This is my least favorite time of the year. That said, I love Christmas music, particularly Christmas blues. Before I wallow in the blues, I want to share one of my favorite gospel albums, “Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration.”
This month marks the 50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s 1964 masterpiece “A Love Supreme.”
From Boston to San Francisco, Americans are celebrating what many consider the greatest spiritual jazz composition of all time. Sadly, we in Philadelphia are marking the occasion with a commitment to fight to preserve Coltrane’s presence in the city that nurtured and shaped him.
As I previously wrote, the Pennrose Company demolished the “Tribute to John Coltrane” mural.
The company did it with no input from the community and no plan to preserve the presence of an American cultural icon. The loss sparked an outrage on social media. Tweet after tweet asked the same question: WTF?!
Through public subsidies and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, Pennrose has gotten rich building properties for the poor. The politically-connected company has been sucking on the public teat for more than 20 years. Indeed, it is one of the nation’s top 10 affordable housing developers.
While Pennrose can afford hundreds of thousands in political contributions, primarily to Republicans, it has contributed nothing to replace the tribute to the man that put Philly jazz on the map.
In any case, social media provides a platform to raise awareness of an issue. But to make something happen, one has to agitate offline. So the Avenging The Ancestors Coalition has organized an Arts and Culture Committee, which I chair. Our mission is to preserve African Americans’ cultural heritage – and presence – in Philadelphia by any means necessary (BAMN).
To get involved, come to the next monthly meeting of ATAC, which will be held on Monday, December 15, 2014, at 7:00 p.m. at Zion Baptist Church, Broad and Venango. For more information, call (215) 552-8751.
It’s been more than three months since Michael Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri. The city is on pins and needles as it awaits the grand jury’s verdict which is expected to be handed down in the coming week.
Groups across the country are mobilizing for after the verdict protests. At Saturday’s action rally at the House of Justice, Rev. Al Sharpton said the “abuse of the grand jury” is fueling suspicion:
All eyes around the country have been on Ferguson, Missouri as the grand jury has wound down there… The abuse of the grand jury is the reason there is the suspicion from many of us that they are setting up to do nothing, which is why we want the federal government to come in.
It doesn’t take three or four months to determine if unarmed men were responsible for what happened. So you’re trying to figure something out that we done already figured out. We’ve done figured out you’re trying to figure something else. We are on high alert that within 24 hours we’ll be hitting the streets in 20 cities.
Sharpton said “the object of the protest is to put the pressure on the federal government to go forward.”
The community is on high alert. And so are the police.
Before you go to the protest, know your rights. If you are in the Philadelphia area, you are invited to a free interactive training session co-sponsored by Up Against the Law Legal Collective and Avenging the Ancestors Coalition (F)ilm the Police Committee (full disclosure: I’m co-chair of the committee).
Come hear and see what to do when you have an encounter with the police whether walking, driving or chilling on your porch. For more information, call (215) 552-8785.
It’s about to go down.
UPDATE On Monday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon issued an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency in Ferguson activated the National Guard.
Tuesday is Election Day. You know the mantra: Our ancestors died for the right to die. It’s your civic responsibility. It could be a lot worse. Vote for the lesser of two evils. This is the most important election since [fill in the blank].
If you’re unsure of the location of your polling place, hours of operation or who’s on the ballot, there’s an app for that -- Get to the Polls.
While I’m a voting rights activist, I understand why many are skeptical about the efficacy of voting. It seems like little ever changes for the better. Yes, your vote is your voice. But the change you want doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen.
Turning out to vote is the first step. But civic engagement is a process, not an event. Truth be told, elected officials want you to go away after you vote for them. To make a difference, you must stay engaged after Election Day.
You also must hold those for whom you vote accountable. No elected official should be given a pass simply because he or she looks like you.
The Mural Arts Program began in 1984 as the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network. Thirty years and more than 3,600 murals later, Philly has become the “City of Murals.”
The murals tell the story of Philadelphia, a city of neighborhoods:
But as stunning as the murals are themselves, they are, most importantly, the visual products of a powerful and collaborative grassroots process in communities. The mural-making process gives neighborhood residents a voice to tell their individual and collective stories, a way to pass on culture and tradition, and a vehicle to develop and empower local leaders.
Murals reflect the character, history, activism and people specific to that location. The faces on the wall are family members and neighbors. Understandably, folks are outraged when a mural is torn down or covered up.
Don’t just complain how gentrification. Get in this good fight. Our fight is not to save brick-and-mortar structures. Rather, we want to preserve African Americans’ cultural, civic and educational heritage in Philadelphia.
To get involved, call Avenging the Ancestors Coalition Arts and Culture Committee at (215) 552-8751. With technology, we can recreate better murals. We can make walls talk.