Tuesday, April 7, 2020

NAACP: Presenting, Unmasked: A COVID-19 Virtual Series; Part 1 is Wednesday, April 8, 2020 at 8 PM ET/ 5 PM PT


We are in the midst of unprecedented times.

Reports from Detroit, New Orleans, and New York confirm what we already knew–this pandemic is hitting people of color the hardest. As the death rate for African Americans continues to rise and the COVID-19 crisis transforms life as we know it, it’s more important than ever for our communities to stay informed.

NAACP along with our partner, BET, have rallied to the frontlines to protect our community. Together, we present the 4 week community program, Unmasked: A COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall Series.

Part one of the four-part series will feature a candid discussion on the health, mental, and economic tolls this crisis has had on our communities and how people of color can apply pressure to ensure the congressional response to this pandemic is equitable.

I will be joined by a slate of panelists including:

  • House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, Chair, House Select Committee on Coronavirus Crisis
  • Congresswoman Karen Bass, Chair, Congressional Black Caucus
  • Congressman Bennie Thomspon, Chair, House Committee on Homeland Security
  • Scott Mills, President and CEO, BET Networks
  • and more.

At times such as these, it’s imperative that we as a community plan, not panic. I hope to hear from you on Wednesday.

Fighting Forward,

Derrick Johnson
President and CEO

To RSVP Visit: NAACP.org

LouisianaWeekly.com: Pianist and NOLa. Jazz family patriarch Ellis Marsalis Jr. dies

Ellis Marsalis

April 6, 2020

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Ellis Marsalis believed in music, education, family and reflective thinking. He applied those credos as an accomplished jazz pianist, bandleader and composer, a dedicated teacher and a hard working man raising his six sons with his wife of 58 years, Dolores. Marsalis’ influence spread throughout the globe through his highly successful sons, saxophonist Branford, trumpeter Wynton, trombonist Delfeayo and drummer/vibist Jason along with the many students with whom he shared his knowledge and wisdom. The piano great, whose sons also include poet/photographer Ellis Marsalis III and Mboya, was a humble and much respected man of great integrity. Ellis Marsalis died on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 at the age of 85.

“There’s no logic to how I got into music,” said Marsalis in a 2014 interview explaining that neither of his parents played an instrument. “There was only one radio station in the city of New Orleans and its call letters were WJBW and I listened to that whenever I could.”

Marsalis offered that maybe the Gert Town neighborhood where the family lived before moving to Jefferson Parish made a subliminal impression on him. “Later on, I realized our landlady’s brother, Narvin Kimball, played bass and banjo. Papa ‘Albert’ French lived in the middle of the block where we lived at 1300 Telemachus Street. I didn’t know any of these people at the time – I was only 10 years old. I’m just a survivor in this,” Marsalis said in a 1990 “JazzTimes” feature story. “I didn’t design any of this and most of it wasn’t supposed to happen anyway. I don’t really consider myself a success; my children are successful because what they did was by design.”

In 1944, his father, Ellis Marsalis Sr., purchased some property at River Road and Shrewsbury Road in Jefferson Parish and a guy suggested that he build a motel. He went for that idea and it grew from four or five rooms to 35.

“It became a place for people who knew about it because in those days Blacks couldn’t stay downtown,” Marsalis said. “Martin Luther King stayed there and Ray Charles’ band stayed there. My daddy was somebody who didn’t want to work for nobody,” Ellis noted. “I think that’s why I always wanted to have my own group like he always wanted to have his own business.”

Marsalis certainly accomplished that goal drawing crowds to his 30 years of gigs at Snug Harbor and recording multiple fine albums under his own name. As a pianist, Marsalis was highly influenced by beboppers and often brought smiles to those in the know when, in old-school style, he’d throw in quotes from familiar jazz classics. Marsalis was a modernist who captured audiences – minus flash – through the sheer purity and beauty of his playing, especially on his original tunes like “Syndrome,” that has become a part of the New Orleans modern jazz songbook. The pianist would also often return to his longtime affiliate, drum master and composer James Black’s “Magnolia Triangle,” keeping it vital and bringing it to new audiences.

At the 2019 Satchmo Summer-Fest, Marsalis – wearing his red vest for the occasion – gained the admiration and turned the ears of many folks whose first love was for traditional jazz. There were cheers all around for Ellis Marsalis, an artist who obviously believed in music.

A young Ellis became infatuated with clarinetist Artie Shaw after hearing him on the radio. He began playing the instrument at age 11. Marsalis’ formal education started when his mother enrolled him and his sister at the Xavier University Junior School of Music, a preparatory institution. There he met many people who would play an important part in his musical life. “Edward Frank (known later as an exquisite jazz pianist) was playing violin in the orchestra and Germaine Bazzle (now a renowned vocalist) was playing the string bass,” he recalled.

Black Writers Weekend hosted in Atlanta, Ga, has been postponed to August 27-29th; AAMBC Awards gala will be streamed on April 22nd on Youtube

Exciting times are taking place within the Urban Literary space.  The Black Writers Weekend, which is founded by Tamika Newhouse is quickly approaching.  Entering into the 12th year of existence, The Black Writers Weekend hosted in Atlanta, Ga, has been postponed to August 27-29th due to COVID-19.  However, the highlight of the BWW, the AAMBC Awards gala will be streamed on April 22ndon Youtube with a final streaming home placed on Amazon Prime.  

Past AAMBC host(s) have been Cynthia Bailey, Claudia Jordan and Coco Brown.  This year’s show will be hosted by Award Winning Author & AAMBC Founder, Tamika Newhouse and media personality, Chanel Hudson. This year’s nominees include literary greats such as: Pearl CleageKimberla Lawson Roby, XO Necole and many others.  

Monday, April 6, 2020

John Malveaux: POLITICS of MUSIC concert June 29, 2020 at Walt Disney Concert Hall will include chamber music composed by Roy Harris

Roy Harris

Dmitri Shostakovich

John Malveaux of MusicUNTOLD.com writes:

American composer Roy Harris  Symphony '1933' was the 1st commercially recorded symphony in the United States.  Roy Harris 5th Symphony was commissioned by the Boston Symphony conductor Serge Koussevitzky, a close friend of Dmitri Shostakovich. Roy Harris dedicated his 5th Symphony to the Russian soldiers who were our allies during WWII. The work premiered Feb 26, 1943 with the Boston Symphony.

In 1958, Roy Harris was a member of our 1st State Department cultural exchange with the Soviet Union. Roy Harris was embraced by prominent Russian music dignitaries including Dmitri Shostakovich. Roy Harris conducted the Moscow Radio Symphony in a performance of his 5th Symphony.

During the second Red Scare called McCarthyism, Roy Harris was asked to stop a USA performance of his 5th Symphony. However, he refused with explanation that the dedication was directed to the valor of Russian soldiers during our heroic fight for world peace. Thereafter Roy Harris suffered an effective boycott of his music and physical threats that required relocation for the safety of his family.

The 1st half of POLITICS of MUSIC concert scheduled June 29, 2020 at the Music Center's Walt Disney Concert Hall will include chamber music composed by Roy Harris plus violinist/violist Annelle Kazumi Gregory and collaborative pianist James Lent performing the 2nd movement of Dmitri Shostakovich Viola Sonata.  See pic 1 Roy Harris, pic 2 Dmitri Shostakovich.

National Civil Rights Group and Hundreds of Medical Professionals Call on the Trump Administration and States to Release Racial Data for COVID-19 Tests

National Civil Rights Group and Hundreds of Medical Professionals Call on the Trump Administration and States to Release Racial Data for COVID-19 Tests, Cases and Outcomes

Washington, DC (April 6, 2020) – Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and nearly 400 medical professionals issued a demand letter to the United States Department of Health and Human Services and its relevant sub-agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calling for the release of daily racial and ethnic demographic data related to COVID-19 testing, cases, and patient outcomes. The Lawyers’ Committee also filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CDC seeking race and ethnicity data for COVID-19 tests, cases and outcomes. Finally, the Lawyers’ Committee has also issued demand letters to state public health departments across the country calling on them to begin making this data publicly available immediately. This comprehensive call to action is driven by a collective concern that the lack of transparency by federal and state officials is preventing public health officials from understanding the full impact of this pandemic of Black communities and other communities of color, hampering the ability to develop robust interventions, and potentially enabling further community spread.  

“We are deeply concerned that African American communities are being hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that racial bias may be impacting the access they receive to testing and healthcare,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Equal access to healthcare is a critical civil rights issue, and during this novel pandemic, the public deserves nothing less than full transparency from this Administration and state public health officials.  To fully confront this pandemic, we must ensure that communities of color receive equitable health care and treatment during this crisis. Comprehensive and publicly-available racial data is a necessary weapon in the fight to confront COVID-19.”

According to the letter to HHS, “systemic racism and bias in the healthcare system have resulted in chronically poor health outcomes for Black Americans, including higher rates of asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. These co-morbidities render Black Americans more susceptible to severe respiratory complications and death resulting from COVID-19. Inclusive testing practices would help ensure that symptomatic people receive timely care and treatment, and asymptomatic carriers do not continue to transmit COVID-19 to other vulnerable members of their communities.”

“Despite significant advances in healthcare and health technology over the last five decades, racialized health disparities have been both persistent and profound. Black Americans have carried the highest burden of chronic diseases, shortest life expectancies, and highest maternal and infant mortality rates,” said Dr. Uche Blackstock, founder & CEO, Advancing Health Equity. “As we have already seen, the COVID19 pandemic has and will undoubtedly amplify racialized health inequities, further devastating Black and other marginalized communities. Collecting racial and ethnic demographic data on testing, cases, and health outcomes will be imperative to mitigating the effects of the COVID19 pandemic on our already vulnerable populations and will ensure healthcare resources are allocated equitably.”

“The coronavirus has made itself clear that it does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, or any other of the means by which we categorize ourselves,” said Taison Bell, assistant professor in the infectious disease and pulmonary critical care divisions at the University of Virginia. “We demand equal access to care and treatment even in the middle of a national pandemic.” 

Recently analyzed health data indicates that African Americans in some states and counties are being infected and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates than whites. In Illinois, African Americans make up 14.6% of the population, but 29.4% of confirmed cases and 41.2% of deaths as of April 6.  Similarly, Michigan’s population is 14% Black, but African Americans currently make up 34% of COVID19 cases and 40% of deaths. On April 3rdPro Publica reported that in Milwaukee County, where the population is 26% Black, African Americans currently comprise “almost half of [the] County’s 941 cases and 81% of its 27 deaths.” The data coming out of these states is likely indicative of the disproportionate impact that COVID19 is having on Black communities and other communities of color throughout the country.

The CDC is not currently publicly reporting racial or ethnic demographic data for COVID19 cases or tests performed across the country. Yet, the CDC requests this critical information from health departments through the  COVID19 Case Report Form “to track the impact of the outbreak and inform public health response.” Today’s call to action urges the federal and state agencies to begin publicly reporting this information immediately.  

Key to Change: The Music Will Play On

Dr. Quinton Morris
Executive Director
Key to Change

In music, the Italian term fermata means “a pause of unspecified length on a note or rest”—and while the musical soundtrack of our lives seems to be on pause right now, the music will continue to play. It may not be at the same tempo as we originally started, but the music will play on. 

At Key to Change, students are experiencing a large fermata in their daily lives right now. When COVID-19 surfaced, students in South King County were immediately placed on a hiatus from school, leaving many feeling confused, anxious, and sad. The raw emotions that they were facing left all of us at Key to Change wondering “How can we help our community?” While students weren’t able to be physically present in the studio, Key to Change insisted that their lessons must continue.

Key to Change sprung into action and transitioned lessons to an online video platform where students can continue to cultivate a positive and empowering community through music. Regular music instruction is needed now more than ever; it gives our students a sense of structure and normalcy in their lives. For some students, music lessons are the only structure they are receiving at this time.

COVID-19 is testing our community more than ever before, but it’s also revealing who we are as a community and why the work we do together is so incredibly special to our students. While Key to Change is doing all that we can to help students who are in need, there is more to be done—and it is only possible through YOUR support. Today, I am asking you—if you are able—to make a gift to the Key to Change Emergency Fund.  

Your support will help students continue to study, practice their instruments, and find moments of joy and empowerment amid uncertain times.

As a Renton native who grew up in the South King County area, I know firsthand what these students are feeling. Resources in South King County are scarce, and because it’s not as densely populated as Seattle proper, it’s easy to overlook this community of people who are largely marginalized and underserved. Please consider a donation to the Key to Change Emergency Fund to help support students in South King County. 

I am extraordinarily grateful to you for supporting our music students for the past three years. Together, I am confident we will get through this and become a stronger community because of the generosity and action of supporters like you. These are the moments that define who we are and what our students mean to us. Please join me in helping to maintain a sense of structure and inspiration for our students as we navigate this unprecedented time. Together, we can make sure the music continues to play on in their lives.

Best wishes,

Quinton Morris, DMA
Executive Director & Founder

Boston.com: "Concert For Our City" now streaming: Thomas Wilkins conducts Boston Symphony Orchestra in "The Beautiful Sounds of Friendship"

Maestro Thomas Wilkins

Watch: BSO releases ‘Concert for Our City’ performance

The Boston Symphony Orchestra streamed a special performance, “Concert for Our City,” featuring BSO youth and family conductor Thomas Wilkins, on Sunday afternoon. The concert, which took place Feb. 16, included music by Tchaikovsky, Ginastera, and Brahms, Chinese composer Huang Ruo’s Folksongs for Orchestra, George Walker’s Lyric for String Orchestra, and cellist Sterling Elliott in the finale of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

John Malveaux: Latonia Moore to sing the aria 'Sunset in the Garden" from TROUBLED ISLAND Opera June 29, 2020 at the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall

William Grant Still (1895-1978)

Langston Hughes

Latonia Moore

John Malveaux of MusicUNTOLD.com writes:

Judith Still, daughter of composer William Grant Still, shared  "I might mention that the Metropolitan Opera gave  him (William Grant Still) an appointment to show them a score of TROUBLED ISLAND, but when he arrived and they saw he was the "wrong color" they left him in the outer office for four hours but would not see him.  No apologies given."  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troubled_Island

The March 31, 1949 world premiere of TROUBLED ISLAND by the New York City Opera was greeted with 22 curtain calls. The opera has never been staged again in the United States. The Black Swan Theatre & Opera Company has scheduled TROUBLED ISLAND at UCL in London Sep. 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19.   

Metropolitan Opera soprano Latonia Moore is scheduled to sing the aria 'Sunset in the Garden" from TROUBLED ISLAND Opera June 29, 2020 at the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Nat'l Civil Rights Group Responds to Repeal of Tennessee Voter Suppression Law

Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

April 3, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tennessee lawmakers have repealed draconian provisions included in a 2019 law that sought to impose criminal penalties and fines on groups and organizations engaged in voter registration activity. The law was passed in 2019 following successful efforts by third-party organizations that worked to register people to vote across the state during the 2018 midterm election cycle.
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, issued the following statement in response:

“The repeal of this law is a recognition that the legislature had overstepped constitutional boundaries in its attempt to unnecessarily restrict voter registration activities,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “We were confident that this would be the outcome from the moment we first filed suit, even before the ink was dry on the Governor’s signature on this misbegotten law.  The draconian civil and criminal penalties in the old law, coupled with the vague and unnecessary limitations on organizations who were trying to do nothing more than simply help eligible citizens register to vote, would have had a chilling effect on voter registration activities in Tennessee."

Clarke continued: "Tennessee’s law was one of the most restrictive voter suppression measures adopted in recent time. Voter registration is the hallmark of our democracy and no state should impose barriers and restrictions that make it harder for people to vote."

The lawsuit, brought by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, was filed hours after the Governor Bill Lee signed the bill into law. The law imposed a host of restrictions on third-party voter registration groups. It required them to comply with preregistration, training, and affirmation requirements or face draconian criminal and civil penalties ranging in the tens of thousands of dollars. The statute sought to penalize groups for actions of voters who do not satisfy a vaguely-defined requirement that registration forms be “complete.” The statute also sought to criminalize “any public communication” made by a third-party group to a voter about the voter’s registration status if it is not accompanied by a disclosure that the communication was not authorized by the Secretary of State.

Along with the Lawyers’ Committee, the NAACP, pro bono firm Hogan Lovells US LLP, Memphis-based firm Burch, Porter, & Johnson PLLC, Bromberg Law LLC, and community practitioner Daniel Ayoade also worked on the litigation. 

Boston Symphony Orchestra: Concert for Our City - Available starting April 5th [at 3 PM EST]

Thomas Wilkins

Boston Symphony Orchestra

BSO at Home, Concert for our City: stream starting Sunday, April 5th at 3PM EST

Concert for Our City was videotaped live during a full-house performance at Symphony Hall on February 16. The concert was part of a series of free BSO musical offerings in February during the time the orchestra would have been on an East Asia tour, February 6-16.

The planned tour was canceled due to increasing concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

Streaming of this concert is available from April 5 at 3pm through May 20, 2020.

Thomas Wilkins, conductor
Sterling Elliott, cello
Huang Ruo, composer and singer

TCHAIKOVSKY Polonaise from the opera Eugene Onegin
GINASTERA "Malambo" from Estancia Dances
Huang RUO Folksongs for Orchestra
                 II. Love Song from Kang Ding
                 IV. The Girl from Da Ban City
WALKER Lyric for String Orchestra
DVORÁK Cello Concerto Finale (Allego moderato)
BRAHMS Symphony No. 1: Finale (Adagio—Allegro non troppo ma con brio)

"One of my most fundamental beliefs is that music provides a lifeline to inspiration, reflection, power, and beauty that deeply touches us and opens us up to new realms of possibilities that can give us a pause from the distractions of the difficulties of the world at large. During these challenging times of social distancing and sickness due to COVID-19, I hope that the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Concert for Our City YouTube stream and the many wonderful offerings at bso.org/athome will bring some comfort and inspiration to music lovers in Boston, throughout the country, and around the world."
     — Thomas Wilkins, BSO Artistic Advisor for Education and Community Engagement

This past performance was presented with a generous gift from the family of Eleanor L. Campbell in her memory.

Brought to you with the generous support of Bank of America; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts; Commonwealth Worldwide Executive Transportation; Spaulding Rehabilitation Network; and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited.