Monday, April 23, 2012

The Oakland Community Lifts Khalil Shaheed as a Local Hero in a Celebration of His Life

The event started after 3 p.m., Oaktown Jazz Workshop full to capacity--people lining the walls, standing in the aisles, in front of those seated, it was impressive--Oakland out to show love for a man we miss quite a lot. Opening with a second line march from outside on Jack London Square into the club, the waves parted as the sea of musicians with Oaktown musicians leading the way onto the stage where they played "When the Saints Go Marching In" as the audience on its feet clapped.

Kate Shaheed opened the afternoon with a reflection on her life with Khalil and an overview of the afternoon. Logistics were an issue and one saw youth giving their seats to elders as the ocean parted again and uncannily the space expanded as even more people joined those gathered.

I stayed in the main room and didn't visit the quiet room where there were altars for Khalil filled with memorabilia like is prayer clock, key to the City of Oakland, awards, a painting of him and Kate, photos of him and his daughters, favorite books and CDs, DVDs. There was a huge photo with signatures and a clothes line where people wrote notes or put on red lipstick and left a kiss.

There were many places where one could sit and reflect. . . pillows next to the window where one could see the Bay. One could also get snacks and juice at the bar which Kate, her mother, younger daughter and many volunteers hosted throughout the day which went on into the evening.

It was that kind of healing space-- the community opened and then held the space for those who needed a bit more time. Richard Howell hosted the open mic which had three shift changes. The open mic saw many of the Oaktown Jazz youth return for more, like a young pianist, and drummers like Ayinde. A wonderful tenor saxophonist and trumpeters.

The Oaktown Jazz performance was impressive, just as impressive as they were in innumerable performances whether that was their yearly fundraiser at Yoshi's or a special gig like that for a Miles Davis's 50th anniversary recording of Kinda Blue, but I think it was another recording session celebrated.

Earth Day, Khalil Day, Umi Vaughn Day. . . it was a day filled with a lot of love and warmth. In an eloquent eulogy Pastor B.K. Woodson, father of an Oaktown Jazz alum Josiah, said, "Let's love him forward and make him a legend."

John Santos spoke of meeting Khalil when he was in high school and remembered how Khalil saw the connections between the American art form jazz, and the Pan African Diaspora--that there was no separation, similar to earlier legends like Dizzy Gillespie.

Jack Dorsey and Sean Silverman spoke of their friend whom they'd met in the late 60s when Khalil moved the San Francisco from Chicago to attend San Francisco State University. I don't know if Khalil completed that part of the journey, however, both men spoke of his the younger Khalil was full of ideas and the bands they formed as a result of that creative spirit.

They also spoke of Khalil's transformation and return after a brief pilgrimage and a walk which never ended, a path he never left, a mission he never departed. The man was committed to celebrating this legacy called jazz by some, creative black music by others, truth by the remainder.

More later.


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