Peace Day - September 21, 2008 - 55
JAzzFORPEACE We started a benefit concert series that has now led to over 500 concerts that help people that have dreams that are under promoted and under funded. At that time, there just happened to be an extraordinarily prestigious concert coming up. I was a headliner at the Savannah [Georgia] Jazz Festival, and I had written a poem called Jazz for Peace. There were about 8000 people at this festival, and I read the poem. People were very moved by it. I had another concert following it, in upstate New York, and again, it was a very prestigious concert. It was with a multicultural band, with a saxophone player who was brought over by Dizzie Gillespie and Jimmy Carter from Cuba, and a South American bassist, and an American drummer. They were all very big names. We were all going to perform together, and I started to get calls – “We heard about the poem you read called Jazz for Peace, is there any chance you’re going to have it set to music?” Someone had called from the press to write about this concert, and asked me about it, and I recited it over the phone. They had a tape recorder on and they recorded the whole conversation. All these things came out in that article that I had never put down on paper. I had never thought about or summarized it. But here it was in an article because it had just come out of me and a tape recorder was on. I had a Jazz for Peace poem, and the statements that I was making were really what Jazz for Peace is all about. That became known as the first Jazz for Peace concert. From there I asked my manager to contact the United Nations and to tell them that I wanted to do a concert uniting Israelis, Palestinians and Americans. She said “Well, who do I call?” And I said, “I don’t know, just start with the main number.” She looked at me really funny and said “OK”. Every now and then I’d get a little update when she’d tell me what was going on. At the time, very few of my concerts were in the United States, and I mean almost nothing. I’d been to Japan six times. I’d been to Europe probably 15 times. I’d been to Hong Kong twice, I’d been to La Paz Bolivia, Brazil, Iceland, but I’d never been to a lot of cities in the United States. One day my manager was giving me a briefing, saying “Well, the Luxembourg event came through, the one event in France came through, but the second event is cancelled . . . but this other thing came through in Milan, Italy, you’ll have a day off here, but we don’t know what to do with it. Oh, and by the way, the United Nations called and they do want to do the concert, with the Palestinians and the Israelis. And then she went on to something else, “Then you have a New York event…” I said, ”What? What did you say?” She said, “The United Nations wants to do the concert.” I said, “Do you realize what you just told me? This is a big thing!” So, I did the concert at which the press did not show up at all, and people were there and they said “This is an unbelievable thing you’re doing for World Peace”. And I said, “If it’s so great then where’s the press?” They said, “You see that bleacher over there where those people are sitting? If we had a bomb blow up there, the press would be all over your concert.” And that is the truth. Anyway, the concert happened, and people started finding out about it, even though there was no press, no article, nothing. We started doing Jazz for Peace concerts in New York and ended up starting a benefit concert series. We thought “We’ll help out a few little charities here in New York, because we have a regular place where we are playing.” It was actually in the basement of a youth hostel. that’s what our theme is – identify someone who is trying to help people - and help them. We thought, “We’ll help out about 6 non-profit organizations” We figured there must be at least 40 or 50 total in New York . . . we’d help out 6 of them. We’ll help out about one third of all the people that need help in New York, we were thinking. Little did we know, there were tens of thousands! Just in New York City! And the thing is, here is the world crumbling every day, worse –worse – worse – worse – and I’m finding out it’s not because there isn’t anybody that wants to save the world, there’s actually tons of people that want to, that have organizations. We were in shock! Our volunteers are coming up to us to say, “Well Rick, you want me to choose three organizations for you to help? There’s 35 thousand! How are we going to choose three?” We realized that there are thousands of non-profit organizations, people with dreams that are trying to do nothing but help straighten these problems out all over the country, all over the world. What is going on here? These people are not being promoted, they’re not being funded – people in their own cities don’t know, even their neighbors don’t know what they’re doing. After a couple of the little benefits, we get a call, “Is this Jazz for Peace?”, Yes . . . “This is the office of presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich, and we just want to inform you that Mr. Kucinich will be attending one of your concerts.” And I’m thinking, “Does he know that it’s in a youth hostel, in a basement, that the toilet doesn’t even work?” But sure enough, he showed up! And the funny thing was, when he showed up, some students had removed the sound system for a disco party on the roof, not knowing what was going on, and I had to www.worldpeaceemerging.com 55
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