Peace Day - September 21, 2008 - 56
JAzzFORPEACE run down to my apartment and grab some things, run through traffic and come back . . . Mr. Kucinich was addressing the audience without a microphone, he was just talking to the people about how great Jazz is, and how it unites people . . . and just when we got him a microphone, he finished his speech. These kinds of things led me to believe that this is something that has to be, period. Whatever time we wasted on this planet, let’s not waste any more. 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. We get publicity for them, and we raise funds for them, we get contributions and we’ve gotten letters or checks or both. People like Senator John McCain, and Mayor Bloomberg in New York. Right now, you’re seeing the spectacular destruction of an unsustainable path, and upping the anti and upping the anti to keep that unsustainability going. The solution to all of our problems is really simple; it’s the transition that’s so difficult, and the inability of people to make that transition quickly. That’s where these organizations come into play, because all of them are in one way or another there to help people make a transition from being a part of the problem to being a part of the solution. There are literally thousands of them - I’m never going to be able to support them all in my lifetime. We’re going to need another hundred more Jazz for Peace concerts to even make a dent. So we’re just at the very beginning stages of a spectacularly sustainable path in the midst of an unsustainable path that needs to be reversed not today, but yesterday. After we did the benefit concert series, we started an education series to bring Jazz back into the schools, music back into the schools. Jazz is coming into many of these schools for the very first time. We also have a musical instrument donation program, which donates instruments to underprivileged children. We’ve donated hundreds of instruments. Through all these things we’ve got something that we feel is helping those who are helping others, and that’s what our theme is – identify someone who is trying to help people and help them. People who are helping others are not being helped, if anything it’s the opposite. We have people who are helping others who are hurting. If you’re trying to help others, the more help you need, the less you’re able to help. I’m on my fifth or sixth event with some of these organizations. I’ve done two concerts for an Indian tribe in Las Cruzes NM, and during the time that I’ve been working with them, they’ve gone from number 9 on the list they were on for 15 years, where they couldn’t budge, to number two, and now they are at number one – the list is to get their acknowledgement from the US government. This acknowledgement will enable them to begin the process of reclaiming land that was taken away from them, setting up schools, getting tribal members who are still alive, reuniting the tribe, rejuvenating the culture, all the things that need to be done. We’ll be doing our third event for them later this year, for others we’re on our 5th or 6th event. We’ve done 5 for an organization in China that is providing tuition in the countryside for women to go to school for the first time. None of the women go to school, they get no education whatsoever. Only boys go to school in these towns, and that’s maybe – no women. Over and over again, once we plant a seed, we don’t know where it’s going to grow. On our website we have hundreds of letters from organizations writing about how our concert had an impact on them. We’ve had organizations tell us that because of something that came out in the paper, or TV or radio, people called that wanted to be contributors, sponsors, etc. One time we had a little concert for an organization. Someone at that concert knew Magic Johnson, and he said “You should do something with Magic Johnson – let me call and see if I can get this for you.” Next thing you know there’s a big Jazz for Peace event at Magic Johnson Theater. The thing just blew up, it was $500 per ticket, Patty LaBelle was there. I saw the chairman of the NBA, and there were basketball players there. They were just people in the audience. We raised crazy amounts of money. But it was the synergy of getting the little event off the ground. Who knows? It’s just a seed, I don’t know if it’s going to be a dandelion or a beanstalk, but it’s going to be something good. That we do know. The bottom line is that I learned through studying history, that the art form of jazz, the music I’m playing, has had a history of having a profoundly positive effect on people. There’s a man named Charles Black. He was a person, like most Americans growing up in his era, which was the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s - he was a racist by default – meaning he was a perfectly OK, normal guy. But he was a racist because that’s what you were when you grew up in certain areas of our country. You can be a perfectly nice guy, but after you’ve gotten all those cultural and subliminal messages in society, you’ve got a racist point of view and you don’t even know its racist, you just think it’s normal. this is an atomic bomb of beauty and wonderment. He went to a dance, in the Midwest somewhere. Instead of dancing with girls he started watching the musicians. One musician in particular, was a guy playing trumpet on the bandstand at the event. Charles had come to the conclusion that that person was a genius. The person he saw happened to be Louis Armstrong. 56 Peace Day 2008
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