Archives Reveal Family History

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Must Induct Pookie Hudson into it's Ranks in 2012

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Snubs Pookie Hudson and the Spaniels: American Originals

By Dennis Day

The prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has named it's class of 2011 inductees and after three years again the great pioneer Pookie Hudson and the Spaniels have been snubbed.The 2011 inductees include the Alice Cooper Band,Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Darlene Love, Tom Watts, Jac Holzman, Art Rupe, and Leon Russell.Notable artists to be sure but neither of these entrants is more worthy of the honor than Thornton James Pookie Hudson and the Spaniels, early pioneers of urban R&B and Rock and Roll whose career spans from the mid-fifties until the present day.

In January 2007,I received word that Thornton James"Pookie" Hudson had passed away after a valiant battle against thymus cancer.I joined several generations of vocal group harmony purists recognizing that one of the all time great romantic lead singers had departed.For thousands of male vocal harmony group fans, Pookie's voice defined an era.His loss is significant in part because Pookie and the Spaniels symbolize not only the passing of a true American cultural icon but a voice that was the bedrock of sweet urban doo- wop,black urban radio, street corner harmony, neighborhood juke boxes,high school sock hops and the sounds that bridged the rights of passage among black, white and Hispanic youth in the largely segregated American society of the period.The Spaniels' greatest hit, Good Night Sweetheart would become part of America's musical folklore,and a parting anthem for young lovers.

In the 1950s and early 60s, urban youth from Pittsburgh to Paducah gathered under city streetlights on balmy summer evenings to harmonize. For many of these groups, one signature song began with the lowest voice booming out a version of the great Gerald Gregory’s quintessential bass line with five familiar notes: doht – doh – doht – doht – doht,followed by a lead tenor and chorus echoing the sweet refrain, “Good night, sweetheart, well it’s time to go…”. To that early generation, those words signaled an end to something,akin to saying, "lights out…gig’s up…party’s over…mama says come on home". In every street-corner group, the lead singer mimicked one voice – the enormously popular performer known by legions of adoring fans, especially in the African American community, simply as Pookie Hudson.

During the 50s and 60s Pookie’s group routinely played to enthusiastic sold-out audiences on the so called 'Chitterlin' ciruit theaters", New York’s Apollo, Chicago’s Regal, Washington DC’s Howard, and other major concert halls in Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles. They later would play major European venues as well.

James Pookie Hudson was among my early musical idols –he was a unique song stylist during the halcyon days of Rhythm and Blues.Renowned singers like Aaron Neville, Al Jarreau, Smokey Robinson,Gene Cjhandler and countless balladeers from the Doo-Wop era attests to Pookie's having had some influence on their musical sensibilities. As lead singer of the legendary Spaniels, Pookie Hudson was cool, romantic, poetic, intense and unique.The Spaniels were among the earliest Rhythm and Blues vocal groups to appear on Dick Clark's popular nationally syndicated television show, American Bandstand.

In an intriguing biography,entitled Good Night Sweetheart Good Night, renowned journalist and social commentator Richard G. Carter chronicles the group’s emergence from the gritty blue-collar neighborhoods of Gary, Indiana where they won the fabled Gary Roosevelt Talent Show,a fete which was to also prove pivotal for other Gary exports, including Avery Brooks, Denice Williams, and mega stars Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five. Many of these performers went on to become media darlings on radio and television in the post-payola era, while Pookie and the Spaniels became marginalized as artists during the era of payola a"Pay to play system by refusing to acquiesce to the system's quid pro quo culture it, Pookie beliefs the group received far less national airplay than they would have by selling out to payola's powerful control over which records would be promoted. Nevertheless, Pookie’s silky tenor vibrato stood out in the golden era of male group lead singers on segregated radio airwaves with recordings like “I Know,” “Stormy Weather,” Peace of Mind and the chart buster "Good Night Sweetheart,” all perennial favorites in America's urban centers, but recordings that never gained the tremendous commercial success that many critics today believe they deserved.


I first met Pookie when I was 16 years old. He and his business manager made a surprise visit to my home in East Chicago at the urging of my cousin, who was then his wife. Pookie listened to my high school quartet and, at our prodding, he graciously rendered a stirring, Gospel-tinged acappella version of “Peace of Mind” in our living room. With his face nestled against the wall, Pookie’s rich tenor vibrato, clear as a bell, echoed throughout the house , shimmering and soaring effortlessly with an emotional tinge that spoke soul to soul. That day he gave me a prized copy of his latest release, a lushly arranged pop/spiritual ballad with a moral called “Meek Man,” recorded on the fledgling Philadelphia-based Neptune label.Sadly, the song made a lack luster showing commercially but it remains among one of the most iconic of Pookie’s songs.One can readily hear vocal similarities of contemporaries Johnny Mathis and Aaron Neville's smooth delivery.An observation made by more than a few of Hudson's critics and fans.

Throughout the years I managed to remain in touch with Pookie mostly by telephone.His troubador like career path resulted in frequent relocations, living in various cities. At various times, he'd resided in Los Angeles, California, Gary,Indiana and the District of Columbia Maryland area, which served as home base until his death in 2007.In each metropolitan region Pookie was able to maintain a devoted fan base.

I attended a Rhythm and blues revival performance billed as triumphant comeback appearance of Pookie Hudson and the Spaniels at the Apollo in August 1991 where, after a 30-year hiatus,from the legendary stage, Pookie’s acappella rendition of “Danny Boy” worked the audience into a frenzy that led to the evening’s only encore performance. Pookie was indeed an idol to millions of “old schoolers,” as evinced by his frequent appearances on PBS telethon fundraisers, an oldies series marketed to the lucrative baby boomer market. PBS Doo Wop shows invariably ended with the singer's rendition of “Good Night, Sweetheart” as a grand finale.

The song was covered by a number of groups, including the phenomenally popular McGuire Sisters in 1954;their version a cross-over sensation achieved gold-record status, the highest accolade of the day. The song also is on the soundtracks of movies,Three Men and A Baby and “American Graffiti.”

Pookie is on record as stating that part of the reason the Spaniels were not played as much on radio stations along the North Eastern corridor’s cities as on radio stations in other areas of the country is that he refused to allow a certain powerful on-air radio Czar and popular disc jockey of the era to sign on as co-publisher of songs he had written, a common but unlawful practice during the payola period of the 1950s. Pookie had many struggles over the years but he refused to fall prey to the economic enslavement that engulfed so many talented black artists/writers who never saw a dime in royalties despite so called sweetheart deals. Such a compromise would ensure that the co-author/publisher disc jockey would be entitled to a percentage of the songwriter’s royalties in-perpetuity. In later years Hudson did pursue a lawsuit against the producers of the blockbuster movie “Three Men and a Baby,” starring Tom Seleck, in which his 1950's original song “Good Night Sweetheart” was illegally featured, without proper licensing, constituting copyright infringement.It was not until the 1990’s that Pookie Hudson began receiving royalties for his popular song.


I last saw Pookie perform at the Queens Borough Community College in New York City on October 21, 2005. The All-star show was billed as a tribute to Pookie.He said he felt good,and that the prostate cancer he so courageously battled for several years was in remission. In a truly star-studded lineup that included the Teenagers, Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge, the Orioles,the Harp Tones, the Flamingos, the Chantels, Speedo and the Cadillacs, Earl Lewis and the Channels, and other great groups.The auditorium that night, as is said in show business parlance the night belonged to Pookie Hudson, as had been the case so many nights and venues before.Pookie's loyal fans,musical peers,great artists, respectful rival groups and lead singers, promoters from a long-gone historic era all recognize Pookie Hudson's enormous contribution to American music, particularly to Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll. Now if only the Board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would see the light,and do the right thing by voting Pookie Hudson into it's class of 2012.Now it remains to us, Pookie Hudson's fans,friends, fellow artists, organizers, politicians and fair minded Rock and Roll Hall of Fame board members to ensure that this pioneer's well deserved legacy is enshrined in that venerable institution's halls forever.
Together we can make it happen in 2011!


Dennis Day is President of D-Day Media Group Inc.

Copyright © 2003. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Longfellow's A Psalm of Life: Timeless Encouragement

These are selected verses quoted from one of my favorite poems,by one of my favorite poets:Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

A Psalm of Life

Life is real!Life is earnest!
And the grave is not it's goal;
"Dust thou art, to dust returnest ,"
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment , and not sorrow ,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act that each tomorrow
Finds us farther than today.
Art is long , and Time is fleeting.
And our hearts though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
Trust no future, howe'er pleasant.
Let the dead past bury it's dead.
Act--and act in the living present,
Heart within and God o'erhead!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Scottsboro Boys Play: When Art Imitates Life Un-Artfully By Dennis Day

Several weeks ago, I posted a statement on my Facebook page concerning my personal displeasure regarding the Lyceum Theatre’s production of Scottsboro Boys currently playing on Broadway. In fact, after seeing the play, I felt compelled to conduct my own un-scientific straw poll among the nine members of the racially diverse group whom attended the play along with me. I was even emboldened to randomly poll the views of a half dozen males, all baby boomers, I was able to button hole beneath the Lyceum’s marquis eliciting their candid opinions of the play. Among both groups of theatergoers there were strong objections or feelings of uneasiness about employing minstrelsy with young black men in blackface as a vehicle to embellish such a serious historical issue. A white middle-aged male respondent suggested the show was on a slippery-slope, tantamount to some Jewish critiques toward a perceived aggrandizing of the Nazi parody employed in the play The Producers reference to Spring-Time for Hitler.

Apparently the Scottsboro Boys affair is a topic that after eighty years still evokes the ire of many African Americans and minorities. Despite a brilliant cast of young song and dance men all of whom deliver valiant high energy performances as they try engaging their audience, the historical and moral challenges posed by the productions’ script and artistic conceptualization saps the plays energy as the show struggles to balance it’s intended entertainment value with it's desired result of presenting a work of genuine redeeming social value.

The net result, a palpable uneasiness too intense for comfort levels among many unfamiliar with the Scottsboro Boys’ narrative; a sad saga of nine young men denied justice, wrongfully imprisoned for years, robbed of their youth after being falsely accused of raping two white women in the Jim Crow south. Their story ultimately changed the American system of jurisprudence and jury selection procedures. But one of the most egregious miscarriages of American justice represented by their youthful suffering remains a painful chapter for America and based upon growing reaction, particularly so within the African American community.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Simple Photo for Not So Simple Times

A Simple Photo For Not So Simple Times
By Dennis Day

As time goes by I treasure this photo more and more, taken circa 1966, at Fisk University -- an incubator of the modern Civil Rights Movement. When I see my Kappa fraternity brethren, many of whom are now successful doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and architects -- and some of whom have made their transition all too soon – I am reminded of words to an old hymn. The song intones that “time is filled with swift transitions.” More importantly, I recognize the value of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the pivotal leadership role they play.

In 1960 a Fisk alum, John Lewis -- who is a Kappa and presently serves in the US Congress representing Georgia’s 5th Congressional District -- seized the momentum along with other HBCU students and organized students on campuses at North Carolina A&T and Shaw universities to form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

On its bucolic campus, Fisk’s student activism, like that at other elite HBCUs, fueled and sustained highly effective SNCC chapters in the South. SNCC students from Fisk and other HBCUs led peaceful demonstrations, sit-ins, and freedom marches, tearing down Jim Crow walls to end segregation and pushing for equal opportunities by peacefully demanding constitutional rights that are now taken for granted in American life.

One year prior to this photo, on March 9, 1965, SNCC Chairman John Lewis and Reverend Hosea Williams led more than 600 marchers in a historic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on what came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” TV images of vicious attack dogs and police brutality wielded against the marchers infuriated millions globally, subsequently intensifying America's political resolve to end segregation through passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

On November 18 this year, Congressman John Lewis received the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his crucial role in helping create a more perfect union. This award represented the fulfillment of hopes and aspirations of many HBCU alumni over many decades.

As students, my generation of HBCU graduates were on the cutting edge of history, helping steer our nation toward an era of historic change for a better world. I guess that’s why this photograph takes on special personal meaning for me and why we, the men of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, framed in the emblem of our iconic Kappa diamond, appear to be so filled with pride!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

World War I- The 369th Infantry Comes Home

The Colored Soldier by Langston Hughes(Excerpt)

Last night in a dream my brother came to me
Out of his grave from over the sea, back from the acres of crosses in France,
And said to me, “Brother, you’ve got your chance,
And I hope you’re making good, and doing fine-
‘Cause when I was living, I didn’t have mine.
Black boys couldn’t work then anywhere like they can
today,
Could hardly find a job that offered decent pay.
The unions barred us, the factories too,
But now I know we’ve got plenty to do.
We couldn’t eat in restaurants, had Jim Crow cars;
Didn’t have any schools, and there were all sorts of
bars
To a colored boy’s rising in wealth or station-
But now I know well that’s not our situation:
The world’s been made safe for Democracy
And no longer do we know the dark misery
Of being held back, of having no chance-
Since the colored soldiers came home from France.

HAPPY VETERAN”S DAY to all the men and women
of are great United States armed services, past and present!
Thank you for protecting our freedoms!!!

Published 11/10/10: A New Day in Media, D-Day Media Group Inc.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Virgin's Dilemma: Why Delete a FB Friend? by Dennis Day



Today I deleted a so-called friend from my Facebook account; it was a decision I begrudged since until now I’d been a virgin and new to the “de-friending” process. In my view Facebook as a social networking vehicle best serves its members in the interest of creating global community,building career and marketing networks among shared interest and furthering the great democratic experiment into the twenty-first century by facilitating bridges of human understanding and tolerance and shared creativity.So it offends my communal sensibilities when ever these ideals are thwarted or don’t square with human reality.

As a social media platform, Facebook is far from perfect and can be simultaneously invasive, socially and personally gratifying, disillusioning, and manipulative by habitually preying on our natural narcissistic and perhaps even voyeristic impulse,linking it’s members potentially to more than a half-billion people world-wide,making it the largest human marketing chain in human history seemingly poised to affirm the six degrees of separation theory. Now with over 130 translations Facebook’s growth as a marketing phenomenon seems endless. With expansion, however, has come a parallel rise in the number of charlatans seeking to game the system, by offering schemes and get rich quick dreams or making appeals for all types of difficult to authenticate charities and causes.

Facebook has been compelled to address it’s long reported problem of Click Fraud among advertisers whom claim Facebook had been reporting and charging for add clicks that don’t exist; these clicks are consumer or prospective buyer initiated actions charged to Facebook advertisers’ accounts whenever a person clicks on an add purchased on Facebook typically by a member advertiser client.The higher the volume of clicks,the greater the profit margin for FB.Reports of under-clicks have been listed range any where from 20 to 100% lower than reported by Facebook as compared to other reputable industry logs used to count the same individual advertisement accounts during adds click cycle. One click can be as small as a cent or more but with a global market of 500 billion consumers profit margins for FB and profit share from product sold on FB can be astronomical.Facebook has vowed to fix the problem,for those of us with products or services to offer we can only hope the cyber giant operates in good faith and does the right thing regarding artists and entrepreneurs seeking to get an honest return on their advertisement investment with Facebook in the expansive global market place.


Whether it's a corporate entity like FB or individual members of social networks the need for accountability, transparency and regulatory oversight of social media seems inescapable.The personal issue for me recently became should I offer my Profile page on Facebook as an ad space and forum for any individual's personal appeal for financial aid on behalf of either themselves, their friends or family members? I realize times are tough and my heart and prayers go out to those who may be on the brink of financial ruin, or struggling in desperate straits. That's why I've stepped up my personal gifts and contributions and on behalf of groups and organizations engaged in charitable giving and other forms of assistance, as I suspect many have done, or hopefully will do. But unless one is promoting a business, service or product on Facebook, I feel personal financial solicitations are off limits and a slippery slope to a dead-end.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Emmett Till's Saga:Painful Lesson on Path to Healing

America has made a great deal of progress towards its democratic ideal of racial equality, one might argue, yet much remains to be done.The assassination of 15 yr. old Emmett Till in 1955 was a benchmark for a nation torn by the deep evil grasp of racial hatred, segregation and the irrational hate response generated by racial social codes and accepted conventions around racial difference and skin color.

The young Chicagoans' murder was a homegrown act of racial terrorism designed to instill fear. This cowardly act disturbed, enraged, angered and indeed did frighten some mothers and families fearing a similar fate for their sons, but more importantly it galvanized communities both black and white to shun fear and instilled an attitude of resistance that evolved into the modern Civil Rights Movement.History can be painful but it is important that it's lessons are learned, less we repeat our mistakes.The story of Emmett Till remains etched deeply in our national psyche but we as Americans shall continue to overcome.

(Warning some of the images in the video post may be disturbing)D-Day Media Group's mission is to inform not offend and educate toward a shared reconciliation)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

VOTE: POLICIES IMPACT OUR LIVES!

By Dennis Day

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this past week, by now you’ve probably heard the news story about the Tennessee man, Gene Cranick, whose house was allowed to burn to the ground as the town’s local firemen, with their hook and ladder truck in tow, stood by gazing at the inferno but refusing to sprinkle one single drop of water to dowse the flames. “Oh no, never in America,” one might respond. Or “Why would they do such a thing?”, you might ask. Well the poor guy claims he forgot to pay Obion County’s $75 annual fee assessed to defray the costs for fire protection services administered by its governing municipality, South Fulton, because the Cranick family live outside the city limits. So what the media has dubbed the No Pay/No Spray policy kicked in and Mr. Cranick’s entire house, his lifetime of accumulated, irreplaceable personal and family memorabilia, and his three pet dogs and one cat were all cruelly incinerated, even though a neighbor and Mr. Cranick both told the firefighters that they would pay whatever it took if the firefighters would please douse the flames.

This is indeed a tragic incident and many people are rightfully enraged at the specter of a homeless American family caught in the heartless vice of an inhumane, bureaucratic policy that impeded rational people from making reasoned compassionate choices in the broader service of the community.

Is this the type of lean, mean, smaller government and prescribed “value” of “individual responsibility” being touted by the Tea Partiers? Are we headed for a society in which only those who can pay can play, with no other compensatory aids to protect those most vulnerable?

Despite the victim’s inactive account status, would it not have been far more reasonable to extinguish the fire, perhaps with the citizen’s consequence being a hefty surcharge or fine paid ex post facto in addition to the delinquent $75 fee as sufficient penalty to thwart slackers in the future? Mr. Cranick asserts that he offered to pay whatever fee was accessed on the spot but his offer was rejected.

Now Obion County is beset with a dislocated family, a diminished property tax revenue base, one less water and sewage recipient account, and an added homeless-services voucher to fulfill. And there’s that menacing barrage of national negative television and press coverage of their normally placid rural Tennessee community, whose governing board and municipal Fire Chief now seem more like heartless ogres rather than Norman Rockwellian types often depicted as icons of rural life in America. So much for cost-benefit analysis – I guess those factors never figured into the policy-makers’ decision to allow the property and pets of citizens with delinquent accounts to burn down to an ash-heap.

This was an ill-conceived, ineptly crafted law and this case underscores the need for the voting electorate to take seriously the responsibility to vote in an informed way to select the best and brightest candidates available. The No Pay/No Spray policy was no doubt the brainchild of numerous discussions among elected officials with the view that slackers and scofflaws should suffer the gravest consequences and be compelled to be left at risk and outside the locale’s fire safety net. But governments are not meant to function as compassionless machines fixated on budget deficits while mindlessly and without empathy depreciating human beings. This is why every election in a democracy is an important one. In a very real sense, those who govern as our elected officials often exercise the power of life and death. Their decisions affect our lives – from the quality of the foods we consume to the safety of our work places to the air we breathe and the water we drink. So please get out and vote during this Novembers’ mid-term election!

D-Day Media Group (c) 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Obama Will Triumph --So Will America Commentary by Frank Schaeffer

D-Day Media has posted this important Guest Commentary by author Frank Schaeffer and fully endorses it's editorial content.

Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times best selling author.
Obama Will Triumph -- So Will America
By Frank Schaeffer

Before he'd served even one year President Obama lost the support
of the easily distracted left and engendered the white hot rage of
the hate-filled right. But some of us, from all walks of life and
ideological backgrounds -- including this white, straight, 57-year-
old, former religious right wing agitator, now progressive writer
and (given my background as the son of a famous evangelical leader)
this unlikely Obama supporter -- are sticking with our President.
Why?-- because he is succeeding.

We faithful Obama supporters still trust our initial impression of
him as a great, good and uniquely qualified man to lead us.

Obama's steady supporters will be proved right. Obama's critics
will be remembered as easily panicked and prematurely discouraged
at best and shriveled hate mongers at worst.

The Context of the Obama Presidency

Not since the days of the rise of fascism in Europe , the Second
World War and the Depression has any president faced more
adversity. Not since the Civil War has any president led a more
bitterly divided country. Not since the introduction of racial
integration has any president faced a more consistently short-
sighted and willfully ignorant opposition - from both the right
and left.

As the President's poll numbers have fallen so has his support from
some on the left that were hailing him as a Messiah not long ago;
all those lefty websites and commentators that were falling all
over themselves on behalf of our first black president during the
2008 election.

The left's lack of faith has become a self-fulfilling "prophecy"--
snipe at the President and then watch the poll numbers fall and
then pretend you didn't have anything to do with it!

Here is what Obama faced when he took office-- none of which was
his fault:

# An ideologically divided country to the point that America was
really two countries

# Two wars; one that was mishandled from the start, the other that
was unnecessary and immoral

# The worst economic crisis since the depression

# America 's standing in the world at the lowest point in history

# A country that had been misled into accepting the use of torture
of prisoners of war

# A health care system in free fall

# An educational system in free fall

# A global environmental crisis of history-altering proportions
(about which the Bush administration and the Republicans had done
nothing)

# An impasse between culture warriors from the right and left

# A huge financial deficit inherited from the terminally
irresponsible Bush administration.

And those were only some of the problems sitting on the
President's desk!

"Help" from the Right?

What did the Republicans and the religious right, libertarians and
half-baked conspiracy theorists -- that is what the Republicans
were reduced to by the time Obama took office -- do to "help" our
new president (and our country) succeed? They claimed that he
wasn't a real American, didn't have an American birth certificate,
wasn't born here, was secretly a Muslim, was white-hating "racist",
was secretly a communist, was actually the Anti-Christ, (!) and was
a reincarnation of Hitler and wanted "death panels" to kill the
elderly!

They not-so-subtly called for his assassination through the not-so-
subtle use of vile signs held at their rallies and even a bumper
sticker quoting Psalm 109:8. They organized "tea parties" to sound
off against imagined insults and all government in general and
gathered to howl at the moon. They were led by insurance industry
lobbyists and deranged (but well financed) "commentators" from
Glenn Beck to Rush Limbaugh.

The utterly discredited Roman Catholic bishops teamed up with the
utterly discredited evangelical leaders to denounce a president who
was trying to actually do something about the poor, the
environment, to diminish the number of abortions through
compassionate programs to help women and to care for the sick! And
in Congress the Republican leadership only knew one word: "No!"

In other words the reactionary white, rube, uneducated, crazy
American far right,combined with the educated but obtuse
neoconservative war mongers, religious right shills for big
business, libertarian Fed Reserve-hating gold bug, gun-loving
crazies, child-molesting acquiescent "bishops", frontier loons and
evangelical gay-hating flakes found one thing to briefly unite
them: their desire to stop an uppity black man from succeeding at
all costs!

"Help" from the Left?

What did the left do to help their newly elected president? Some of
them excoriated the President because they disagreed with the bad
choices he was being forced to make regarding a war in Afghanistan
that he'd inherited from the worst president in modern history!

Others stood up and bravely proclaimed that the President's
economic policies had "failed" before the President even instituted
them! Others said that since all gay rights battles had not been
fully won within virtually minutes of the President taking office,
they'd been "betrayed"! (Never mind that Obama's vocal support to
the gay community is stronger than any other president's has been.
Never mind that he signed a new hate crimes law!)

Those that had stood in transfixed legions weeping with beatific
emotion on election night turned into an angry mob saying how
"disappointed" they were that they'd not all immediately been
translated to heaven the moment Obama stepped into the White House!
Where was the "change"? Contrary to their expectations they were
still mere mortals!

And the legion of young new supporters was too busy texting to pay
attention for longer than a nanosecond. "Governing"?! What the hell
does that word, uh, like mean?"

The President's critics left and right all had one thing in common:
impatience laced with little-to-no sense of history (let alone
reality) thrown in for good measure. Then of course there were the
white, snide know-it-all commentators/talking heads who just
couldn't imagine that maybe, just maybe they weren't as smart as
they thought they were and certainly not as smart as their
president. He hadn't consulted them, had he? So he must be wrong!

The Obama critics' ideological ideas defined their idea of reality
rather than reality defining their ideas-say, about what is
possible in one year in office after the hand that the President
had been dealt by fate, or to be exact by the American idiot nation
that voted Bush into office. twice!

Meanwhile back in the reality-based community - in just 12 short
months -- President Obama:

#Continued to draw down the misbegotten war in Iraq
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Thoughtfully and decisively picked the best of several bad choices
regarding the war in Afghanistan
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Gave a major precedent-setting speech supporting gay rights
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Restored America 's image around the globe
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Banned torture of American prisoners
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Stopped the free fall of the American economy
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Put the USA squarely back in the bilateral international community
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Put the USA squarely into the middle of the international effort
to halt global warming
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Stood up for educational reform
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Won a Nobel peace prize
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Moved the trial of terrorists back into the American judicial
system of checks and balances
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Did what had to be done to start the slow, torturous and almost
impossible process of health care reform that 7 presidents had
failed to even begin
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Responded to hatred from the right and left with measured good
humor and patience
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Stopped the free fall of job losses
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Showed immense personal courage in the face of an armed and
dangerous far right opposition that included the sort of disgusting
people that show up at public meetings carrying loaded weapons and
carrying Timothy McVeigh-inspired signs about the "blood of
tyrants" needing to "water the tree of liberty".
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Showed that he could not only make the tough military choices but
explain and defend them brilliantly
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

Other than those "disappointing" accomplishments -- IN ONE YEAR --
President Obama "failed"! Other than that he didn't "live up to
expectations"!

Who actually has failed...

...are the Americans that can't see the beginning of a miracle of
national rebirth right under their jaded noses. Who failed are the
smart ass ideologues of the left and right who began rooting for
this President to fail so that they could be proved right in their
dire and morbid predictions. Who failed are the movers and shakers
behind our obscenely dumb news cycles that have turned "news" into
just more stupid entertainment for an entertainment-besotted
infantile country.

Here's the good news: President Obama is succeeding without the
help of his lefty "supporters" or hate-filled Republican detractors!

The Future Looks Good

After Obama has served two full terms, (and he will), after his
wisdom in moving deliberately and cautiously with great subtlety on
all fronts -- with a canny and calculating eye to the possible
succeeds, (it will), after the economy is booming and new industries
are burgeoning, (they will be), after the doomsayers are all proved
not just wrong but silly: let the record show that not all
Americans were panicked into thinking the sky was falling.

Just because we didn't get everything we wanted in the first short
and fraught year Obama was in office not all of us gave up. Some of
us stayed the course. And we will be proved right.

PS. if you agree that Obama is shaping up to be a great president,
please pass this on and hang in there! Pass it on anyway to ensure
that his "report card" gets the attention it deserves.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Messin’ With Your Mind - Glenn Beck’s Subliminal Manipulation of Racial Iconography

Recently Fox television’s Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, employing their customary formulaic shtick, engaged in what on surface seemed innocuous, if somewhat mean-spirited, witty banter on a regular segment of O’Reilly’s show called “Beck and Call.” The topic was Beck’s earlier recorded commentary “Rats, Flies, Bees, and Obama, Oh My!” Beck and O’Reilly juxtaposed more recent footage with that of President Obama’s infamous fly-swatting episode from June 2009 – you remember the shot, in which President Obama summarily dispatched a fly in one fell swoop without batting an eye or becoming distracted from his line of thought, then a downward pan to frame a dead fly on the floor of the Oval Office. In the new video, there’s a close-up of another fly landing on the president’s face, followed by a shot of a rat scurrying across the front of the presidential podium, and then, as Beck’s narrative arcs, the camera cuts to an image of bees swarming on the White House lawn. These pictures prompt the obligatory pseudo-journalistic query (as both men feign utter befuddlement): Why has the Obama White House attracted such infestation?

To the casual viewer untrained in anthropology, sociology, symbology, or iconography, Beck’s cavalier amusement with the White House pest-infiltration narrative may appear to be nothing more than a Fox infotainment foray into a human-interest aspect of the Obama administration. But it would be unthinkable to dismiss this charade as lighthearted comedic jesting. If you were to casually regard Fox’s snickering “White House Infestation” segment as mere comic relief, you’d be viewing the world through the proverbial rose-colored lens and missing the real picture.

The fact is that symbols are powerful tools of mass communication. One need only reflect on the passion that symbols can evoke; the American flag, the Confederate flag, the Star of David, the Christian cross. Across cultures and through the ages, animals, insects, and objects have been imputed symbolic meanings. And once symbols are embedded and codified as icons, they possess a unique ability to convey intent and significance in compact, coded – but also immediately recognizable – form.

Glenn Beck has long displayed a ferocious proclivity for deconstructing symbolism as he plants himself to pontificate piously in front of an image of the Statue of Liberty, or frames his bloviations with the American flag, or implores the electorate to beware of treasonous communistic iconography in our midst – as in the artwork of Rockefeller Center, stoking fears of the demise of our morals and our democratic society.

The effect of icons, signs, and symbols is enormous. The fly’s image has had currency for centuries as a symbol of filth, decay, and disease. The fly on Obama’s cheek evokes the fly-covered faces of Biafran children in UNICEF campaigns. And Beck tastelessly drags the joke to even more sophomoric levels by pretending to ingest a dead fly for “yuck” effect.

Likewise, rats have long signified pestilence, plague, betrayal, and death, at least in Western culture. (In China the year of the Rat denotes prosperity and good luck.) In Albert Camus’classic novel, The Plague, the image of rats is called forth to do more than merely symbolize disease – the rats parallel the frailty of our human condition. Both creatures are regarded as vermin; fodder for annihilation lest they infect our homes, crops, and livestock.

And then there’s the troublesome White House bee-infestation imagery. What gives this story wings, so to speak? After all, rose gardens are expected to attract bees and more significantly, for the first time in history a bee hive is being maintained on the South Lawn as part of the First Lady’s environmental and healthy-foods efforts. (This was never mentioned by Beck and O’Reilly.) Robert Bridges in his poem “The Parable of Bees” refers to ancient times when the life of the bee was not systematized and regulated as it is today, and “the bee was not a State-kept hoard.” In other words, before people colonized bees into hives for cultivation, they were free. In the brief clip used by O’Reilly and Beck, the bees appear to be swarming in attack mode, overwhelming the groundskeeper in a terroristic frenzy.

The visuals serve to drum home Beck’s story line. In his subliminal iconography, the bee hive represents a socialist society dependent upon the Queen Bee, a perfect metaphor for the Republican narrative that seeks to portray Obama’s presidency as imperial, with full reign over big-government resources and committed to redistributing the wealth (and subtly implying redistribution on the basis of race). Symbolically, bee swarms in the Rose Garden represent a rebellious, disruptive (white) electorate on the attack against the President for leading the nation down the slippery slope to socialism – to a society in which individual freedoms are viewed as subservient to the survival of special interests,minority groups and blacks in particular.

Within days of his hijacking of the bee footage, Beck was hawking “The Bees Know” t-shirts on his website.

In addition to the rats, flies, and bees, other symbolic literary references surfaced in this same “Beck and Call” segment, all deviously laden with disturbing allegory masquerading as good-humored jesting at the President’s expense: Obama mocked as Pied Piper, as Dr. Doolittle, as the blood-sucking Count Dracula, and the White House portrayed as the Amityville Horror house (which, along with the haunting spirits, was infested with – you guessed it – flies). These giggly comparisons are not void of layered social, psychological, political and, yes, deliberate racial connotations. They are meant to demean and marginalize the President by innuendo, using symbolism and literary imagery to reinforce the notion of Obama’s mystical “otherness.”

Fox’s program executives have strategically allowed Beck and O’Reilly to cast America as a nation in decline under Obama’s leadership. Biblical allegories of deadly plagues, mystical metaphors of evil haunted houses, and raw images suggesting a vermin- and insect-infested White House are calculated to conjure fear and revulsion in an already economically insecure and anxious American electorate. They present a vision of the U.S. plunging from number-one reigning world empire to banana republic by casting President Obama as alien, third-worldly; an unworthy occupant of America’s most revered residence, the White House.

Despite Beck’s admitted lack of formal education – he never earned a college degree – he nonetheless is a New York Times bestselling author, so it’s difficult to believe that he is unaware of the racist content of Hugh Lofton’s original Dr. Doolittle books, in which, for example, the African Prince Bumpo persuades Dr. Doolittle to bleach his face white in hopes that he may marry a fairytale European princess. The books have come under attack from advocates seeking to draw attention to children’s books that portray racist imagery and mock black people.

Powerful stereotypes, both positive and negative, depend upon one’s cultural perspective. Nearly four decades ago at Fisk University, I reviewed research on racial stereotypes when I studied with the brilliant Japanese-American scholar Dr. J. Matsuoka. Many of the same vicious and factually baseless stereotypes persist today, having been bequeathed from generation to generation. For example, in 2007 a D.C. high school teacher asked students to list stereotypes they were aware of pertaining to black, white, and Latino populations. Many of the descriptors generated by the students echoed the vicious views found in Dr. Matsuoka’s empirical studies from the 1960s. For black people, these included “low job expectations, dropouts, live in the ghetto/projects,” despite blacks’ enormous economic and educational gains over forty years, while whites were characterized as “rich with big houses” and “always in a hurry and on time.”

Beck and O’Reilly are perversely intentional in their skillful appropriation of symbols and stereotypes – in this case infestation; linking rats, flies, and bees with the name and image of Obama for the subliminal manipulation of their viewers’ emotions and opinions, further stoking the suspicion, racial division, apprehension, anger, and hatred that they are often accused of evoking in more open, direct commentary. Their visual tools of mind control are carefully crafted for full effect – to perpetuate the us-against-them and we-they attitudes within our national psyche that govern our common discourse on race.

As Marshall McLuhan intoned in 1960, “the medium is the message.” Television’s formidable power to shape public opinion and common cultural understandings is not lost on Beck, O’Reilly, or pundits and network executives across the industry. Fox’s mass-media forum, tactically handed over to the likes of Beck and O’Reilly, becomes a lethal weapon; spewing propaganda, reinforcing stereotypes, and smearing innuendo for political advantage and, to an even greater extent, for pure monetary profit. Why else would Fox spend the enormous salary and production costs-per-minute to devote such an inordinate number of minutes to this infestation narrative when so many larger issues loom?

The illusion of a hoped-for post-racial American society has not materialized. Like a steady drumbeat in the polarizing cable media “culture wars,” the carefully crafted, symbol-laden imagery of Beck and O’Reilly propels their storyline. Obama’s White House, like the Amityville Horror house, is infested with threatening, blood-sucking (your tax dollars!) nuisances that must be exorcised or “there goes the neighborhood.”

At the end of the televised “Beck and Call” segment, O’Reilly asserts that everything Beck has said is completely true. You be the judge of whether what is portrayed is truthful the next time Mr. Beck portends to reveal the symbolic meaning of an event, relationship, idea, object, or picture. (More recently, for example, he compared Obama’s America to the Planet of the Apes. )

Ask yourself what Beck is really saying. And then ask: Why should we care? As freedom-loving Americans, indeed we all should care. Think about it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why Do I Do This Thing Called Jazz?

As I awoke yesterday morning to the news of an earthquake in the Maryland and Washington DC area, I reflected on the new morning, which was my birthday, and on the meaning of what’s called the Grace of God – God’s unmerited favor. On Thursday morning I had driven from NYC to Hyattsville, MD near DC to rehearse with a new band. Later in the afternoon, I drove home, only hours ahead of the quake, which registered 3.6 in the Richter scale. Thank God for safe travel mercies. I returned safely to the comforts of home and a loving significant other. Finally, I was able to casually “chill-ax” with a glass of merlot after a grueling rehearsal and ten hours of driving through DC/ Baltimore rush-hour traffic. I reflected on why I do this music. The answer is simple – because I love music and I especially love performing jazz. When I think about how fortunate I have been to have a measure of good health and strength sufficient to move freely about performing, sharing life, music, art and being blessed by love, friendships, and colleagues – and as the elders say “having a reasonable portion of my right mind” – I better understand God’s grace. So as I celebrated yet another milestone anniversary and survey how simply and graciously I’ve been blessed, I counted each blessing and gave thanks to God for having brought me this far. Were it not for the unmerited favor He has extended to me, none of my activities would be possible. At this stage in my life I know from whence cometh my real strength and joy; it cometh from the Lord God. And I thank you, Heavenly Father for allowing me to approach another year on the planet earth. Amen. Now with your Good Grace, I'm ready to go out sing my A_ off! Oops!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Benny Powell Left A Great Legacy

I was saddened to learn of trombonist Benny Powell's transition. Benny was a friend and a consummate artist, who fought the "good fight," astute, well-rounded, Benny was a proud native of New Orleans and comfortable on the world stage whether as a much sought after side-man or leader. He executed his craft skillfully, always comporting himself as a man of great dignity, class and grace.
I met Benny in the 80s through our joint work with the American Federation of Musicians union Local 802’s Justice for Jazz Committee's efforts to change New York City’s archaic cabaret laws, which limited musicians in their ability to earn full wages and benefits they deserve. Benny was among the early wave of musician activists leaders who pressed for needed changes in the City’s restrictive cabaret laws. His and the efforts of his comrades opened new opportunities for jazz musicians in NYC and the work continues.
A highly trained world-class musician in the classical sense of it's best meaning, Benny Powell remained committed to his music; always growing, learning, expanding his knowledge by teaching, mentoring, composing and collaborating. We last spoke in late 2009 about my wish to record a great song he had composed that I love. Benny made a difference with his life through sharing his music and his irrepressible gift of inspiration with countless musicians and music lovers throughout the world, Benny Powell will surely be missed. Well-done Benny! RIP.

Friday, June 18, 2010

On Face Book After One Year

For me FB is an important tool, for networking, marketing and connecting individuals with diverse backgrounds. It is among the purest forms of open democratic expression available to people world-wide except for a few autocratic regimes intent on limiting political discourse and artistic expression deemed subversive to the State's interest. As with any governing entity rules of conduct and regulations need to apply to protect individual rights and preserve the integrity of the system for every ones' benefit.After going on-line as a Facebooker a year ago. I can say the experience
has been mostly positive. It's not perfect by any means but as a social media outlet its power for the good and creating a more global and humane environment is a blessing we can ill afford to take for granted or abuse.Now, I'm off my soapbox and "gone fishing". Enjoy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Win-Win Situation for Fisk Jubilees and Carnegie Hall’s Community Sing

By Dennis Day
©D-Day Media Group, Inc.

“In the Fisk Jubilee Singers, America has produced the perfectest flower of the ages. I wish it were a foreign product, so that she (America) could lavish money on them and go properly crazy over them.”
- Mark Twain, American Humorist


The Community Sing with the Fisk Jubilee Singers from Nashville, Tennessee, sponsored by Carnegie Hall and held at Aarron Davis Hall on the pristine campus of City College, was a resounding success Tuesday evening, May 18. Despite a grey drizzly evening, a large, racially diverse audience turned out to hear the renowned Jubilee Singers and was charmed by 17 bright-eyed African-American singer-scholars. The Fisk Jubilee Singers, , a group Mark Twain once associated with a choir of angels, carry on a rich American tradition of more than 140 years, singing “slave songs,” known today as spirituals. The original Jubilee Singers introduced these beautiful songs to the world in 1871 and were instrumental in spreading and preserving this rich American musical tradition. In the late 19th century, they broke racial barriers in the U.S. and abroad, even performing before Europe’s royalty.

If audience response is any indication of what the future portends for Fisk University and its storied Jubilee Singers’ hallowed tradition, this week’s performance supplied ample assurance that the historically Black university’s prospect for once again becoming a premier destination among the best and brightest students is not a pipe dream. Vastly expanded opportunities for African Americans during in the post-Civil Rights Movement era coupled with some progress in enforcing equal educational opportunity and affirmative action policies pose ongoing competitive challenges for the private, once-elite baccalaureate-level university as it seeks to attract gifted faculty and students. In recent years Fisk has been plagued with dwindling enrollment and allegations of financial mis-management. A lawsuit enjoining the University not to sell highly valued pieces of its vaunted Alfred Stieglitz art collection – bequeathed by Georgia O’Keefe – in an effort to remain solvent has wound its way through the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Despite these challenges, Fisk remains a beacon of hope for today’s generation of mostly young African Americans seeking a solid liberal arts education from an institution that once held the distinction of producing more Black PhDs in natural science than any other American university. In fact, until the mid 20th century nearly half of all African-American physicians and dentists were graduates of Fisk. An unpublished survey conducted by D-Day Media Group in 2007 found that Fisk graduates have served for more cumulative years in governmental leadership and legislative positions, both elected and appointed, than graduates from any other school except Harvard, Yale, Howard, and Princeton.

The nation’s first African-American Solicitor General, Wade McCree, was a Fisk alumnus and the late Judge Constance Baker Motely matriculated at Fisk and served as U.S Federal District Court Magistrate from 1982 to 2005. From 1942 until his retirement in 1970, U.S. Congressman William Dawson (D) of Chicago was a powerful chairman of several committees. Congressman and leading Civil Rights figure John Lewis (D) of Georgia has represented that state’s Fifth Congressional District since 1987, while Alcee L.Hastings (D) has served Florida’s 23rd District. Fisk’s current president, the honorable Hazel O’Leary, Esq. served as Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency under former president Bill Clinton. And Clinton’s chairperson of the One America Initiative on Race was the late historian Dr. John Hope Franklin, former Professor Emeritus at Duke University and one of Fisk’s most notable alumni. Together, these leaders’ extensive terms total well over 100 years of national service.

The Fisk roster of illustrious alumni and professors is impressive by any academic measure. The list includes Dr. W.E.B Du Bois, regarded by many as one of the 20th century’s leading intellectuals and social philosophers, and Dr. Charles S. Johnson, an African-American social scientist largely credited with having helped advance research on African Americans and the modern school of social science methodology. Johnson also became president of Fisk. Other notable teachers were Japanese-American sociologist Dr. J. Masuoka, and four powerful influences of the Harlem Renaissance: Writer and poet Arna Bontemps; James Weldon Johnson, who served as Adam K. Spence Chair of Creative Writing; Arthur Schomberg, Curator of Black Literature; and artist Aaron Douglass. Contemporary notable figures who share the Fisk experience include Judith Jamison, director of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company; renowned poet Nikki Giovanni, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author-historian alumnus Daniel Levering Lewis.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have made immense contributions to our nation’s welfare and deserve wide recognition. Fisk University stands at the vanguard of those great institutions. If Fisk is to thrive, administrators, trustees, faculty, students, and alumni must summon their best angels and wisely employ all necessary human and capitol resources needed to sustain Fisk’s academic reputation and status as a top-tier liberal arts postsecondary institution.

The Carnegie Hall/Fisk Jubilee Communiy Sing template is simple and powerful. Director Paul Kwame provides the audience with a brief historical outline of the University’s origins during the U.S. period of Reconstruction and shares vignettes about Fisk’s struggle to independently establish the first permanent edifice erected for the education of Blacks in the South – Jubilee Hall, now a national historic landmark. He then rehearses each choral section; soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. After a couple of trial run-throughs, the Jubilee Singers perform a version of the song being taught to the audience. The audience has now been gracefully molded into a newly minted chorus and is cued by Director Kwami to sing along with the legendary Singers. The effect is a profound communal experience that is at once powerful, inclusive, self-affirming, and educational – a beautiful mosaic of ethnic and cultural diversity.

Fisk and Carnegie Hall, or some other viable business, partner should consider expanding this concept nationwide. The Carnegie Hall/Fisk Jubilee Community Sing Partnership offers an important forum for reconnecting Fisk’s remarkable narrative to ordinary Americans in cities, villages, and hamlets throughout the nation. By introducing entire communities of contemporary Americans to a slice of authentic American culture as introduced, performed, and perfected by people of African descent, these mini audience-participation concerts would afford students and families an invaluable opportunity for lessons about cultural history that become exercises in democracy, requiring common goals, leadership, cooperation, participation, and execution. The experience is a rare and precious one, unlike any other.

With diminished support for the arts, both Fisk and a partnering arts organization could generate needed revenue from the sale of DVDs, CDs, and related paraphalia. The biggest most enduring sale being one’s bragging rights when captured on video, documenting that “I once sang with the Fisk Jubilee Singers!”

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Refections on Stevie Wonder: the Age of Innocence

Happy Birthday Steveland Morris! In this photo taken at Harlem’s Hue Man Bookstore, I joked with Stevie about his annual summer visits to my old neighborhood in East Chicago, IN where his grandparents lived and his mom was raised.


My sister, a talented singer in her own right, along with her Our Gang-motley crew from the "hood" would tag along wherever Little Stevie and his escorts would roam, like good little groupies savoring his spontaneous bursts into song, coaxing the “Boy Wonder” to sing and play his harmonica. More often than not those assisting him, usually his cousins, former baby sitters, or neighbors would allow this extraordinarily gifted child freedom to dazzle his young and older admirers with a selection or two.


In our neighborhood, we all knew the little blind Morris grandchild visiting from near Detroit was special. Stevie’s impromptu mini-concerts usually took place near his grandparents’ home and family business, the Morris Liquor Store at 138th and Alexander Avenue, or on the bustling green and playground of Smith Park that served as a sort of Village Square near the Carver Public Swimming Pool. This phase of Stevie’s emergence as an artist predates his rise to fame with his first huge hit record Fingertips, Part 1.


When Stevie visited the “hood” back in the day, it was like watching the Pied Piper, only in real time. Instead of leading rats to the river, boys and girls trailed Little Stevie during the humid hazy days of Lake Michigan summers, marveling at his talent, waiving in the musical afterglow of pure soulful genius. The boy Wonder’s entourage often lingered for one last song into the evening, before the street lights came on and happy kids from a more innocent time excitedly returned home, sharing the story of their unforgettable musical experience that day.


I was privileged to have been part of Stevie’s marches in Washington DC, during his successful campaign to make Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. If our paths should cross again, I’d ask him whether his mom or grandparents allowed him to go swimming in the neighborhood public swimming pool located a block from his grandparents’ home and business. The pool opened its doors in the 1940s, named in honor of George Washington Carver the great African- American scientist, who personally attended the ribbon cutting ceremony. The Carver Swimming Pool was built to preserve racially segregated neighborhoods and recreational activities in East Chicago, a town known as a melting pot of ethnic backgrounds. For nearly 70 years, Carver Pool was a source of community pride and summer joy and for generations of largely black and Puerta Rican youth. The swimming pool has long since been demolished and the rust belt neighborhood Stevie and I fondly recall is nearly a ghost town as a result of the region’s decline as a steel-producing economic engine. What will never fade are our sweet memories of youth and the joy one little blind kid shared annually with those of us “living in the city.” Happy 60th birthday Stevie, we love you!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Shirley Horn: A Glimpse of Paradise on Earth

In life's journey one encounters rare individuals whose genius or artistry leaves a profound imprint . Shirley Horne was such an artist in my life. Ms. Horne, always elegant and impeccably gracious was kind enough to indulge me as an aspiring young jazz singer. When I sat in with her at the Bohemian Caverns in Washington DC, in 1983 she was just returning to jazz after a long hiatus during most of the 70s. The experience enraptured me . Never before had I felt a sense of being engulfed in this “thing” called music. I floated on and above the richness of her full bodied chord and harmonic selections. I heard musical nuances like never before. I knew then, I'd only begun to scratch the surface music compels in discovering its depths. Such human revelation is only fully conceived and executed when true genius blossoms and spreads its marvelous fragrance among those who would stop and savor its power to lift and elevate us to higher levels of human experience. As the last chord progression faded to pianissimo, and I realized that as a singer, I had never sounded or felt better, I could only say to myself , Wow how magnificent this has been, what a memory and a moment to be cherished even savored , and it indeed has been! The song was Erroll Garner’s immortal Misty.The Grammy Award winning pianist/singer composer is commemorated for her 76th birthday May 1,2010. RIP Shirley Horn


Friday, April 30, 2010

Take the A Train - Still Rollin' Up to Harlem

"Take the A Train" is identified with Harlem perhaps as much as any iconic song. After 70 years it has been interpreted in countless motifs and arrangements. I live within 100 paces of NY City's most famous subway line. Locals used to say the "A" stood for "African Express" because by the time the train reached 96th Street from 42nd Street in Times Square, ALL the "white folk" had de-trained. Given the city's residentially segregated housing patterns, the cars were filled with blacks and Puerto Ricans heading uptown to Harlem. Not any longer. Blacks are no longer in the majority in Harlem, which is now one of the most diverse communities in the nation. I love Harlem! You'll love this timeless rendition of 'Take the A Train."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Michael G. Davis Leaves Rich Cultural Legacy

Mike Davis was a friend and my homeboy.I sadly learned of his death only yesterday, April 15 from a mutual friend.Mike passed December 6,,2009 in New York City.Michael G. Davis Sr. was one of the most gifted individuals I have ever met. He singlehandedly organized The Harlem Preservation Jazz band, a "toe tapping” big band favorite in Harlem's Clubs and soirĂ©es. Mike was a dedicated educator and teacher in NYC public schools until he suffered a near debilitating stroke. A talented athlete, Mike was streetwise, savvy and academically prepared to meet the challenges in New York City's toughest neighborhoods and classrooms, which he did with great effectiveness. Trained as a graphic artist, illustrator, his artwork and talent as a young artist/illustrator were employed by major television networks including CBS, NBC's Today Show and Johnson Publishing company's flag ship publication, Ebony magazine. I last spoke with Mike on Thanksgiving Day, 2009. We had vowed that 2010 would be a special year in which he and I would present a unique jazz showcase together. Michael G. Davis' was laid to rest in his hometown Gary, Indiana December 19, 2010.Michael G. Davis left a rich cultural legacy that will long be remembered. RIP

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Obama's Historic Nuclear Pact with Russia

Today US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev laid a historic cornerstone at Prague Castle by signing a major nuclear arms control agreement. Humanity has taken a much-needed significant good-faith step toward safeguarding our world from nuclear catastrophe and promoting world peace. President Obama is to be commended for exhibiting the rare moral courage, bold political leadership, and sure-footed diplomacy needed to seal the deal. As astronaut Neil Armstrong reminded us from the distant moon back in 1968 of how humanity's positive movement one step at a time can lead us toward reaching the most unimaginable destinations when he said, "One small step for man; one giant step for mankind." Obama’s 2010 “shuttle diplomacy” has succeeded at least by ensuring that future generations the world over may be more inclined to “give peace a chance" and to, as the traditional Spiritual intones, "study war no more." May God bless you for your vision of peace among the nations, Mr. President. For "without a vision,” it is said, “the people perish.”

D-Day Media Group (c)
(Warning: Video images in the link depict perils of war)


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dr.James A.Forbes Delivers Easter Tribute Sermon at The Riverside Church

Easter 2010 I attended a glorious Easter Sunday Service replete with mass choir, brass, and timpani, and heard a masterful sermon preached by Dr. James A. Forbes, Pastor Emeritus of the Riverside Church in Harlem’s Morningside Heights neighborhood. Dr. Forbes’ sermon title was, “When the Spirit of Life Fills the Temple.” The Reverend Forbes was voted by Time Magazine as one of the ten most effective preachers in the English language. His erudition is respected internationally. Dr. Forbes occasionally draws on folksy expressions and allegories, interspersed with original songs and urban rhymes steeped in his southern Pentecostal upbringing. This style makes him equally at ease in front of lecterns at Harvard, Yale, and Oxford, where he has lectured on the art of preaching, or at a store-front church in Watts or the Bronx. His Easter sermon, delivered 43 years to the day after Dr. Martin Luther King’s controversial anti-Viet Nam sermon also delivered at RSC, in which Dr. King critiqued racism, materialism, and militarism through the lens of the Christian Gospel. It was one of the most powerful sermons I’ve ever heard. If you listen before Sunday, April 11, you can hear the sermon at http://www.theriversidechurchny.org/mp3/service.mp3

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Soulful Sounds of Easter

For many believers, Good Friday is a time of personal reflection, introspection, and meditation; a season of renewal and shoring-up one’s spiritual foundations and plans. It’s a mystical day centered in the belief that through faith life has boundless possibilities and hope springs eternal. My musical listening choices include repertoire from Duke Ellington’s Sacred music: Meditation, Come Sunday, Praise God and Dance. Mahalia Jackson’s sonorous voice also offers sweet solace in our sunny Manhattan apartment, channeling me back to an era that seemed simpler and connecting my spirit to traditions in African American spiritual expression that are both familiar and comforting yet universal. And when Cannonball Adderly’s alto sax soulfully grooves the refrain “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” it liberates my soul. Finally, my late mother Irene Day’s heart stirring rendition of Balm in Gilead continues to inspire and fortify me and others around the world. So in your quiet time I invite you to listen to the immortal music of Good Friday and Easter.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Harlem Concert for Haiti A Huge Success

Yesterday's (March 7)"Concert for Haiti" was a tremendous success. Musicians and poets in the African griot tradition, along with outstanding guest solo artists, performed before an appreciative capacity audience at Harlem’s St. Paul Baptist Church, where the church’s pastor, Rev. Dr. V. DuWayne Battle helped organize Friends of Haiti, a group dedicated to assisting in efforts to revitalize and empower Haiti and its people. Performances were powerful and heartfelt. The Rev. Dr. James Stallings, president of sponsoring organization the Regional American Baptist Churches, was on hand and proved an able pitchman for the cause.

Lead organizer of the event Claude Jay served as Master of Ceremonies and enlisted a broad spectrum of artists from both gospel and popular music genres, including former Oscar nominee Tevin Thomas who along with Jamal Joseph and Charles Mack co-wrote the song "Raise It Up" from the movie "August Rush." The multi-racial Renaissance youth performance ensemble was outstanding and sang James Weldon Johnson’s Negro National Anthem with a diverse group of Asian, Hispanic and African youth exchanging verses. Very few dry eyes were to be found in the church sanctuary.

I found it especially gratifying to add my voice to this great chorus on behalf of alleviating some of the unimaginable suffering taking place in Haiti. The standing ovation and call-back I received for my rendition of Balm in Gilead affirmed to me again that “what comes from the heart goes to the heart.”

Visiting Haitian choral groups were visibly touched at the site of the Haitian flag draped from the interior church balcony in a show of solidarity with the Haitian people as their nation continues its struggle to rebound from unspeakable devastation in the earthquake’s aftermath.

I feel a wonderful sense of assurance that the funds raised by the Harlem “Concert for Haiti” will go directly toward completion of the much-needed emergency medical clinic being built in Haiti by the American Baptist Church’s Mission. I look forward to visiting the clinic in the future. I will report what I find in A New Day in Media.

To donate to the American Baptist Church’s clinic in Haiti or for more information visit ABC’s web site:
http://www.cruz-jenks.com/ABCMNYStaff2.htm



Sunday, February 28, 2010

Singers, Musicians and Choirs Unite for "A Concert for Haiti" in Harlem

In response to the devastation and human suffering wrought by the earthquake in Haiti a group of musicians, singers, and choirs have come together to raise funds for the continued support of those in need in Haiti. Organized by singer/actor Claude Jay, “A Concert for Haiti” will feature an array of stellar gospel singers, choirs and jazz musicians.

A partial list of Guests Artists include:
Renaissance-EMS , Bervin Harris , L’Eglise Baptiste Eben-zar Choir, Max Lucas, Tevin Thomas, Nedgra Culp, Lorenzo Tyler, Dr. Gregory Hopkins, Darlene Cheek, Rev, Charlotte Holly,Bishop Carl Holley, deacon Bill McEahern, masters Mime, Linda Humes, Russell Craig, Claude Jay and Dennis Day and many others.

The funds will go to the American Baptist Churches Missions in Haiti and Le Gonave Development Corporation Earthquake Relief Fund.


Sunday, March 7, 3:00p.m.
St. Paul Baptist Church
249 West 132nd Street
(between Frederick Douglass & Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Chicago Area’s Jesus of Nazareth an Institution by Dennis Day

Among Chicago-land’s array of attractions, the passion play Jesus of Nazareth has become a “must see” theatrical event. The passion play is directed by Steve Munsey, pastor of the Family Christian Center, a mega church located 30 minutes outside Chicago in Munster, Indiana that has attracted nearly10,000 members. Several years ago Munsey’s church erected a permanent set depicting Old Jerusalem, which spans nearly 100 feet. From this elaborate set, Munsey directs a cast and crew of 2,000, bringing the story of Jesus of Nazareth to life in a manner resembling today’s big-budget Broadway productions. Actors and volunteer crew, make-up artists, seamstresses, carpenters and the hundreds who help make the play a success year-end and year-out are passionate in their zeal for the project’s mission to share the story of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

Pastor Steve, as he is fondly known, is a charismatic figure who possesses a flair for dramatic illustration. He is often seen in different roles as a fervent evangelical fundraiser on TBS and CBN television channels. His long running production of Jesus of Nazareth was first staged in an outdoor amphitheater in the Seattle Washington area where a version of it continues to be seen today.

The Chicago-area passion play production features a variety of unique theatrical highlights that entertain and dazzle an ever-growing diverse audience comprised of every conceivable demographic classification, religious denomination , ethnic background from urban and rural America, attracting conservatives and liberals.

Matinees and weekend night performances of the passion play begin in February and run until after Easter. Theatergoers arrive by bus caravan, church van, or in family recreational vehicles. Youth groups, singles, and couples seeking a departure from the normal weekend dating regimen flock to Jesus of Nazareth each season. Steel workers, farmers, lawyers, clergy and VIP entertainers and politicians like former Vice President Dan Quayle and Oprah Winfrey have been among those to view the stunning Mid-West production. They come in droves from towns large and small, mostly throughout the mid-west but also from points vastly farther away. Through word of mouth each year the crowds are attracted and they come expecting to see a dazzling theatrical spectacle.

Live camels, horses, period chariots, cascading waterfalls, and fireworks explosions simulating earthquakes as Jesus is crucified are featured. There is even an obligatory Hollywood style chase scene employing electrifying aerial stunts as a thief attempts to escape amidst a crowded street scene. Biblical or historical revisionism, Mmmm? I’ll leave that to theologians to figure out. Great theater? Definitely! The verdict is in. Jesus of Nazareth is a hit, attracting larger audiences each year.

Many viewers leave the experience strangely aware that they have experienced a wonderfully engaging medium, the theater, for translating a familiar biblical account into something viscerally powerful that becomes for some spiritually transformative and perhaps for others purely interesting entertainment.

During one the play’s early incarnations, I had the honor of being chosen from an open casting call to play a principal role as Pontius Pilate – a first for an African American. This season, I plan to attend a performance of Jesus of Nazareth, but this time as a spectator not an actor. When the curtain closes I’m sure I’ll continue to ask myself the same rhetorical question for which neither Pontius Pilate, I, nor anyone since has found a definitive answer, “Truth! What is truth”? If you plan to visit Chicago in the next two months, do yourself a favor and check out Jesus of Nazareth.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Something to Think About in Trying Times

“Your life is a sacred journey; and is about change, and growth, discovery, movement, transformation, continuously expanding your vision of what is possible, stretching your soul, learning to see clearly and deeply, listening to your intuition, taking courageous challenges at every step along the way. You are on the path…exactly where you are meant to be right now and from here, you can only go forward, shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of triumph, of healing of courage, beauty, of wisdom, of power, of dignity, and of love.”

Quote from Caroline Adams

Here’s a daily meditation to consider for those seeking self renewal daily in order to live each day anew: “Create in me a clean heart Oh God and renew a right spirit within in me.” Psalm 51:10 King James Bible version, have a great week!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Legacy We Need To Remember by Dennis Day

Tonight, January 30, at 5:30p.m. CST/6:30p.m. EST, CBS national network news will profile the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a group of young co-ed singer/scholars from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, whose legacy dates back to Fisk’s founding as a historically Black College (HBCU) in 1866.



On October 6, 1871 the Jubilee choral tradition was born with the initial tour of the Fisk University Jubilee Singers. The group’s national tours and international celebrity helped save the financially strapped college and amassed funds to build the first permanent educational structure and symbol of Black higher education in the south, Jubilee Hall. Jubilee Hall is now a national landmark.



In 1872 the Fisk Jubilees were invited to sing at the World Peace Jubilee Festival in Boston with the largest choral group and orchestra ever assembled. Amidst the huge throng of performers, it is said that the singers found difficulty hearing and following the conductor in Boston's mammoth coliseum. The massive combined choirs began to loose their pitch and direction. But not the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Their musical acumen, perfect pitch, and crisp diction shone through like a beacon sufficiently anchoring the colossal musical production and thus saving a performance that may have been otherwise doomed. According to a Boston Globe review at the time, the FJS received a standing ovation. Hamburg hats were flung into the rafters.



During this period the famous Czech composer Antonin Dvorak became interested in African American music. In an 1893 interview in the New York Herald, Dvorak is quoted as saying, "In the Negro melodies of America I discover all that is needed for a great and noble school of music." Many Jubilee groups emerged over the years as well as other excellent HBCU choirs and developed magnificent choral traditions, but many historians concede that the FJS were the originators, cultural trailblazers, and first group to introduce the world to slave songs and traditional Negro spirituals. The group dignified Black musical excellence, arresting an original American art form from racial mockery and vicious stereotypes of minstrelsy.



The FJS often endured Jim Crow segregation and extreme hardships and ridicule in their American tours. But they received universal critical acclaim and artistic acceptance in their European tours, causing some singers to expatriate – a trend that continued among Black artists throughout much of the twentieth century. Diehard supporters like humorist Mark Twain and Brooklyn Reverend Henry Beecher Stowe (brother of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe) repudiated the racist naysayers and encouraged the nation to recognize the grace and beauty of its own indigenous art form.



Since 1871 the FJS have been traveling the world, performing on every continent before royalty, government heads, and adoring concert audiences. Their music and sacrifice offer an example of self-reliance, perseverance, and the power of music as truly a universal language. As the nation approaches the Annual observation of Black History month in February, let us not forget the doors of opportunity that were opened by these courageous and talented young African Americans. They carry on a tradition that continues but is too often under appreciated. (c)D-Day Media Group




Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reflections on Howard Zinn by Dennis Day


Howard Zinn, a progressive voice for racial equality and social justice for more than half a century, died Wednesday in Santa Monica, California. He was 87. An historian, shipyard worker, civil rights activist, World War II bombardier, and best selling author, Zinn inspired a generation of high school and college students to rethink American history.

In June 2007 I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Zinn during the Harlem Book Fair, an annual event that encourages children and families to read and value books and learning as a means of cultivating the “life of the mind.” Our interview was conducted amidst paparazzi during my work as a consultant with a film crew shooting an historical documentary film about the Harlem Renaissance and the changing racial and cultural dynamics of Harlem in the twenty-first century.

The film, a work still in progress, is produced and directed by the award-winning African American Filmmaker William Greaves. I was impressed by Dr. Zinn’s candor and vigorous mind. He struck me as one resigned to the pursuit of intellectual honesty and open to debating those of differing ideological points of view. Dr. Zinn taught at a number of prestigious institutions, including Spellman College, and historically Black college, where he was chairman of the history department. Marion Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund and Alice Walker the novelist were among his students. Dr. Zinn was also an active member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and marched for civil rights with his students, an act that angered Spellman’s president and was reportedly caused his termination for insubordination.

Howard Zinn’s productive literary years followed during his tenure at Boston University, producing the antiwar books “Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal” (1967 and Disobedience and Democracy” (1968). An Associated press obituary of Zinn asserts “Few historians succeeded in passing so completely through the academic membrane into popular culture. He gained admiring mention in he movie “Good Will Hunting”; Matt Damon a neighbor and admirer of Dr. Zinn appeared on a History Channel documentary about him; and Bruce Springsteen said the starkest of his many albums, “Nebraska,” drew inspiration in part from Mr. Zinn’s writings. As for me I drew from his example a greater self-assuredness that the power of one’s moral convictions can and do make a difference worth pursuing despite the status quo.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dr.M.L. King Jr.Holiday Made by People Power

Ethnic minorities, women, the poor, gays, workers, disabled and oppressed people the world over owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the life and sacrifices of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on whose shoulders I, President Obama , and so many others stand. His moral stance against war and violence as a solution to armed conflict in general and the war in Viet Nam in particular remained consistent in his own moral fiber until his untimely death on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. One of the proudest moments in my life was to march up Constitution Avenue in Washington DC in 1982 and again in 1983 arm and arm in lockstep led by Stevie Wonder, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, and Representative John Conyers along with thousands of everyday people, clergy, and an array of stars, celebrities, labor, and political leaders petitioning the US congress to enact a national holiday honoring an American hero and citizen who represented at his core the essence of the meaning of freedom, justice, and equality for all people. Our efforts were victorious. Today our nation honors one of its most outstanding sons, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. RIP.

© 2010 D-Day Media Group