Archives Reveal Family History

Archives Reveal Family History
Paternal Geat-grand Parents, Mittie and Jacob Smith

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

MJ:This Is It and How it Was

As the media blanketed the star-studded premier of Michael Jackson's "This is It"
documentary, I pondered MJ and family’s incredulous journey, from his humble beginnings in my old stompin' grounds to the pinnacle of fame, wealth and celebrity. Many in the jazz community and those plugged in to major social media sites such as Face book and My Space are familiar with my early affiliation with Steel town Records. My group, the Valiants were among the roster of artists on the short lived label credited with having recorded the groups' first moderately successful tune Big Boy. What is remarkable is the support network of my friends and associates whom were there to help the J5 sensing something great on the horizon was unfolding, most simply wishing to help out. Now many opportunists are seeking a stake in the Jackson enterprise that could yield big dividends for years to come. Music historians, collectors, curators, wealthy conosuiers, and producers are vying for connections with authentic memorabilia as pop culture writers attempt to sort fact from fiction.In The Chicago Reader article, entitled The Find, writer Jake Austen attempts to sort out the Jacksons early recording history.Thus far most Michael Jackson autobiographical books and movies depicting their early recording years are frought with distortions,blatant misrepresentations and right out lies. My group The Valiants are not directly mentioned in this lengthy Chicago Reader article,however, my role and the group are referenced in Bob Abrahamian’s interview with Delroy Bridgeman on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago based radio show "Sitting in the Park". Several members of the Valiants are referred to, they include the late, Solomon Ard, Ludie Washington, singer turned actor seen in Hollywood Schuffle, Jo Jo Dancer, UHF, he was a co-founder of Steeltown Records(deceased)and Delroy Bridgeman. These lifelong friends were my former singing mates during Steeltown Record’s beginnings, and they were of immense help to Joe Jackson and the boys. When I left for Nashville to attend college, members of the group lent their more mature voices to the J5's first soundtrack success Big Boy by augmenting the adolescents’ youthful vocals with a somewhat more robust vocal background. They escorted and drove the brothers to their after school rehearsals when Joe Jackson worked evening or night shifts at Inland Steel in East Chicago; fetched sandwiches for a weary young nine year old Michael during long recording sessions. These deeds were rarely boasted about over the years, it was simply what one did in that era to help one another get to the next level. My remembrances of the stories shared of a working class family's struggle to attain musical super success , makes the very surreal Hollywood premier seem real when I think back on those days.Then we knew the meaning of the African proverb, “It Takes A Village.” These are some of the shoulders upon which the J5 stood during the lean and mean years far away from the glitter of a Hollywood blockbuster premier.I plan to see This is It but I'll always remember how it was as well.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dancing to the Obama Shuffle

I was awakened from a sweet slumber at about 5:15 a.m. EST to breaking news that President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize. I literally danced around my New York City apartment – to the amusement of my better half.

Joy was short-lived however. By the time TV news pundits got into full throttle around 8:00 a.m., conservative media network Fox News had made the president seem more like a suspect than a celebrant. Fox broadcasters were weirdly dismissive of the prestigious award, with one talking suit chiming, “He, (Obama) ought to share half the prize with President Bush. Well, go figure! Not one congrats came from the political Right or Republicans. RNC Chair Michael Steele's statement detracted from the greater global and moral significance of securing world peace, which is being spearheaded by Mr. Obama in his shepherding of the United Nations Security Council resolutions and US/Russian agreements reducing nuclear war heads, and in forging a consensus among Western powers on nonnuclear proliferation. Instead, the radical right is stirring the regional fringe base, highlighting the nation’s bleak unemployment rate and a perceived lack of concrete accomplishment by Obama since he took office nine months ago.

This is ludicrous ''stinkin' thinkin'" in the scheme of attaining world peace. The Nobel Prize is in part awarded for consensus building and creating a climate around the pursuit of peace – fetes which Obama has and continues to perform. President, Obama's rhetoric and actions have recast the United States as a conciliator willing to engage diplomacy and nation building over coercion and militarism. These initiatives, despite a global economic downturn, create a sense of global hope and optimism for a world at peace, which the Committee on the Nobel Peace Prize did not choose to ignore. Obama has used his bully pulpit as leader of the free world to usher us into an era of reduced nuclear threat and conflict resolution through negotiation and mediation. For this reason alone I believe our President deserves the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

Failure to accept the good will Obama has generated for enhancing world peace, ensuring a climate for muti-lateral solutions to end world conflicts, and urging a robust diplomacy within the United Nations Security Council’s fledgling process – even delimiting the full deployment of missile defense systems in Eastern Europe, thereby reducing stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction – suggests that neoconservatives, hawks, and Obama naysayers are unable to see the forest for the trees. Their criticism of the Committee’s choice fails to take into account these accomplishments that could have long term impact on a sustainable peace.

As the late Speaker of the House Senator Tip O’Neal stated, “All politics is local.” President Obama has his work cut out at home. Indeed, if he fails to deliver on major challenges, like health care, unemployment, and honorably ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, then building a global consensus that peace, not war, is the answer won’t be enough to appease the home front. But until he does deliver the local goods, both John Lennon from the grave and I from my Harlem apartment will dance this day because all we are saying is “Give Peace a Chance,” Congratulations, Mr. President, and keep on truckin' !