Public Comment

White BHS Jazz on 4th St. Fundraiser

By Steve Logan
Monday May 17, 2010 - 08:58:00 PM

The pros brought to bring in the crowds and supposedly to help a diverse and open music program at Berkeley High School were fabulous. The Jazz Mafia, Zakiya Hooker(John Lee Hooker’s daughter)and her blues band, and a wonderful samba band "Fito Reinoso" made for a great day of music. 

Fourth St. is well known for pricey, trendy upper-mid.class airs, and the businesses did well... See more today. 

Who owns these stores? There was a lot of money coming out of folks’ pockets, and most people enjoyed the thought of aiding the music program. Well, the B.H.S. Jazz was great, but I had to STRUGGLE to spot ANY person of color. 

I saw a super drummer, rotated in during the final Ensemble performance, who proceeded to steal the whole show with his amazing abilities. WHAT'S HAPPENING? 

I know music and arts programs are the first to go in public schools when dollars are tight. It was plain to see pigment-deprived people SOMEHOW manage to still pursue Jazz. They spoke of trips to compete with other Jazz bands, and boasted of the Ivy League Colleges their members were headed to. Hmmm, seems if funds are tight, the funds available should be used to ensure the well of talent the B.H.S. Jazz Program draws from is more inclusive of its deserving and obviously missing pigment-enriched population. 

I'm certain all the young musicians are hardworking, and deserve their well earned recognition, but I felt deceived. I purchased raffle tickets; food and beverages were readily available. I listened to mostly people of color-Latino and Black pros , who may have thought twice about donating their time, had they known of this "Elephant In The Living Room". If they WERE paid, by who? 

Yes, I got spectacular pictures today, but I don't much feel like posting them right now. Oh, there WAS a female saxophonist. Some people will be angry at my words, and suggest Black Musicians have abandoned Jazz, to pursue Hip Hop and Rap. THIS IS A LIE! Blues is well known to be an African American music style, born the day slavery ended, no longer just a soothing remedy to ease bondage. 

Influences of Creole, Cuban, Caribbean and European can be traced, of course, but its origin can't be denied. Jazz is refined Blues, and then we have Gospel, Rock,Soul,Pop etc. None of which would exist as we know it today without The Blues. 

To imply young people of color are disinterested in Jazz is an ignorant and poor explanation for their absence in the B.H.S.Jazz Program, and just because they have additional and NEW forms of expression doesn't excuse anything, and, actually, only underlines the creative potential available. People will say "why is it always about race?". Well, living in Berkeley, including having been bused in the 6th grade, taught me our world has many folks of color, who are a large part of our community. Their contributions are precious, and we must ensure opportunities to participate in Jazz at B.H.S are readily available. 

I had fun today, but when I got home, and started thinking, I got this sickening feeling, and felt ashamed of being a Berkeleyan, participating in this bullshit fund raiser for an obviously privileged, exclusive group that just happened to also make a lot of money for what I suspect to be primarily White, yes, I said it, White owned businesses. 

It makes me want to puke, watching them perform genius compositions by the likes of Charles Mingus, an African American musical phenomenon, who underwent electroshock treatments, and died isolated and misunderstood. 

We need to fix this. I will continue to express my opinions of what I saw. We, the Berkeley Community, must not allow such blatant discrimination to go on in our public school s ystem. Shame on you.