An open letter to Barack Hussein Obama “What About We People Who Are Darker Than Blue?”

 
As this is being written, Barack Hussein Obama is yet to issue a proclamation for Black Music Month, which is in its 32nd year of observance.
 
Toronto’s mayor David Miller however, issued a proclamation for Black Music Month on May 11th, 2009. That was the last time.
 
Toronto's current mayor Rob Ford has never proclaimed June Black Music Month since he has been in office.
 
Black music is one of the many gifts that Africa and Africans have given to the world.
On June 4, 2009, Obama gave a speech at El – Azhar University in Cairo.
While Obama was touring the Middle East, he failed to recognize the 30th anniversary of Black Music Month.
 
More than one person has raised the issue that, “Maybe he didn’t know?”
 
I find this unbelievable. He recently hosted Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire and Sweet Honey in the Rock at the White House. He even invited Odetta to sing at his inauguration; however, she joined the ancestors before the event.
 
Chicago is the home of Mahalia Jackson, Martin Luther King’s musical lieutenant, Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, Jerry Butler Mavis and Pop Staples, Ernest Dawkins, R.Kelly, Common and Kanye West.
 
After being called out by The Caribbean World News Network, Obama did rightly proclaim June National Caribbean American Heritage Month.
 
According to the June 6, 2009 issue of the New York Times, he signed a proclamation establishing the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission. The commission organized activities to mark the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birth in 2011.
 
What about we people who are darker than blue—Obama?
 
If a Ronald Regan Centennial Commission was in order, what about a Black Music Month Commission with people like Randy Weston, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cassandra Smith and Queen Latifah? Raynard Jackson of Philadelphia has opined, “It’s a no-brainer to do a town hall meeting with singers, producers and songwriters during Black Music Month."
 
The music of African people has always been an international force. And since the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a gospel group from Nashville, Tennessee, conquered Europe in 1873, the Europeans finally caught on. Since that period, jazz, calypso, reggae, R&B, hip-hop and African beats have come to be the most popular and influential art forms in the world.
 
Bob Marley, Louis Armstrong and Miriam Makeba are known all over this the small planet we call Earth.
 
The great saxophonist Archie Shepp once said, “What Malcolm X said, John Coltrane played.” This was the expression of Africans in North America. The same thing occurred in the Caribbean and in Africa.
 
In the Caribbean Walter Rodney (Guyana) and Bob Marley (Jamaica) were the concrete expressions of this phenomenon in the 1970s and early 1980s.
 
On the mother continent, Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso) and Fela Anikulapo Kuti (Nigeria) are examples of music and politics complimenting one another in the 1990s.
 
Despite its influence on the planet, it was only 32 years ago that the Black Music Association (BMA) persuaded the U.S. government to recognize Black Music Month.
 
In June 1979, around the time the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" was being released, Kenny Gamble led a delegation to the White House to discuss with Jimmy Carter the state of black music.
 
At the meeting, Carter asked trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and drummer Max Roach if they would perform "Salt Peanuts," to which Gillespie replied that he'd only do so if Carter (who made a fortune as a peanut farmer) provided the vocals.
 
Since that great and dreadful day when Carter butchered the song, June has been designated Black Music Month.
 
It must be mentioned that in 1979, the world was witnessing a revolutionary breeze as Maurice Bishop and the New Jewel Movement seized state power in Grenada.
 
Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas swept the counterrevolutionary forces out of power in Nicaragua like a broom and the Shah of Iran was dethroned after being installed in power by the CIA in 1953.
 
The soundtrack to all of this was (Gene) McFadden and John Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now,” which was released in 1979.
 
Since 1984, thanks to the efforts of the Black Music Association Toronto Chapter, mayors June Rowlands, Barbara Hall and Mel Lastman, respectively, has recognized June as Black Music Month.
 
On the 25th anniversary of Black Music Month, mayor David Miller presented the proclamation at city hall.
 
The late Milton Blake, Jay Douglas, Michie Mee, Norman (Otis) Richmond (Jalali) and others participated in this event.
 
When broadcaster and community activist, the late Milton Blake, and myself created the Black Music Association's Toronto Chapter in 1984, it was our intention to plug African music makers in Canada into the international music market.
 
At that moment, the only Africans in Canada that were internationally known was Oscar Peterson. Since that time Eric Mercury, Harrison Kennedy (as a member of the Chairmen of the Board), Deborah Cox, Devine Brown, Glenn Lewis, Kardinal Offishall, Drake and Fefe Dobson have conquered the world–musically.
 

Obama, by not recognizing Black Music Month in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, you have taken another step down.

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