Friday, August 30, 2013

A Birthday Tribute To Charles Christopher Parker, Jr. Better Known As "Bird" (1920-1955): Alto Saxophonist, Composer, Cultural Icon, and Musical Genius


I know that technically I am a "day late" in celebrating the immortal Charles "Yardbird" Parker's birthday (Bird was born August 29, 1920).  I also know I'm not inaccurate in saying that EVERY DAY IS BIRD'S BIRTHDAY if you truly love and appreciate MUSIC and its singular unique ability and power to enrich and transform our lives. So with that let's begin our ongoing tribute to one of the most profound, powerful, and transformative musicians in the history of this planet.



Charlie Parker at age 27 in 1947
Charlie Parker and Miles Davis playing at the Three Deuces nightclub in NYC 1948. Photo by William P. 


 "Bird Lives" by famous American sculptor Robert Graham (1938-2008)

2007 - "Spirit of California" - California Hall of Fame Medal
2002 - The Great Bronze Doors and Statue of Mary - Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California
2001 - Prologue - addition to the FDR Memorial, Washington D.C.
1999 - Charlie "Bird" Parker Memorial, Kansas City, Missouri
1997 - Duke Ellington Monument - Central Park, New York City
1997 - Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington D.C.
1994 - Plumed Serpent, Plaza de César Chávez, San Jose, California
1988 - Gates of The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu
1986 - Joe Louis Memorial, Detroit, Michigan
1984 - Olympic Gateway - Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
1983 - Fountain Figure No. 1, Fountain Figure No. 2, and Fountain Figure No. 3, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
1980/81 - Stephanie and Spy - Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles Campus, Los Angeles, California
1978 - Dance Door - Los Angeles Music Center, Los Angeles, California

1999 Charlie "Bird" Parker Memorial, Kansas City, Missouri:

 Charles Parker in 1946

The only child of Charles and Addie Parker, Charlie Parker was one of the most important and influential saxophonists and jazz players of the 1940’s.

When Parker was still a child, his family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where jazz, blues and gospel music were flourishing. His first contact with music came from school, where he played baritone horn with the school’s band. When he was 15, he showed a great interest in music and a love for the alto saxophone. Soon, Parker was playing with local bands until 1935, when he left school to pursue a music career.

From 1935 to 1939, Parker worked in Kansas City with several local jazz and blues bands from which he developed his art. In 1939, Parker visited New York for the first time, and he stayed for nearly a year working as a professional musician and often participating in jam sessions. The New York atmosphere greatly influenced Parker's musical style.

In 1938, Parker joined the band of pianist Jay McShann, with whom he toured around Southwest Chicago and New York. A year later, Parker traveled to Chicago and was a regular performer at a club on 55th street. Parker soon moved to New York. He washed dishes at a local food place where he met guitarist Biddy Fleet, the man who taught him about instrumental harmony. Shortly afterwards, Parker returned to Kansas City to attend his father’s funeral. Once there, he joined Harlan Leonard’s Rockets and stayed for five months. In 1939, Yardbird rejoined McShann and was placed in charge of the reed section. Then, in 1940, Parker made his first recording with the McShann orchestra.

During the four years that Parker stayed with McShann's band, he got the opportunity to perform solo in several of their recordings, such as Hootie Blues, Sepian Bounce, and the 1941 hit Confessing the Blues. In 1942, while on tour with McShann, Parker performed in jam sessions at Monroe’s and Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem. There he caught the attention of up-and-coming jazz artists like Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. Later that year, Parker broke with McShann and joined Earl Hines for eight months.

The year 1945 was extremely important for Parker. During that time he led his own group in New York and also worked with Gillespie in several ensembles. In December, Parker and Gillespie took their music to Hollywood on a six-week nightclub tour. Parker continued to perform in Los Angeles until June 1946, when he suffered a nervous breakdown and was confined at a state hospital. After his release in January 1947, Parker returned to New York and formed a quintet that performed some of his most famous tunes.

From 1947 to 1951, Parker worked in a number of nightclubs, radio studios, and other venues performing solo or with the accompaniment of other musicians. During this time, he visited Europe where he was cheered by devoted fans and did numerous recordings. March 5, 1955, was Parker’s last public engagement at Birdland, a nightclub in New York that was named in his honor. He died a week later in a friend’s apartment.

Charles "Yardbird" Parker was an amazing saxophonist who gained wide recognition for his brilliant solos and innovative improvisations. He was, without a doubt, one of the most influential and talented musicians in jazz history.
Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie

Charles, Jr.; Bird; Chan; Charlie; Yardbird (1920-1955)
Alto saxophonist

Image courtesy of Frank Driggs Collection

Charlie Parker was one of the most influential improvising soloists in jazz, and a central figure in the development of bop in the 1940s. A legendary figure in his own lifetime, he was idolized by those who worked with him, and he inspired a generation of jazz performers and composers.

Parker was the only child of Charles and Addle Parker. In 1927, the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, an important center of African-American music in the 1920s and 1930s. Parker had his first music lessons in the local public schools; he began playing alto saxophone in 1933 and worked occasionally in semi-professional groups before leaving school in 1935 to become a full-time musician. From 1935 to 1939, he worked mainly in Kansas City with a wide variety of local blues and jazz groups. Like most jazz musicians of his time, he developed his craft largely through practical experience: listening to older local jazz masters, acquiring a traditional repertory, and learning through the process of trial and error in the competitive Kansas City bands and jam sessions.

In 1939 Parker first visited New York (then the principal center of jazz musical and business activity), staying for nearly a year. Although he worked only sporadically as a professional musician, he often participated in jam sessions. By his own later account, he was bored with the stereotyped changes that were being used then. He said, "I kept thinking there's bound to be something else…. I could hear it sometimes, but I couldn't play it." While working over at the Cherokee in a jam session with the guitarist Biddy Fleet, Parker suddenly found that by using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes he could play what he had been "hearing." Yet, it was not until 1944-5 that his conceptions of rhythm and phrasing had evolved sufficiently to form his mature style.

The NPR 100: "Ko Ko"

Tom Vitale reports on the Charlie Parker tune that almost single-handedly gave rise to bebop. The tune is a selection from National Public Radio's list of the 100 most important American musical recordings of the 20th Century.


Parker's name first appeared in the music press in 1940, and from this date his career is more fully documented. From 1940 to 1942 he played in Jay McShann's band, with which he toured the Southwest, Chicago, and New York, and took part in his first recording sessions in Dallas (1941). These recordings, and several made for broadcasting from the same period, document his early, swing-based style, and at the same time reveal his extraordinary gift for improvisation. In December 1942, he joined Earl Hines' big band, which then included several other young modernists such as Dizzy Gillespie. By May 1944 they, with Parker, formed the nucleus of Billy Eckstine's band.

During these years, Parker regularly participated in after-hours jam sessions at Minton's Playhouse and Monroe's Uptown House in New York, where the informal atmosphere and small groups favored the development of his personal style and of the new bop music generally. Unfortunately, a strike by the American Federation of Musicians silenced most of the recording industry from August 1942, causing this crucial stage in Parker's musical evolution to remain virtually undocumented. Though there are some obscure acetate recordings of him playing tenor saxophone dating from early 1943. When the recording ban ended, Parker recorded as a sideman (from September 15, 1944) and as a leader (from November 26, 1945), which introduced his music to a wider public and to other musicians.

NPR's Jazz Profiles: Charlie Parker:

Host Nancy Wilson presents this profile of the great Charlie "Bird" Parker, the man who literally changed the course of jazz history with his music. 


The year 1945 marked a turning point in Parker's career: in New York he led his own group for the first time and worked extensively with Gillespie in small ensembles. In December 1945, he and Gillespie took the new jazz style to Hollywood, where they fulfilled a six-week nightclub engagement. Parker continued to work in Los Angeles, recording and performing in concerts and nightclubs, until June 29, 1946, when a nervous breakdown and addiction to heroin and alcohol caused his confinement at the Camarillo State Hospital. He was released in January 1947 and resumed work in Los Angeles.

Parker returned to New York in April 1947. He formed a quintet (with Miles Davis, Duke Jordan, Tommy Potter, and Max Roach) that recorded many of his most famous pieces. The years from 1941 to 1951 were Parker's most fertile period. He worked in a wide variety of settings (nightclubs, concerts, radio, and recording studios) with his own small ensembles, a string group, and Afro-Cuban bands, and as a guest soloist with local musicians when traveling without his own group. He visited Europe (1949 and 1950) and recorded slightly over half his surviving work. Though still beset by problems associated with drugs and alcohol, he attracted a very large following in the jazz world and enjoyed a measure of financial success.

NPR's Basic Jazz Record Library: Charlie Parker
NPR's Basic Jazz Record Library: Charlie Parker NPR's Murray Horwitz and jazz critic and poet AB Spellman recommend Parker's album Confirmation.

In July 1951, Parker's New York cabaret license was revoked at the request of the narcotics squad. This banned him from nightclub employment in the city and forced him to adopt a more peripatetic life until the license was reinstated (probably in autumn 1953). Sporadically employed, badly in debt, and in failing physical and mental health, he twice attempted suicide in 1954 and voluntarily committed himself to Bellevue Hospital in New York. His last public engagement was on March 5, 1955 at Birdland, a New York nightclub named in his honor. He died seven days later in the Manhattan apartment of his friend the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, sister of Lord Rothschild.

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For personal, non-commercial use only. Copying or other reproduction is prohibited.

Charlie Parker
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Background information:

Birth name Charles Parker, Jr.
Also known as Bird, Yardbird,
Zoizeau (in France)[1]
Born August 29, 1920
Kansas City, Kansas, United States
Died March 12, 1955 (aged 34)
New York City, New York, United States
Genres Jazz, bebop
Occupations Saxophonist, composer
Instruments Alto saxophone, tenor saxophone
Years active 1937–1955
Labels Savoy, Dial, Verve
Associated acts Miles Davis, Max Roach
Notable instruments: Buescher, Conn, King and Grafton alto saxophones

Charles "Charlie" Parker, Jr. (August 29, 1920 – March 12, 1955), also known as "Yardbird" and "Bird", was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Miles Davis once said, "You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker."[2]

Parker was a highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebop,[3] a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos, virtuosic technique, and improvisation. Parker introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas, including rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions. His tone ranged from clean and penetrating to sweet and somber. Many Parker recordings demonstrate his virtuoso playing style and complex melodic lines, sometimes combining jazz with other musical genres, including blues, Latin, and classical.
Parker acquired the nickname "Yardbird" early in his career[4] and the shortened form, "Bird", which continued to be used for the rest of his life, inspired the titles of a number of Parker compositions, such as "Yardbird Suite", "Ornithology", "Bird Gets the Worm", and "Bird of Paradise."
Parker was an icon for the hipster subculture and later the Beat Generation, personifying the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist and intellectual, rather than an entertainer.[5]


1 Biography
1.1 Childhood
1.2 Early career
1.3 New York City
1.4 Bebop
1.5 Addiction
1.6 Charlie Parker with Strings
1.7 Jazz at Massey Hall
1.8 Death
2 Music
3 Discography
4 Awards and recognitions
5 Musical tributes
6 Charlie Parker Residence
7 Other tributes
8 Notes
9 References
10 External links



Charlie Parker was born in Kansas City, Kansas, and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, the only child of Charles and Addie Parker. Parker attended Lincoln High School.[6] He enrolled in September 1934 and withdrew in December 1935, just before joining the local Musicians Union.

Parker began playing the saxophone at age 11, and at age 14 joined his school's band using a rented school instrument. His father, Charles, was often absent but provided some musical influence; he was a pianist, dancer and singer on the T.O.B.A. circuit. He later became a Pullman waiter or chef on the railways. Parker's mother Addie worked nights at the local Western Union office. His biggest influence at that time was a young trombone player who taught him the basics of improvisation

In the late 1930s Parker began to practice diligently. During this period he mastered improvisation and developed some of the ideas that led to bebop. In an interview with Paul Desmond, he said that he spent 3–4 years practicing up to 15 hours a day.[7]

Bands led by Count Basie and Bennie Moten undoubtedly influenced Parker. He played with local bands in jazz clubs around Kansas City, Missouri, where he perfected his technique, with the assistance of Buster Smith, whose dynamic transitions to double and triple time influenced Parker's developing style.

In 1938, Parker joined pianist Jay McShann's territory band.[8] The band toured nightclubs and other venues of the southwest, as well as Chicago and New York City.[9][10] Parker made his professional recording debut with McShann's band.

As a teenager, Parker developed a morphine addiction while in hospital after an automobile accident, and subsequently became addicted to heroin. He continued using heroin throughout his life, which ultimately contributed to his death.

New York City[

In 1939 Parker moved to New York City, to pursue a career in music. He held several other jobs as well. He worked for nine dollars a week as a dishwasher at Jimmie's Chicken Shack, where pianist Art Tatum performed.[11]
In 1942 Parker left McShann's band and played with Earl Hines for one year, whose band included Dizzy Gillespie, who later played with Parker as a duo. Unfortunately, this period is virtually undocumented, due to the strike of 1942–1943 by the American Federation of Musicians, during which time few recordings were made. Parker joined a group of young musicians, and played in after-hours clubs in Harlem, such as Clark Monroe's Uptown House and Minton's Playhouse. These young iconoclasts included Gillespie, pianist Thelonious Monk, guitarist Charlie Christian, and drummer Kenny Clarke. The beboppers' attitude was summed up in a famous quotation attributed to Monk by Mary Lou Williams: "We wanted a music that they couldn't play"[12] – "they" being the white bandleaders who had usurped and profited from swing music. The group played in venues on 52nd Street, including Three Deuces and The Onyx. While in New York City, Parker studied with his music teacher, Maury Deutsch.


According to an interview Parker gave in the 1950s, one night in 1939, he was playing "Cherokee" in a jam session with guitarist William "Biddy" Fleet when he hit upon a method for developing his solos that enabled one of his main musical innovations. He realized that the twelve tones of the chromatic scale can lead melodically to any key, breaking some of the confines of simpler jazz soloing.
Early in its development, this new type of jazz was rejected by many of the established, traditional jazz musicians who disdained their younger counterparts. The beboppers responded by calling these traditionalists "moldy figs". However, some musicians, such as Coleman Hawkins and Benny Goodman, were more positive about its development, and participated in jam sessions and recording dates in the new approach with its adherents.

Because of the two-year Musicians' Union ban of all commercial recordings from 1942 to 1944, much of bebop's early development was not captured for posterity. As a result, it gained limited radio exposure. Bebop musicians had a difficult time gaining widespread recognition. It was not until 1945, when the recording ban was lifted, that Parker's collaborations with Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Bud Powell and others had a substantial effect on the jazz world. One of their first (and greatest) small-group performances together was rediscovered and issued in 2005: a concert in New York's Town Hall on June 22, 1945. Bebop soon gained wider appeal among musicians and fans alike.

On November 26, 1945, Parker led a record date for the Savoy label, marketed as the "greatest Jazz session ever". Recording as Charlie Parker's Reboppers, Parker enlisted such sidemen as Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis on trumpet, Curly Russell on bass and Max Roach on drums. The tracks recorded during this session include "Ko-Ko", "Billie's Bounce" and "Now's the Time".

Shortly afterward, the Parker/Gillespie band traveled to an unsuccessful engagement at Billy Berg's club in Los Angeles. Most of the group returned to New York, but Parker remained in California, cashing in his return ticket to buy heroin. He experienced great hardship in California, eventually being committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital for a six-month period.


Parker's chronic addiction to heroin caused him to miss gigs and lose work. He frequently resorted to busking on the streets, receiving loans from fellow musicians and admirers, and pawning his saxophones for drug money. Heroin use was rampant in the jazz scene and the drug could be acquired easily.

Although he produced many brilliant recordings during this period, Parker's behavior became increasingly erratic. Heroin was difficult to obtain when he moved to California, where the drug was less abundant, and Parker began to drink heavily to compensate for it. A recording for the Dial label from July 29, 1946, provides evidence of his condition. Prior to this session, Parker drank a quart of whiskey. According to the liner notes of Charlie Parker on Dial Volume 1, Parker missed most of the first two bars of his first chorus on the track, "Max Making Wax." When he finally did come in, he swayed wildly and once spun all the way around, away from his microphone. On the next tune, "Lover Man", producer Ross Russell physically supported Parker. On "Bebop" (the final track Parker recorded that evening) he begins a solo with a solid first eight bars. On his second eight bars, however, Parker begins to struggle, and a desperate Howard McGhee, the trumpeter on this session, shouts, "Blow!" at Parker. Charles Mingus considered this version of "Lover Man" to be among Parker's greatest recordings, despite its flaws.[13] Nevertheless, Parker hated the recording and never forgave Ross Russell for releasing it. He re-recorded the tune in 1951 for Verve.

When Parker was released from the hospital, he was clean and healthy, and proceeded to do some of the best playing and recording of his career. Before leaving California, he recorded "Relaxin' at Camarillo", in reference to his hospital stay. He returned to New York, resumed his addiction to heroin and recorded dozens of sides for the Savoy and Dial labels, which remain some of the high points of his recorded output. Many of these were with his so-called "classic quintet" including trumpeter Miles Davis and drummer Max Roach.

Charlie Parker with Strings

A longstanding desire of Parker's was to perform with a string section. He was a keen student of classical music, and contemporaries reported he was most interested in the music and formal innovations of Igor Stravinsky and longed to engage in a project akin to what later became known as Third Stream, a new kind of music, incorporating both jazz and classical elements as opposed to merely incorporating a string section into performance of jazz standards.
On November 30, 1949, Norman Granz arranged for Parker to record an album of ballads with a mixed group of jazz and chamber orchestra musicians.[14] Six master takes from this session comprised the album Charlie Parker with Strings: "Just Friends", "Everything Happens to Me", "April in Paris", "Summertime", "I Didn't Know What Time It Was", and "If I Should Lose You".

Jazz at Massey Hall

In 1953, Parker performed at Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada, joined by Gillespie, Mingus, Bud Powell and Max Roach. Unfortunately, the concert clashed with a televised heavyweight boxing match between Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott, so it was poorly attended. Mingus recorded the concert, resulting in the album Jazz at Massey Hall. At this concert, he played a plastic Grafton saxophone[citation needed]. At this point in his career he was experimenting with new sounds and materials. Parker himself explained the purpose of the plastic saxophone in a May 9, 1953 broadcast from Birdland and did so again in a subsequent May 1953 broadcast

Parker is known to have played several saxophones, including the Conn 6M, The Martin Handicraft and Selmer Model 22. Parker is also known to have performed with a King "Super 20" saxophone. Parker's King Super 20 saxophone was made specially for him in 1947.


Parker died on March 12, 1955 in the suite of his friend and patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter at the Stanhope Hotel in New York City while watching The Dorsey Brothers' Stage Show on television. The official causes of death were lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer but Parker also had an advanced case of cirrhosis and had suffered a heart attack. The coroner who performed his autopsy mistakenly estimated Parker's 34-year-old body to be between 50 and 60 years of age.[15]

Parker had been living since 1950 with Chan Berg, the mother of his son Baird and his daughter Pree (who died as an infant of cystic fibrosis). He considered Chan his wife; however he never formally married her, nor did he divorce his previous wife, Doris (whom he had married in 1948). This complicated the settling of Parker's inheritance and would ultimately serve to frustrate his wish to be quietly interred in New York City.

It was well known that Parker never wanted to return to Kansas City, even in death.[citation needed] Parker had told Chan that he did not want to be buried in the city of his birth; that New York was his home. Dizzy Gillespie paid for the funeral arrangements[16] and organized a lying-in-state, a Harlem procession officiated by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., as well as a memorial concert, before Parker's body was flown back to Missouri, in accordance with his mother's wishes. Parker's widow criticized Parker’s family for giving him a Christian funeral even though they knew he was a confirmed atheist.[17] Parker was buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Missouri, in a hamlet known as Blue Summit.
Parker's estate is managed by CMG Worldwide.
Music[edit source]

Parker's style of composition involved interpolation of original melodies over pre-existing jazz forms and standards, a practice still common in jazz today. Examples include "Ornithology" ("How High The Moon") and "Yardbird Suite", the vocal version of which is called "What Price Love", with lyrics by Parker. The practice was not uncommon prior to bebop; however, it became a signature of the movement as artists began to move away from arranging popular standards and compose their own material.

While tunes such as "Now's The Time," "Billie's Bounce," "Au Privave", "Barbados", "Relaxin' at Camarillo," "Bloomdido," and "Cool Blues" were based on conventional twelve-bar blues changes, Parker also created a unique version of the 12-bar blues for tunes such as "Blues for Alice", "Laird Baird", and "Si Si". These unique chords are known popularly as "Bird Changes".[citation needed] Like his solos, some of his compositions are characterized by long, complex melodic lines and a minimum of repetition although he did employ the use of repetition in some tunes, most notably "Now's The Time".

Parker contributed greatly to the modern jazz solo, one in which triplets and pick-up notes were used in unorthodox ways to lead into chord tones, affording the soloist with more freedom to use passing tones, which soloists previously avoided. Parker was admired for his unique style of phrasing and innovative use of rhythm. Via his recordings and the popularity of the posthumously published Charlie Parker Omnibook, Parker's uniquely identifiable style dominated jazz for many years to come.

Other well-known Parker compositions include "Ah-Leu-Cha", "Anthropology" (co-written with Dizzy Gillespie), "Billie's Bounce", "Bird Gets the Worm", "Cheryl", "Confirmation", "Constellation", "Donna Lee", "Ko-Ko", "Moose the Mooche", and "Scrapple from the Apple".


Main article: Charlie Parker discography
Awards and recognitions

Grammy Award
Charlie Parker Grammy Award History[18]
Year Category Title Genre Label Result
1974 Best Performance By A Soloist First Recordings! Jazz Onyx Winner
Grammy Hall of Fame

Recordings of Charlie Parker were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance."

Charlie Parker: Grammy Hall of Fame Awards[19]

Year Recorded Title Genre Label Year Inducted
1945 "Billie's Bounce" Jazz (Single) Savoy 2002
1953 Jazz at Massey Hall Jazz (Album) Debut 1995
1946 "Ornithology" Jazz (Single) Dial 1989
1950 Charlie Parker with Strings Jazz (Album) Mercury 1988

Year Inducted Title
2004 Jazz at Lincoln Center: Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame
1984 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
1979 Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame
National Recording Registry
In 2002, the Library of Congress honored his recording "Ko-Ko" (1945) by adding it to the National Recording Registry.
U.S. Postage Stamp
Year Issued Stamp USA Note
1995 32 cents Commemorative stamp U.S. Postal Stamps Photo (Scott No. 2987)[20]]

Musical tribute

Lennie Tristano's overdubbed solo piano piece "Requiem" was recorded in tribute to Parker shortly after his death.
Street musician Moondog wrote his famous "Bird's Lament" in his memory.

The Californian ensemble Supersax harmonized many of Parker's improvisations for a five-piece saxophone section
Saxophonist Phil Woods recorded a tribute concert for Parker

Weather Report's jazz fusion track and highly acclaimed big band standard "Birdland", from the Heavy Weather album (1977), was a dedication by bandleader Joe Zawinul to both Charlie Parker and the New York 52nd Street club itself
In 2003 various artists including Serj Tankian and Dan the Automator put out Bird Up: The Charlie Parker Remix Project. This album created new songs by remixing Charlie Parker's originals.

The biographical song "Parker's Band" was recorded by Steely Dan on its 1974 album Pretzel Logic.
The avant-garde trombonist George Lewis recorded Homage to Charles Parker (1979)

Location: 151 Avenue B
Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates: 40°43′36″N 73°58′50″WCoordinates: 40°43′36″N 73°58′50″W
Built: C. 1849
Architectural style: Gothic Revival
Governing body: Private
NRHP Reference#: 94000262
Significant dates
Added to NRHP: April 7, 1994[22]
Designated NRHP: April 7, 1994
Designated NYCL: May 18, 1999[21]
Charlie Parker Residence[edit source]

From 1950 to 1954, Parker and his common-law wife, Chan Berg, lived in the ground floor of the townhouse at 151 Avenue B, across from Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan's East Village. The Gothic Revival building, which was built c.1849,[23] was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994,[24] and was designated a New York City landmark in 1999. Avenue B, between East 7th and 10th Streets, was renamed Charlie Parker Place in 1992.
Other tributes[edit source]

The 1957 story "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin features a jazz/blues playing virtuoso who names Bird as the "greatest" jazz musician, whose style he hopes to emulate.
In 1949, the New York night club Birdland was named in his honor. Three years later, George Shearing wrote "Lullaby of Birdland", named for both Parker and the nightclub.

A memorial to Parker was dedicated in 1999 in Kansas City at 17th Terrace and The Paseo, near the American Jazz Museum located at 18th and Vine, featuring a 10-foot (3 m) tall bronze head sculpted by Robert Graham.

The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival is a free two-day music festival that takes place every summer on the last weekend of August in Manhattan, New York City, at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem and Tompkins Square Park in the Lower East Side, sponsored by the non-profit organization City Parks Foundation. The festival marked its 17th anniversary in 2009.

In one of his most famous short story collections, Las armas secretas (The Secret Weapons), Julio Cortázar dedicated "El perseguidor" ("The Pursuer") to the memory of Charlie Parker. This piece examines the last days of Johnny, a drug-addict saxophonist, through the eyes of Bruno, his biographer. Some qualify this story as one of Cortazar's masterpieces in the genre.

A biographical film called Bird, starring Forest Whitaker as Parker and directed by Clint Eastwood, was released in 1988.[25]

In 1984, legendary modern dance choreographer Alvin Ailey created the piece For Bird – With Love in honor of Parker. The piece chronicles his life, from his early career to his failing health

In 2005, the Selmer Paris saxophone manufacturer commissioned a special "Tribute to Bird" alto saxophone, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Charlie Parker (1955–2005).

Parker's performances of "I Remember You" and "Parker's Mood" (recorded for the Savoy label in 1948, with the Charlie Parker All Stars, comprising Parker on alto sax, Miles Davis on trumpet, John Lewis on piano, Curley Russell on bass, and Max Roach on drums) were selected by Harold Bloom for inclusion on his shortlist of the "twentieth-century American Sublime", the greatest works of American art produced in the 20th century. A vocalese version of "Parker's Mood" was a popular success for King Pleasure.
The Oris Watch Company created a limited edition timepiece in Charlie Parker's name. The watch features the word "bird" at the 4 o'clock hour, in honor of Parker's nickname and signifying "Jazz, until 4 in the morning".

Jean-Michel Basquiat created many pieces to honour Charlie Parker, including Charles the First, CPRKR and Discography I.

In 1995, Live Bird, a one-man play about Charlie Parker, written and performed by actor/saxophonist Jeff Robinson, made its premier at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Massachusetts.

Charlie Watts, drummer for the Rolling Stones, wrote a children's book entitled Ode to a High Flying Bird as a tribute to Parker. Watts has cited Parker as a major influence in his life as a young man learning to play jazz.

In 1997, jazz guitarist Steve Rochinski recorded for Jardis Records, an album titled "A Bird In The Hand"(JRCD 9922), where he overdubbed, as the title cut, three of Charlie Parker's blues melodies, "Buzzy", "Chi-Chi", and "Billie's Bounce", creating a complex, three-part blues counterpoint.
Notes[edit source]

^ Ross Russell, Bird, La vie de Charlie Parker, translation by Mimi Perrin, preface by Chan Parker, Paris: Le livre de poche, 1980.
^ Griffin, Farah Jasmine; Washington, Salim (2008). Clawing at the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. p. 237.
^ "Charlie Parker". The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
^ "there are many contradictory stories of the name's origin". Retrieved March 10, 2011.
^ The 1959 Beat parody album How to Speak Hip lists the three top most "uncool" actions (both in the audio and in the liner notes) as follows: "It is uncool to claim that you used to room with Bird. It is uncool to claim that you have Bird's axe. It is even less cool to ask 'Who is Bird?'."
^ Woideck, Carl (October 1998). Charlie Parker: His Music and Life. Michigan American Music Series. University of Michigan Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-472-08555-2. "In Lincoln High School he was the pride of his teachers..."
^ "Paul Desmond interviews Charlie Parker". Retrieved March 1, 2011.
^ Woideck, Carl (October 1998). Charlie Parker: His Music and Life. Michigan American Music Series. University of Michigan Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-472-08555-2.
^ "". Retrieved March 10, 2011.
^[dead link]
^ This claim is made in Ken Burns' Jazz documentary miniseries, in Episode 7 "Dedicated to Chaos: 1940-1945":
^ Blakely, Johanna (April 2010). Lessons from Fashion's Free Culture (TEDxUSC 2010). TEDTalks. Event occurs at 7:45–8:00. Retrieved December 3, 2010.
^ Gitler, Ira (2001). The Masters of Bebop: A Listener's Guide. Da Capo Press. p. 33. ISBN 0-306-81009-3. "Charles Mingus once chose it when asked to name his favorite Parker recordings. 'I like all,' he said, 'none more than the other, but I'd have to pick Lover Man for the feeling he had then and his ability to express that feeling.'"
^ Ross Russell Bird Lives! The High Life & Hard Times of Charlie (Yardbird) Parker, 1973, New York: Charterhouse, p273. ISBN 0-306-80679-7
^ Reisner, Robert, ed. (1977). Bird: the Legend of Charlie Parker. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 133.
^ "Ken Burns interviews Chan Parker" (PDF). Retrieved March 10, 2011.
^ Ross Russell (1996). Bird Lives!: The High Life And Hard Times Of Charlie (yardbird) Parker. Da Capo Press. p. 361. ISBN 9780306806797. "A confirmed atheist, he had not been inside a church in years."
^ Grammy Awards search engine[dead link]
^ Grammy Hall of Fame Database[dead link]
^ Richard Tucker. "Charlie Parker: 32 cents Commemorative stamp". Retrieved March 10, 2011.
^ "Charlie Parker Residence Designation Report", New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
^ "Parker, Charlie, Residence" on the NRHP database
^ New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Postal, Matthew A. (ed. and text); Dolkart, Andrew S. (text). (2009) Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.) New York:John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1, p.69
^ "Charlie Parker: The Charlie Parker Residence, NYC". Retrieved March 10, 2011.
^ Bird at the Internet Movie Database
References[edit source]

Aebersold, Jamey, editor (1978). Charlie Parker Omnibook. New York: Michael H. Goldsen.
Giddins, Gary (1987). Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker. New York: Beech Tree Books, William Morrow. ISBN 0-688-05950-3
Koch, Lawrence (1999). Yardbird Suite: A Compendium of the Music and Life of Charlie Parker. Boston, Northeastern University Press. ISBN 1-55555-384-1
Parker, Chan (1999). My Life In E-Flat. University Of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-245-9
Reisner, George (1962). Bird: The Legend of Charlie Parker. New York, Bonanza Books.
Russell, Ross (1973). Bird Lives! The High Life & Hard Times of Charlie (Yardbird) Parker. New York:Charterhouse. ISBN 0-306-80679-7
Woideck, Carl (1998). Charlie Parker: His Music and Life. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08555-7
Woideck, Carl, editor (1998). The Charlie Parker Companion: Six Decades of Commentary. New York: Schirmer Books. ISBN 0-02-864714-9
Yamaguchi, Masaya, editor (1955). Yardbird Originals. New York: Charles Colin, reprinted 2005.
External links

The Official Site of Charlie "Yardbird" Parker
Charlie Parker discography at Discogs
Charlie Parker discography
Charlie Parker Sessionography
Clips and notes about Parker
Bird Lives – Thinking About Charlie Parker

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

At the 50th Anniversary of the March On Washington For Jobs And Freedom President Obama Fails To Rise To the Occasion

President Obama speaks at a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Near him is a bell that once rang at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., which was bombed just 18 days after the March On Washington, killing four young black girls. (Evan Vucci / AP / August 28, 2013)

"One cannot change in one's head that which can only be changed in society."
--C.L.R. James

"A genuine leader is not a seeker of consensus but a molder of consensus."

--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"If you have no critics you'll likely have no success"

--Malcolm X


President Obama gave yet another lazy, dishonest, and petulant self serving speech today at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington yesterday which was full of empty rhetorical bromides and openly condescending platitudes that peevishly insisted that everyone else in this society (especially black people!) take so-called "personal responsibility" for their actions and behavior EXCEPT himself and his obviously evasive, aimless, and hubris stuffed administration. Substituting reactionary "tough love" homilies and skittish fatalistic pleas to his notoriously obstructionist white supremacist enemies on the right in place of advancing or aggressively calling for any semblance of a sound or concrete progressive public policy agenda that directly addresses the actual needs, desires, and aspirations of the millions of presently suffering citizens who actually voted for him in 2008 and 2012, Obama gave the embarrassingly weak impression that he was not really interested in providing any kind of real viable LEADERSHIP in the realms of domestic and foreign policy decision making that would seriously address the truly severe crises involving the State, capital, labor, political ideology, and civic engagement that is currently wracking this Republic. Instead the President spoke in absurdly broad, phony, and disturbingly vague circles about the role of "the People" in initiating and sustaining the "fight for hope and change" that wouldn't rely on "Washington" to deal with their structural, institutional, and systemic problems. Rather Obama contented himself with simply pretending that "the government ultimately couldn't or wouldn't really be responsible" for playing a major role in the transformative process of making the fundamental changes and bedrock reforms in this society's political economy, culture, and civil institutions that are absolutely essential to bringing about any real progressive changes in this nation's institutions and social/economic infrastructure worth their name.

Even more distressing is the ludicrous appearance of far too many intellectually and politically ill equipped black celebrities and extremely shallow pop culture mavens like Oprah Winfrey (!) and Jamie Foxx (!!) who mounted the dais and acted as though they are to be taken seriously in any real sense as "leaders" in this struggle. This was frankly an enormous insult to the nation's vast number of poor and working class citizens--many of whom are African American--who reasonably expect and thus justifiably demand that the government do its job that we democratically chose them to do which is protecting, defending, and strongly insisting that our human and constitutional rights be honored and given major priority over and above the rich and powerful elites. Without confronting the dire necessity of actively fighting for these changes and protections-- and all they entail--no amount of dismissively chastising any constituency within the national polity that make up the Republic will or can suffice. It is decidely NOT our job or role as mere "individuals" alone within this society to transform it. What is required is a much larger committment that requires that the entire society is engaged at the level of making, defending, sustaining, and extending these changes. That goes for the President and his administration as well as the rest of us no matter what our avowed, unrelenting, and committed enemies say or do. After all that's why all this activity is called a STRUGGLE...Stay tuned...



‘The Most Dangerous Negro’
August 28, 2013
New York Times


The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” so disturbed the American power structure that the F.B.I. started spying on him in what The Washington Post called “one of its biggest surveillance operations in history.” The speech even moved the head of the agency’s domestic intelligence division to label King “the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of Communism, the Negro and national security.”

Of course, King wasn’t dangerous to the country but to the status quo. King demanded that America answer for her sins, that she be rustled from her waywardness, that she be true to herself and to the promise of her founding.

King was dangerous because he wouldn’t quietly accept — or allow a weary people to any longer quietly accept — what had been. He insisted that we all imagine — dream of — what could and must be.

That is not the mission of politicians. That is the mission of a movement’s Moses.

And those Moses figures are often born among the young who refuse to accept the conditions of their elders, who see injustice through innocent eyes.

King was just 34 years old in 1963.

As President Obama put it Wednesday:

“There’s a reason why so many who marched that day and in the days to come were young, for the young are unconstrained by habits of fear, unconstrained by the conventions of what is. They dared to dream different and to imagine something better. And I am convinced that same imagination, the same hunger of purpose serves in this generation.”

So now, America yearns for more of these young leaders, and in some ways it has found some, not just in the traditional civil rights struggle but also in the struggles to win L.G.B.T. rights and to maintain women’s reproductive rights.

Yet there remains a sort of cultural complacency in America. After young people took to the streets as part of the Arab Spring, many Americans, like myself, were left wondering what had become of American activism. When was the last time our young people felt so moved that they took to the streets to bring attention to an issue?

There were some glimmers of hope around Occupy Wall Street and the case of Trayvon Martin, but both movements have lost much of their steam, and neither produced a clear leader.

So as we rightfully commemorate the March on Washington and King’s speech, let us also pay particular attention to the content of that speech. King spoke of the “fierce urgency of now,” not the fierce urgency of nostalgia.

(I was struck by how old the speakers skewed this week during the commemorations.)

What is our fierce urgency? What is the present pressure? Who will be our King?  What will be our cause?

There is a litany of issues that need our national attention and moral courage — mass incarceration, poverty, gun policy, voting rights, women’s access to health care, L.G.B.T. rights, educational equality, immigration reform.

And they’re all interrelated.

The same forces that fight to maintain or infringe on one area of equality generally have some kinship to the forces that fight another.

And yet, we speak in splinters. We don’t see the commonality of all these struggles and the common enemies to equality.
And no leader has arisen to weave these threads together.

Martin Luther King was a preacher, not a politician. He applied pressure from outside the system, not from within it. And I’m convinced that both forms of pressure are necessary.

King’s staggering achievement is testament to what can be achieved by a man — or woman — possessed of clear conviction and rightly positioned on the side of justice and freedom. And it is a testament to the power of people united, physically gathering together so that they must be counted and considered, where they can no longer be ignored or written off.

There is a vacuum in the American body politic waiting to be filled by a young person of vision and courage, one not suckled to sleep by reality television and social media monotony.

The only question is who will that person be. Who will be this generation’s “most dangerous” American? The country is waiting.

I invite you to join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at


Cornel West Interviewed by the Real News Program About the 50th Anniversary of the March On Washington and the Obama Administration

Cornel West Says Civil Rights Leaders Have Failed The Movement

In an exclusive interview with The Real News, Cornel West argues civil rights leaders have failed to hold president Obama accountable - August 27, 2013


Cornel West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual. He is the Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton University. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton. He has taught at Union Theological Seminary, Yale, Harvard and the University of Paris. He has written 19 books and edited 13 books. He is best known for his classic Race Matters, Democracy Matters, and his new memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud. He appears frequently on the Bill Maher Show, Colbert Report, CNN and C-Span as well as on his dear Brother, Tavis Smiley’s PBS TV Show. He can be heard weekly with Tavis Smiley on "Smiley & West", the national public radio program distributed by Public Radio International (PRI).


OSCAR LEÓN, TRNN PRODUCER: On August 23, tens of thousands of people rallied at the National Mall to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which drew a quarter million people to the nation's capital and was a key moment in the civil rights movement. The Real News' Jaisal Noor spoke to Dr. Cornel West after the march.

CORNEL WEST, PHILOSOPHER, ACTIVIST, AND AUTHOR: We had very low quality leadership today on the stage. We saw bona fide apologists for the Obama administration. There was no serious talk about Wall Street. There was no serious talk about the new Jim Crow, no serious talk about drones, no serious talk about the U.S. security state, no serious talk about the massive surveillance state. It was about just voters' rights and maybe some vague reference to jobs. Martin Luther King Jr. turns over in his grave. He turns over in his grave.

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Did you take part in the march today? Why or why not?

WEST: Well, no, no, no, no. My spirits are with the people, but I wanted to make sure I heard every word of the speakers, because I've got to be on television later on and I want to make sure I have a sense of all the different voices. But, unfortunately, the rich prophetic and progressive voices of the past and present were pushed completely to the margin and we ended up with voices of those on the Obama plantation.

NOOR: What you mean by that?

WEST: Those who are wedded to Obama won't say a critical word about the Obama administration and won't say a critical word about the shortcomings [incompr.] of the White House and executive branch.

NOOR: Now, I was there for the beginning of the march and I heard a lot of references to drones, mass incarceration, prison-industrial complex, but no words on how to address those problems and what hasn't been done to address those problems.

WEST: I didn't hear a reference to any of those issues from the major speakers. So you heard it early on?

NOOR: Yeah.

WEST: Oh, but that's good news, then. That's very good. I didn't hear one word for what was projected for the American people. You had to be at the march to hear--what was it? Two-minute presentation?

NOOR: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so at the--so what did the march 50 years ago mean as far as economic justice, racial justice, civil rights? What did the civil rights movement mean for public education, for housing? And 50 years later, are those same messages still [incompr.]

WEST: Well, 50 years ago we were dealing with an American terrorism call Jim Crow, and you had a social movement that was expanding, you had a social movement that was intensifying, and you had Martin King, A. Philip Randolph, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, and other voices emerging. Today you have a black leadership that is captive and deferential to the Obama administration that has most visible presence. You've got voices on the side--Glen Ford, Bruce Dixon, and others. But for the most part it is so tied to the Obama administration, we cannot get any truth-telling. Not at all.

NOOR: Now, I interviewed about ten people at the march [incompr.] people that had taken part in the march in '63, and they were there, and they themselves were not willing to be critical of the current administration. But [crosstalk]
WEST: That's the whole atmosphere.

NOOR: --show lack of leadership [crosstalk]

WEST: Absolutely. An atmosphere has been created that is so protective that people can't be free to speak their minds, to speak in the name of justice when the Obama administration falls short, as with drones, the captivity to Wall Street, silence on new Jim Crow, and so on.

NOOR: And why is it important that the leadership of this march address those issues that were like you said. He didn't mention Wall Street [crosstalk]

WEST: Those are the major issues of our day. Those are the issues of the American empire. Those are the issues that the world itself is looking for leaders and black leaders to speak to.

NOOR: And the fact that Al Sharpton, the National Action Network, they ran this march, they give out the press credentials--talk about his position on things like housing, on public education. He supported Race to the Top.

WEST: No. I mean, you know, he's my dear brother, but he is a bona fide house negro on the Obama plantation, and that's how house negroes behave. They don't want to hear the truth of the underside of their boss. It's just a fact.
NOOR: So one of the key components of the civil rights movement was fighting for civil rights and public education for everybody. Now--.

WEST: This brother right here would talk about public education.

NOOR: Well, I'll have to talk to you after that.

WEST: Interview this brother. Interview--he got something to say. Absolutely.

NOOR: So Dr. King believed in a universal public education [crosstalk]

WEST: Yes, he did.

NOOR: --everybody. Obama has endorsed Race to the Top competition, charter schools--great schools for some people, but not for everybody. Al Sharpton has endorsed that. So talk about the significance of that and the fact that voices that support public education for everybody, voices that support teachers unions, which were a huge part of the civil rights movement--. Dr. King--someone told me today Dr. King died fighting against the privatization of unions. So talk about [incompr.]

WEST: Well, he died fighting with sanitation workers to try to promote their dignity and that they have access to a living wage. But no, as I said before, I mean, unfortunately, brother Al Sharpton has fallen lockstep with the Obama administration. And when you're on the plantation, you don't oppose the master in the big house. It's just a fact.
So it's not just private education. Stop-and-frisk was the same way. This brother and I had to get arrested a year before they got the green light from the White House to fight stop-and-frisk because the mayor of New York City is such a close friend of the president.

NOOR: Now, you were part of the movement that put stop-and-frisk on the map.

WEST: Well, this brother here called it. We called it together. Yeah.

NOOR: You were part of that movement that got stop-and-frisk addressed by the media, this huge public reaction [incompr.] months after your arrest and others' arrests. It got addressed. And this movement rose and it get talked about. You had--I looked at this on Google News--50 mentions of stop-and-frisk three years before the arrests that you took part in, thousands of mentions afterwards. And public opinion turned against it. Public opinion was for stop-and-frisk before. It's against it now. You have--the judge ruled against stop-and-frisk. New York City has now passed the Community Safety Act, which bans racial profiling. Yet Obama has suggested that Ray Kelly be promoted [crosstalk] security. But talk about the significance of that [crosstalk]

WEST: No, Ray Kelly is the poster child for racial profiling in America. Barack Obama said, he's outstanding; his values are my values. So you can see the hypocrisy of calling, on the one hand, a critique--.

NOOR: What's your reaction to that? Yeah.

WEST: My reaction to it is outrage, 'cause I don't like hypocrisy. He talked about racial profiling in his own case in regard to his brother Trayvon Martin. Then he calls to appoint somebody who is the poster child for racial profiling to head homeland security. So it's ridiculous.

Dr. Cornel West Calls Out the Obama Administration and its Black Political Acolytes At the 50th Anniversary of the March On Washington


Cornel West: March Organizers Are Part of the “Obama Plantation”

Cornel West: Washington March Organizers are Part of the “Obama Plantation”; Says Sharpton Attempts to “Contain Black Rage”, Jay-Z an Example of the “Re-Niggerization of the Black Professional Class.”

Bruce Dixon’s Open Letter to Melissa Harris-Perry, Toure, Joy Ann Reid:  Stop the Hate, Grow Some Guts

Glen Ford: US Military Conquest of Africa “All But Complete”

Through AFRICOM and massive amounts of military aid and training, the US literally owns every army on the African continent, except those of Eritrea and Zimbabwe. Glen Ford explains….

Rev. Al Sharpton and other organizers of the March on Washington 50th anniversary commemoration are so tightly tied to “the Obama plantation,” said activist and academic Dr. Cornel West, “we won’t get to focus on the New Jim Crow; we won’t get to focus on the privatization of education; we won’t get to focus on the land grabs and the gentrification of land it the city; we won’t get to focus on working class people; and we certainly won’t get to focus on the drones and those bombs landing on innocent brothers and sisters in Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia, and especially the 222 innocent children who have been murdered by the U.S. government so far, and counting.”

President Obama is scheduled to speak at the August 28 event at the Lincoln Memorial. Dr. West, of the Union Theological Seminary, in New York City, does not plan to attend. “If Martin [Luther King Jr.] were to show up at this march and they asked him to give a speech,” said West, “what he would say would be so subversive that those on the Obama plantation would be revealed for who they are, which is obsessed with career, obsessed with access, obsessed with status as opposed to being obsessed with the suffering of poor Black brothers and sisters.”

Speaking on Black Agenda Television, Dr. West said George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin has fueled “an overwhelming Black rage, and Brother Sharpton and the others are trying to contain it, and of course Obama and Holder are fearful of it, because Black rage is always the catalyst to Black self-determination, toward Black self-respect, and toward Black self-defense.”

Dr. West rebuked entertainment mogul Jay-Z, who said his “presence is charity” to Black people, “just like Obama’s is.”

“It’s what I call the re-niggerization of the Black professional class, where you have fear, you have a tremendous sense of being intimidated even though you have big money,” said West. “So you say to Brother Jay-Z, What are you risking? We don’t want to just see you successful, we appreciate it, we want to see you faithful to something bigger than you, and faith has to do with risking something. The only way you become de-niggerized and free is when you are willing to risk, when you’re willing to go against the grain, to show you’re not fearful, you’re not afraid. Unfortunately, Jay-Z at his worst is an example of folk who get so elevated that they don’t show courage and take a risk for something that is bigger than them.”

When the White House gets upset, Black MSNBC talking heads get apoplectic. MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, Toure and Joy Ann Reid whipped themselves into McCarthyite fervor against secrets-leaker Edward Snowden. Harris-Perry and Reid lost all sense of decorum, screaming like banshees at Wikileaks spokesman Kris Hrafnsson. In an open letter to the trio, Black Agenda Report managing editor Bruce Dixon described Harris-Perry and Reid as playing “a reprehensible game of make believe, where leakers are criminals instead of heroes, Wikileaks is a conspiracy instead of a media organization, Joy Ann’s a tough district attorney and Melissa’s a special agent ready with the handcuffs.” As for Toure’s reflexive defense of Obama’s global dragnet for Snowden: “We all know you’re just repeating what the White House the Pentagon the intelligence agencies tell you. That’s just plain lazy, man,” said Dixon, in his latest Black Agenda Television commentary. “Until the three of you grow the guts and integrity to represent something besides your own shallow careers on the tube, stop the fronting, stop the hate, and leave the real journalists alone.”

The Real Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement: Why True Democracy Will Only Come From A Mass-Based Grass Roots Struggle For Jobs, Justice, and Fundamental Social Change


What Happened to Jobs and Justice?

August 27, 2013 

New York Times

MADISON, Wis. — ON Aug. 28, 1963, nearly a quarter of a million people thronged the nation’s capital for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the largest civil rights demonstration in American history. Its impact on American politics was tremendous: in addition to building support to pass the civil rights bill that President John F. Kennedy had recently proposed, marchers succeeded in strengthening and expanding the scope of the bill far beyond what the president had envisioned.

Related in Opinion:

Op-Ed Contributor: The Global March on Washington (August 28, 2013)
Op-Ed Contributor: Mahalia Jackson, and King’s Improvisation (August 28, 2013)
Opinionator | The Great Divide: How Dr. King Shaped My Work in Economics (August 27, 2013)
Editorial: The Fight for Voting Rights, 50 Years Later (August 28, 2013)

For many, the most important addition was Title VII, which prohibited employers and unions from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin and sex. The ban on sex discrimination was itself a further amendment, introduced in January 1964 by Southern Democrats who hoped it would impede the bill’s progress through Congress. Their plan backfired: not only did they fail to scuttle the bill, but their amendment also provided a critical legal tool in the fight for women’s equality.

The message of the march still resonated in 1965, when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, key features of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s proposal to bring “an end to poverty and racial injustice.”

The march was so successful that we often forget that it occurred in a political environment not so different from our own. Kennedy’s victory over Richard M. Nixon in 1960 signaled a break from the conservatism of the 1950s. But like the election of Barack Obama in 2008, hope for a return to the liberalism of the 1930s was dampened by an administration that rejected “old slogans” like wage increases and public works in favor of tax cuts and free trade to stimulate growth.

That disillusionment gave rise to sit-ins and freedom rides against segregation in the South, but those protests proved powerless in the face of entrenched conservative power. In contrast, the grass-roots movements that gained political influence in the Kennedy years were White Citizens Councils, the John Birch Society and other forces that, much like today’s Tea Party movement, shifted the political spectrum to the right.

Given those obstacles, how did the March on Washington help drive support for such sweeping civil rights and domestic policy measures?

First, it linked the protest movements of the 1960s to institutions with longstanding roots in working-class communities. The initial call for the 1963 demonstration came from the Negro American Labor Council, an organization of black trade unionists that used local networks to plan for the march months before it was officially announced.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee played similar roles in the South, mobilizing local civil rights groups, black churches and students. Support also came from the National Council of Negro Women and other elements of the black women’s movement that had battled poverty and discrimination since the 19th century.

At the same time, organizers rallied supporters around a broad and ambitious set of demands. A. Philip Randolph, the veteran trade unionist who had first called for a march on Washington to protest employment discrimination in 1941, wanted the demonstration to focus on the shortcomings of Kennedy’s economic policies. Pointing out that black workers were restricted to entry-level jobs that were most vulnerable to the automation and offshoring of manufacturing under way in the 1960s, he warned that without measures to end discrimination and create more jobs, blacks would be condemned to struggling for survival “within the grey shadows of a hopeless hope.”

Other black leaders shared that concern, but some worried that a “march for jobs” would compete with the movement that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others were leading against legalized discrimination and disfranchisement. Anna Arnold Hedgeman, a prominent leader of the black women’s movement, persuaded the men to plan a demonstration that would address “both the economic problems and civil rights.”

Finally, while Randolph, King, Hedgeman and others expanded the mobilization to include a broad and multiracial coalition, they resisted pressure to moderate their tactics or demands.

Both black and white liberals worried that an angry protest would turn moderates in Congress against Kennedy’s civil rights bill, but Randolph and King convinced the leaders of the N.A.A.C.P., the United Auto Workers and the National Urban League that the demonstration would be peaceful and effective.

It was the combination of these stalwart positions and rich institutional networks with the sheer number of peaceful black and white marchers that persuaded so many Americans of the rightness of civil rights and antipoverty legislation.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the march, however, its central achievements are more imperiled than ever. This summer the Supreme Court upheld the principles behind the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act while severely weakening authority to enforce them. We have a charismatic liberal president and inspiring protest movements dedicated to racial equality and economic justice — but, as in the Kennedy years, they have proved no match for well-organized conservatives.

The solution may not be another march on Washington. But real changes in policy, and the defense of previous victories, require the combination of institutional backing, coalition building and ambitious demands that brought so many people to the National Mall in 1963.

William P. Jones is a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin and the author of “The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights.”


The Fight for Voting Rights, 50 Years Later

August 27, 2013
New York Times

On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the country can take pride in progress made toward the guarantee of equal rights for all. Yet it is disheartening to watch the continuing battles over the right to vote, a core goal of the civil rights movement and the foundation of any functioning democracy.

The latest fights, over harsh new voting restrictions in Texas and North Carolina, have only made the need for comprehensive and lasting protection of voting rights that much clearer. In June, the Supreme Court hobbled the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most effective civil rights laws in American history. A central element of that law required certain states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to obtain federal permission before making changes to their election laws. Finding that “things have changed dramatically,” the court struck down that part of the act.

Within hours, it became clear that things had not changed as much as the court seemed to think. Texas, one of the states covered by the act, was first out of the gate, announcing it would immediately begin enforcing a photo-identification requirement for voters that a federal court had blocked last year. Defenders of that state law — which accepts a concealed-handgun license for identification but not a student ID card — said it was necessary to prevent in-person voter fraud, even though state officials have identified only a handful of such cases. The new North Carolina voter ID law, enacted earlier this month, is similarly disconnected from reality.

These laws, supported by Republican lawmakers trying to suppress Democratic votes, may not be uniquely targeted at racial minorities — they also burden the poor, the elderly, students and others — but that does not change their racial effect. Either way, what reason is there to keep eligible citizens from voting unless you are afraid of the outcome?

Last week, the Justice Department sued Texas over the voter ID law, arguing that it discriminated against minority voters. In a separate case last month, the department joined a lawsuit seeking to place Texas back under federal oversight, because of its discriminatory state-redistricting maps. Both actions relied on surviving sections of the Voting Rights Act, and Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. promised that the administration would “take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs.” Given a Supreme Court that appears increasingly antagonistic to claims of voting discrimination, maintaining rights in practice will require more than just aggressive and persistent lawsuits by the Justice Department or aggrieved voters.

A more robust and lasting solution would include Congress requiring states to improve the accuracy of voter registration databases. Federal laws began this process in the 1990s and early 2000s, but many states’ voting rolls remain woefully unreliable. Making registration easier — for example, by obligating states to identify and register eligible voters or by allowing voters to update their registrations online — would also make a real difference.

As the marchers who converged on Washington 50 years ago understood, it will take a people’s movement to beat back state laws that disenfranchise the most vulnerable Americans. Congress and the courts heard the voice of the people then; it is up to this generation to make sure they hear it now.