LADY KRISTINA AT LARGE IN NEW YORK: JAZZ AND GENTRIFICATION


 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Kristina McBride ~Int’l Jazz Editor at Large   I recently ventured to NYC to go see the legendary Pharaoh Sanders in Brooklyn. I hadn’t been to New York in around 13 years, so I wanted to take my time and see the city and experience it all over again, taking in the old with the new. It felt wonderful to walk the streets again, block after block. I considered the fact that I had never been to Harlem and wanted to get off the beaten trail, so I got on the A-Train and got off at 125th and Malcom X Blvd. I was overcome with a sense of peace and excitement simultaneously.

I had arrived in the cultural mecca of Black Americans. Legends had walked these streets: Langston Hughes, Malcom X, Zora Neale Hurston, Amiri Baraka, Duke Ellington, Billy Holiday, Miles Davis…I can go on and on. I was hearing Gregory Porter’s “On My Way to Harlem” on a loop in the musical soundtrack of my mind.  I gazed at the buildings surrounding me.  All the goings-on was a sensory wonderland, displaying mothers pushing their babies around the corner while on their cellphones.. a young man rushing toward the subway, perhaps he won’t be late to his shift.

Wow..the Nigerian grandmothers sitting at their stalls with their wares for sale, fanning themselves from the impossible heat of a New York Summer.  And, of course I walked past the Apollo Theater, snapped a few pictures of myself, Then I sauntered in the vibes and wisdom from the vendors selling their body oils, shea butter,black seed soap and Dashikis.

I finally met up with a long-time friend, both of us were hungry,  we decided to stop by a café for some grub. On the way, he pointed to the left and said, “There it is…that was the Lenox Lounge.” I paused abruptly on the sidewalk, taking in the sight in front of me. It was a massive, hollowed space flanked by two buildings with awnings.  I stood in front of the empty lot where the Lenox Lounge once stood, now filled with bulldozers that will go back to work demolishing what remained that following Monday. Including a massive, blue metal removal bin, I wonder what was in it. Could it be any of the chairs or light fixtures, or maybe pieces of the beautiful, honeycomb tile floor? Not even the marquee was there. One would never know that the place ever existed.

Rumors are a Sephora is being constructed in its place. Another frivolous, over-priced store in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Or at least they’re trying to. Only just a few weeks before my visit there, was a vote to stop the renaming of a section of Harlem to “SoHa” (short for South Harlem). Harlemites wouldn’t stand for that nonsense.

I wish this could have been the case in D.C. where this is happening all over as the “brown folks” are being moved out to attract younger, richer, and incidentally more white people into the city. “The sight of a Whole Foods at the Corner of Malcolm X Blvd and 125th befuddled me as I came out of the subway station.” Such an odd place for a store like that for that neighborhood, but it’s a sign of things to come.

So many of our cultural landmarks and venues that was home to Black America’s music and its artists over generations are rapidly disappearing: Bohemian Caverns and HR-57 in Washington, D.C.; in Philadelphia, although they have been long-gone are Pep’s and The Showboat, and it’s even worse nowadays according to some long-time Philadelphians.

Older Philly Jazz fans into their 80’s now, feel the new spots  aren’t hosting any jazz whatsoever. In  Los Angeles, the home of Leimert Park’s World Stage, they too have been bullied by the threat of gentrification. Presently preparing to put up a staunch fight for culture and legacy . We now have to hear jazz in these sterile environments, where the band has to fight with the noise of people chatting-away as musicians create Living Art right in front of them.

Absolute worst..annoying people practically standing on the bandstand just to capture video and pictures to post to FB, and insta-gram, trying to prove how hip they are .

Most aren’t really into the music anyway.  Even worse than all that , if you do love the music and want to go out to hear a good gig, it’s a small fortune sometimes, $15 and up covers plus $20 food/drink minimum is not uncommon. Good luck if the gig is in a city that requires pay to park! The venues aren’t paying anything decent for the band to play, so musicians aren’t working.

Kristina on Sax

The artistry and music are suffering because of it all, Hopefully, there is an urgency to remedy this situation.

I contemplated this as I walked away from the empty, hollow shell where the Lenox Lounge once stood, looking back several times,searching deeply for a sense of hope. ### by Kristina McBride

Next Up Nov.1:They Called Him Morgan:My Spin on the Movie

 

 

 

 

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REASONS TO SUPPORT DEXTER GORDON PARK IN LEIMERT VILLAGE – LOS ANGELES


EDITORIAL by Eric WATTREE  #wattreechronicles  #blues2jazzguy

dexter gordon Black white

SAVE OUR LEGACY
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As most people in Los Angeles know, the powers that be are in the process of gentrifying Leimert Park much like they’re doing in Harlem, New York. But what many in the community fail to realize is when they pave over communities, they pave over Black history as well. That’s why we have to have a “Black History Month” to recall the contributions that Black people have made to this nation. That shouldn’t be necessary. Black history should be alive all around us seven days a week and throughout the year. Our children should be drenched in it on a daily basis just like White kids.

Washington, D.C. is called Washington, and nearly every street, town, city, and state in this country are named as they are so we’ll be completely immersed in White history. And the fact that those names don’t reflect who we are as Black people is one of the reasons that Black history is so obscure and many of our Black children lack self-esteem. We’ve got to change that. For that reason, I suggest that we mount a campaign to change the name of “Leimert Park” to “Dexter Gordon Park.”

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Leimert Park is renown all over the world for being Los Angeles’ principle center of Black art, so before this gentrification takes place, it should be renamed to reflect that reality, and no artist is more deserving, or more perfectly suited for the honor of having Leimert renamed after him than Saxophonist, Dexter Gordon. Dexter, along with drummer Billy Higgins (who played with Dexter), are two of the greatest artists that Los Angeles has ever produced – in fact, two of the greatest artists who’s ever lived. They disseminated Jazz (America’s greatest Art form) all over the world, and they’ve brought our city great notority and recognition as a mecca for genius, beauty, and excellence all around the globe. But due to the tradition of racism inherent to American society, these two great men are recognized virtually everywhere in the world EXCEPT right here in the United States. Elvis has been memorialized, so why not Dexter, and why not Billy? Thus, we shouldn’t just sit quietly back and allow the contributions to humanity of these two artistic giants to be paved over by American history – especially here in Los Angeles.
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If we have to fight, so be it. We’ve failed to do that in the past. That’s why the average Black person doesn’t know that the only reason the world can read this message over their computer is because of the brilliance of Dr. Mark Dean, a Black man, who was one of the principle inventors of the personal computer, or Henry T. Sampson, who invented the gamma-electric cell, making cell phones possible. These two Black men have had a pronounced impact on the lives of every person in the civilized world. Our children should know that, because that is a part of their legacy, and they should know about Dexter Gordon and Billy Higgins as well.

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I was in Leimert Park the other night, and it made my eyes moist just witnessing the beauty of our people at their best, and at their most artistic. It’s a wonderful thing to see Black people coming together in celebration of who we are, and we should protect that, so we should make Billy Higgins’ “World Stage” a historic landmark, and place statues of both Dexter and Billy in the park itself in recognition of who they WERE, and who we ARE. And we shouldn’t stop there. We should continue on to rename the streets in and around Leimert Park after major contributors to our culture. For example, Vernon Ave., between Alameda and Crenshaw, should be renamed “Dubois Ave,” and Degnan, between the park and 43rd Street, renamed “Eric Dolphy Dr.” Because we are what we think, and that will help our young people, and posterity, to understand our legacy, and our significance as a people.
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We always complain about White supremacy, but we never do those things that are necessary to dismantle it, and in order to begin to dismantle it, we MUST do things like this in recognition of the excellence within our community and to bring a sense of pride to our young people. We must leave no stone unturned to make it impossible for us to be depicted as a frivolous people without a past. We’ve got to wake up and get on top of these sort of things – if not for ourselves, for the love of our children, because they too will become what they think.
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Legacy
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Neither scholar nor the head of state,
The most common of men seems to be my fate;
A life blistered with struggle and constant need,
As my legacy to man I bequeath my seed.
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More fertile, more sturdy these ones than I,
This withered old vine left fallow and dry;
The nectar of their roots lie dormant still,
But through their fruit, I’ll be revealed.
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So let us take a moment to think beyond the moment, and think of the dignity and self-esteem of Black children who are yet unborn, just as Dex, and many others, thought about you.
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