Celebrating Roberta Flack

A child prodigy, Roberta Flack began studying classical piano at age nine. Flack got her big break while performing at Mr. Henry’s Upstairs, a jazz club on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

American Masters: Roberta Flack tells Flack’s story in her own words. The documentary features interviews with, among others, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Clint Eastwood, Angela Davis, Valerie Simpson, Les McCann and Peabo Bryson.

American Masters: Roberta Flack premieres on Tuesday, January 24, 2023 at 9pm ET. The documentary will be available on PBS, PBS.org and PBS Video App. Check your local listing here.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a drum major for justice, was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Legends recognize legends. Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock dedicated his 1969 album, The Prisoner, to Dr. King. In his 2014 memoir Possibilities, Herbie wrote:

It was a concept album focusing on the struggle for civil rights. The Prisoner reflected the beginnings of my new musical directions.

Zora Neale Hurston: Claiming a Space

When a Clarence Thomas, Candace Owens or Herschel Walker is in the news, Zora Neale Hurston’s quote, “All my skinfolk ain’t kinfolk,” comes to mind. Zora was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist. Author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, she interviewed Cudjoe Lewis, the last known survivor of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Cudjoe was on the slave ship Clotilda which arrived in Mobile, Alabama in 1860. Zora’s book, Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo,” was published in 2018, 68 years after her death.

Zora Neale Hurston: Claiming a Space premieres on PBS this month.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE executive producer Cameo George said:

Zora Neale Hurston has long been considered a literary giant of the Harlem Renaissance, but her anthropological and ethnographic endeavors were equally important and impactful. Her research and writings helped establish the dialects and folklore of African American, Caribbean and African people throughout the American diaspora as components of a rich, distinct culture, anchoring the Black experience in the Americas.

Zora Neale Hurston: Claiming a Space premieres nationwide on Tuesday, January 17, 2023. The documentary will be available on PBS, PBS.org and PBS Video App. Check your local listing here.

Lee Morgan Historical Marker Approved

The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission approved the nomination of jazz trumpeter, composer and activist Lee Morgan for a historical marker.

Lee will join John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, and his union, Union Local 274 of the American Federation of Musicians, with a historical marker in Philadelphia. The blue-and-gold marker will be installed in front of the former location of Music City where as a high school student Lee participated in instructional clinics and Tuesday night jam sessions with jazz luminaries, including Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and Miles Davis.

On June 26, 1956, trumpeter Clifford Brown left from Music City for a gig in Chicago. Brownie, along with pianist Richie Powell and Powell’s wife, Nancy, were killed in a car crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

There has been an outpouring of interest in attending the unveiling (Date TBD). However, we must limit attendance because the historical marker will be installed on a busy street with a lot of traffic. This tribute didn’t just happen. A small group of people made it happen. By the same token, a dedication ceremony doesn’t just happen. It must be planned and PAID for.

To join us at the dedication ceremony, please make a donation of $50.00 to help defray expenses.

Donations of $500.00 will be listed as Community Sponsors on social media and the website, Lee Morgan’s Philadelphia.

If you cannot attend but want to support this long overdue recognition of Lee’s musical virtuosity, please make a donation. No donation is too small to preserve Lee’s story in public memory.

Nana Harriet Tubman Committee Says ‘Enough!’

From Auburn, New York to Ypsilanti, Michigan, the commissioning of a Harriet Tubman statue has been a source of civic pride. In Philadelphia, the city where Harriet first experienced freedom, the public art acquisition process is tainted by white privilege, lies, and fuzzy math. The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE) manipulated survey data to minimize public support for a permanent Harriet Tubman statue. OACCE claimed that only 25% of respondents want a statue of the American icon.

When OACCE was called out by a reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer, the “full report and report summary were revised on November 22, 2022, clarifying the result for question one.”

The Celebrating the Legacy of Nana Harriet Tubman Committee has had enough of OACCE’s lies and “math not mathing.” During an interview on “Wake Up With WURD” Committee spokesperson Mama Maisha Sullivan-Ongoza said, “We cannot let this level of disrespect and incompetence continue to happen.”

Mama Maisha recounted that OACCE Director Kelly Lee told her that the City planned to award a no-bid commission to Wesley Wofford “because he’s in the system already. We can expedite it faster because he’s already in our system.” Her response: “Of course he is. White men are always in the system.” In a majority-minority city, two African American women are gatekeepers for white privilege.

These unaccountable bureaucrats want to sign the contract for the Harriet Tubman statue – or random African American figure – while their boss, Mayor Jim Kenney, is still in office. To do so, they have set an arbitrary timeline that would require artists competing for the commission to work like slaves through Christmas, Kwanzaa, Watch Night, New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend. By contrast, Lee and Anglin spoon-fed Wofford inside information for months as he prepared his proposal.

Mama Maisha notes the disparate treatment of Black and other underrepresented artists:

Now they got a speedy timeline. They want everything in by January, over the holidays. People busy, people committed to their families. They got stuff to do at the end of the year. So now you got a rushed timeline. You didn’t have a rushed timeline for Wesley Wofford. But now that you’re dealing with people of color and women, you got a rushed timeline.

The Celebrating the Legacy of Nana Harriet Tubman Committee said in a statement:

Enough! OACCE’s misinterpretation of the data and the lack of transparency in their decisions and actions minimize the importance of community engagement in public art acquisition. We demand a moratorium on the current statue commission Open Call until new, competent, transparent, and accountable oversight is created.

Mama Maisha told Attorney Michael Coard:

We want a moratorium on this Open Call, and we want Kelly Lee and Marguerite Anglin removed from any oversight. We’re going to the Mayor. We’re going to City Council. And if necessary, we will put boots on the ground in front of the Mayor’s Office. We’re ready to hit the streets.

If you have had enough of the coonery at OACCE, contact Mama Maisha Sullivan-Ongoza at (215) 385-0214 or Dr. Michelle Strongfields at (267) 231-0092; email: nanaharrietlegacydefense@gmail.com.

Origin of the Blues

The King of the Blues B.B. King famously told us why he sang the blues.

Legendary blues singer and guitarist John Lee Hooker contemplated an Origin of the Blues flow chart.

The Queen of the Blues Dinah Washington said “the blues ain’t nothin’ but a woman cryin’ for her man.”

Whatever the origin, all I want to hear is some down home blues.

Election Day 2022

The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on February 3, 1870.

Section 1 of the Reconstruction Amendment reads:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8. Be careful how you vote.