s Walk of Fame, Georgie is immortalized in a mural on a wall of the Uptown.
Since 2002, April has been designated Jazz Appreciation Month. This year’s celebration was kicked off with a big bang. The Smithsonian announced the LeRoy Neiman Foundation donated $2.5 million towards the expansion of jazz programming.
The foundation also donated “Big Band,” a painting by LeRoy Neiman.
Neiman considered the painting “one of the greatest in his career.” Four of the 18 iconic jazz musicians have been inducted into the Philadelphia Walk of Fame – John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Gerry Mulligan.