Category Archives: Commentary

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.

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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.

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Michelle Shocked

How About The Music Modernization Act?

Text by Michelle Shocked

Aftershocks are still being felt from the sub-prime mortgage fraud that roiled working-class Americans – particularly those in the Latino and African American communities – between 2007 and 2012. The extensive damage caused by this economic disaster should serve as an early warning of what now lies on the near horizon in the guise of the ironically named Music Modernization Act being considered in Congress. Proposed in the wee hours just before the end of the 2017 Congressional session, the Act should, in truth, be called “The Spotify IPO Protection Act”.

         In 2011, on the front lines of defending homeowners during our efforts at Occupy Fights Foreclosure, I saw with my own eyes in the Los Angeles County Recorders office, sitting in front of an outdated DOS era computer, the consequences of unregulated banks creating private databases of public deeds far away from the prying eyes of the County Board of Supervisors and County Recorder.

         As most people now understand (at least anyone who’s seen The Big Short), Wall Street “securitized” sub-prime mortgages, sliced and diced them into millions of tranches and sold them with insurance policies against their inevitable default, then shorted their own bad loans. Taxpayers were left crawling through the rubble of the collapse of 2008, while the banks made a seventy-fold profit on the foreclosures than what they would have earned by simply servicing those original loans.

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