Category Archives: Commentary

National Endowment or the Arts (NEA)

Trump Fights to Destroy the Arts. Artists and Arts Activists Fight Back.

Text by Dawoud Kringle

Trump Fights to Destroy the Arts. For the third year in a row, the Trump Administration repeated its efforts to destroy the arts in the US. The White House has proposed a federal budget that would shutter the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which supports PBS and NPR) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Like the two previous years under Trump, the plans diminishing appropriations for each agency are a clear attempt to facilitate its demise.

The cuts total $897 million of the $4.7 trillion 2020 spending plan.

In the beginning of his administration, Trump called for the complete elimination of these agencies. The Republican-led Congress funded them both times, with the NEA, NEH and IMLS each seeing small increases in 2019. The 2020 budget provides $29 million for the NEA and $38 million for the NEH, both funded at $155 million this year. The CPB would receive $30 million, down from $465 million, and the IMLS would receive $23 million, a $219 million cut. This translates to about $1.35 per citizen per year.

Continue reading

Randy Weston Remembered: A Master Musician Who Travelled the Bridge Between Africa and America

Text by By Dawoud Kringle

Randy WestonOn the morning of September 1st, 2018, pianist and composer Randy Weston was called home.

Randy Weston was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926. to Vivian (née Moore; a native of Virginia) and Frank Weston (of Jamaican-Panamanian descent, who owned a restaurant in Brooklyn where Weston was raised). His father was a staunch Garveyite, who passed on the Pan-Africanist leader’s Afrocentric, self-reliant values to his son. He became interested in music at a young age. Among his early influences and inspirations were jazz giants such as Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Art Tatum, and Duke Ellington. He would often cite Thelonious Monk as having the greatest impact on him.

After serving in the US armed forces in WW2, taking time to study European classical piano, and later running a restaurant (which was frequented by many jazz musicians), Weston began performing in  the late 1940s with Bullmoose Jackson, Frank Culley and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. He worked with Kenny Dorham in 1953 and in 1954 with Cecil Payne. He formed his own trio and quartet and released his debut recording as a leader in 1954, “Cole Porter in a Modern Mood.” In 1955, Down Beat magazine’s International Critics’ Poll voted him New Star Pianist.

Continue reading

Addendum: Rep. Glenn Grothman’s Attack on the Arts Defeated!

Text by Dawoud Kringle

NOWOn Wednesday, July 18th, one of the largest vote margins in support of the Endowments, the U.S. House of Representatives defeated an amendment that would have cut funding the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The House voted down the Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) amendment by a vote of 114 – 297.

During the floor debate on Tuesday, July 17th, bipartisan supporters spoke out in support for the arts and the Endowments. Among them were Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Congressional Arts Caucus co-Chairs Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) all spoke against Grothman’s amendment.

This bipartisan showing and resounding vote is a clear demonstration of how strongly supported the National Endowments are by our elected officials in Congress. This is an important win in the fight against the Trump agenda to destroy art and culture in the US.

Amendment to Cut the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) / NEH Funding Heads to the Floor

Text by Dawoud Kringle

On July 16th, 2018, the House Rules Committee approved a potential amendment that funding to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) would be cut by 15% to each agency; a total of $46 million. The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI).

The administration proposed similarly reduced funding last year, but it was not adopted.

Grothman told the Rules Committee members that Congress should support President Trump (this, after Trump’s shameful and treasonous statements in Helsinki). President Trump wanted to terminate the NEA and NEH since his campaign in 2016. Grothman repeated the objectionable and ridiculous arguments that Trump and his supporters often used in the past on this issue, such as “private charities should do this work,” “it’s a local government role solely,” “cutting arts spending is looking out for our children and grandchildren.” and perhaps most ridiculous, “we can’t afford it” (the budget for both organizations account for approximately 1 percent of the federal government’s budget). Grothman believes this is a small but important step to rein in spending and would be “a vote for Trumpsters,” as he put it.

Continue reading