Must-See TV: ‘The Sit-In’

24 May

For one week in February 1968, Harry Belafonte hosted “The Tonight Show,” then the highest-rated late night television show. Belafonte’s guests included Robert F. Kenney, Bill Cosby, Lena Horne, Nipsey Russell, Paul Newman, Wilt Chamberlain, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Sidney Poitier and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

A documentary about that magical week of interviews and performances, “The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show,” was scheduled to be screened at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. But along came the coronavirus. Variety reports:

It was 1968, war was raging and racial tensions in America were at a boiling point, dividing the nation. In February, Harry Belafonte stepped in for Johnny Carson to host “The Tonight Show.” It was a monumental moment in which an African American would be the frontman of the most dominant program in late night — and perhaps all of TV — for an entire week. Guests included Lena Horne, Paul Newman, Aretha Franklin, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

The doc was scheduled to screen in April at the Tribeca Film Festival, not far from where “The Tonight Show” was filmed in the ’60s, with an after-film discussion that was to have included Belafonte’s daughter, Gina. “We were so excited,” says Richen. “It’s a New York story, and I’m a New Yorker.”

But as with many eagerly anticipated independent films this year, the movie’s launchpad disappeared when the festival was canceled due to the coronavirus, making it a work about the events of yesterday informing today — trumped by the health crisis of the moment.

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National Jazz Museum in Harlem Virtual Concert

17 May

The National Jazz Museum in Harlem is presenting a virtual concert to showcase the Museum’s broad community of artists. Curated by Artistic Directors Jon Batiste and Christian McBride, the concert will feature performances by pianist Batiste, bassist McBride, vocalist Catherine Russell, among other artists.

National Jazz Museum CRIB Collective Virtual Concert

The concert will be held on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, 7:00 pm ET on Facebook Live. To reserve a spot, go here.

To support the CRIB Collective Concert Series and other programming at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, text “Jazz” to 41444 or donate here.

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

3 May

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is fiddling with black lives. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that more than 80 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were black. The New York Times reported:

As Georgia reopens many businesses over objections from President Trump and others, a new study illustrates the high rates of coronavirus infection among black people in the state.

The report, released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that more than four-fifths of hospitalized coronavirus patients in the study were black. They were not more likely than other groups to die from the disease or to require a ventilator. Still, of the 297 patients in the study whose race and ethnicity were known, 83.2 percent were black.

“That is a very high rate of infections,” said Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, a cancer surgeon and the president of Howard University, who was not involved in the C.D.C. report. He said the high percentage of blacks in the study likely reflects the patients’ occupations.

“A lot of it may come from the fact that African-Americans are essential employees in our system,” he said, adding, “Everything from bus drivers to health care workers and cleaning services, they are on the front line, and therefore are far more likely to be exposed.”

Since Kemp made his devilish decision, there have been 4,799 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 263 additional deaths.

Rainy Days and Nights in Georgia

26 Apr

The national death toll from the coronavirus is 54,161 and counting. The grim statistic didn’t stop Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp from relaxing his stay-at-home order and allowing some businesses to reopen including barbershops, hair and nail salons, bowling alleys, and massage and tattoo parlors.

Kemp announced:

Given the favorable data, enhanced testing, and approval of our healthcare professionals, we will allow gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools, and massage therapists to reopen their doors this Friday, April 24, 2020.

On Monday, April 27, 2020, movie theaters, restaurants that offer dine-in service and private social clubs can hang an “open for business” sign on the front door.

At the time of Kemp’s announcement, Georgia had 18,947 COVID-19 cases with 733 deaths. As of this writing, there are 22,695 confirmed cases and 904 deaths.

There are idiots and then there are “covidiots” like Kemp from whom President Donald “Let them drink bleach” Trump is now keeping his social distance. During a coronavirus task force briefing-cum-carnival show, Trump said:

If you ask me am I happy about it? I’m not happy about it, and I’m not happy about Brian Kemp.

African Americans say Kemp is out of pocket. They are staying home.

With a covidiot like Kemp in charge, there will be many rainy days and nights in Georgia.

Blackfishing Marian Anderson

19 Apr

Easter Sunday marked the 81st anniversary of Marian Anderson’s performance at the Lincoln Memorial before an audience of 75,000. She sang outdoors because the Daughters of the American Revolution, an organization of white descendants of Revolutionary War veterans, banned African Americans from performing at Constitution Hall which DAR owns.

Marian Anderson - Lincoln Memorial

Five days earlier, the National Endowment for the Humanities announced $22.2 million in new grants including $650,000 for a documentary about Marian Anderson. Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters, is the project director.

I was thrilled the civil rights icon was finally getting the American Masters treatment. The thrill was gone when I found out the Marian Anderson Museum & Historical Society is not included in the grant.

NEH - No Funding

Jillian Patricia Pirtle, CEO and President of the Marian Anderson Museum & Historical Society, was interviewed by Robert Rapley, a producer and writer for The American Experience. It is ironic the producer of The Abolitionists thinks it’s cool to pick a black woman’s brain for free.

NEH - Robert Rapley

This is Kantor’s second helping of taxpayers’ money for the same project. In 2018, NEH awarded him $75,000 for the “development of a script and trailer for a sixty-minute documentary film on the popular singer Marian Anderson.” This video is the grant product.

Marian Anderson was born and nurtured in Philadelphia. She first performed at Union Baptist Church. When her family couldn’t afford private lessons, members of the congregation pitched in and raised money for a voice teacher. I spoke up in support of preservationist Oscar Beisert’s effort to save the church. In 2015, the historic church was demolished to make way for luxury condos for gentrifiers.

Marian Anderson Church - 7.11.16

I spoke up when residents of Graduate Hospital, the most gentrified neighborhood in Philadelphia, floated the idea of renaming their community “Marian Anderson Village.” African Americans have been displaced but gentrifiers want the cultural cachet of the internationally renowned contralto without the people who look like her.

Graduate Hospital - Marian Anderson Village

Cultural appropriation or blackfishing has no bounds. Karen Attiah, global opinions editor for The Washington Post, observed, “It’s America’s obsession with blackness, and black culture – without black people.”

Blackfishing - Karen Attiah

Michael Kantor is awarded $725,000 for a documentary. Meanwhile, the cultural institution that preserved Marian Anderson’s South Philly rowhouse and keeps her story in public memory is starving for resources.

NEH - No Funding2

Legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini once said, “Hers is a voice heard once in a hundred years.” Sadly, blackfishing Marian Anderson is an all too common occurrence.