Monday, January 19, 2009

In the Name of Love

Once again In the Name of Love: 7th Annual Musical Tribute to Martin King was lovely. It made my heart sing...beginning with the children, to Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra's excerpt of the composer's latest work, a Tribute to Martin King featuring his orchestra and the lovely choral ensemble with Nicholas Beard, Ms. Faye Carol, Kenny Washington, and , to the sermons of Dr. King on video, the emcee, Clifford Brown Jr.'s commentary and the Oakland Citizen Humanitarian Awardee, Kevin Grant, head of the Mayor's Violence Prevention and Street Outreach, to the closing celebration with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.

If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life, Grant said when accepting his award. Other quotable moments were Clifford Brown Jr.'s comments on what King said about hope. He said, "Without hope we die. Hope is as essential to us as air, food and water. Barack Obama's election is one of King's hopes realized, but the work is not over. The goal is to rid our world of injustice and to promote and secure equality for everyone."

Faye Carol said it best in her rendition of Precious Lord, Martin King's last request at the service before his death April 4, 1968.

I saw a lot of friends in the audience: James Knox, Latisha and her husband and daughter, a former colleague, from my AIDS Volunteer Clearinghouse days, Debra Israel who was at AIDS Project of the East Bay. I saw Diane Ferlatte in the balcony with her husband, and I was sitting next to my good friend, Abdi Rashidi's mother, Aishah Rashidi, and didn't know it as I hugged her after the program closed with We Shall Overcome, all of us swaying and holding hands.

She said I looked like I was Kenyan, and when I gave her my card she noticed the Muslim name and introduced herself to me and said I might know her son. Of course I do. I know both her sons, and grandson. Later on, I saw Sharon Henderson's mother, Ms. Ruby dressed to the nines as she always is. Last year she had on this gorgeous red affair, last night she had on a sky or powder blue number with matching hat.

I took photos of Clifford Brown Jr., Melanie Demore, and Linda Tillery. Her play-son, drummer with Interfaith, and a new father, shared his picture of his son on his phone. I met him last year and since have seen him perform with his wife Miko. She was very pregnant when I saw her last.

Linda shared a bit of history with us about Pete Seeger, whom Marcus said wrote "We Shall Overcome." Actually, he had the song copywritten, but it was composed by Charles Albert Tinsley from an original hymn, "I'll Overcome Someday."

Seeger had it copywritten to protect it and gave the royalties to either the NAACP or a MLK Jr. fund. I couldn't fathom the reasons why black musicians didn't copyright their work and Linda told me it was very expensive even today to get a good attorney, also the agents and producers tricked people out of their rights to their work. "I'll make you a record and get you a gig if you give up your publishing rights to me."

Linda used Bessie Smith as an example of an artist who never saw any of her royalties while she was alive. Her son, Jack G. Jr. took Columbia Music Company to court to get his mother's royalties.

I asked about this as Blue Note makes 70 years. I wonder about the previous 30 years and what happened to that music and who profited from it's sale and distribution. "People are still getting cheated today," Linda said, and referenced the different mediums one's music, for example, can be distributed: digital, compact disk, electronic files or downloads, live feed or streaming, etc.

As I said, the event was lovely and we got these cute bound tablets to reflect on how we are becoming or acting as a change agent in our communities.


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