Sunday, May 22, 2016

Something Beautiful: An Open Letter to Elena Seranno and Greg Morizumi, Founders of the East Side Arts Alliance

A few days ago I sent an email to two people whose work I greatly admire. I have decided to publish it as a public acknowledgement of my appreciation for them. This morning I am remembering opening the Jazz Stage at yesterday's 16th Malcolm X Jazz Arts Festival. My music school, the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music (OPC), was honored with the invitation to open the festivities with our youth ensembles.

This auspicious occasion meant so much for my students, their families, teachers and the community. This morning I am brimming with gratitude and appreciation. The OPC and East Side Arts Alliance are building a new youth development project focused on the nurturing of future culture-bearers through music and technology. We are united and will be holding space for the youth to rise, and this is a beautiful thing. . . . and now, the letter. . .

May 16, 2016

Dear Greg and Elena,

I write to express my absolute appreciation and gratitude for what you have created with ESAA! I've longed for a co-collaborators with like minds and intentions to develop OPC for years. To date I still have not met them, but watching you build ESAA through the years has kept me going on my path of building the Public Conservatory Movement. Honestly.

My focus is in creating a training ground for radical, musically, politically, well-versed, technically proficient Black and Brown youth artists who can carry the torch as we rise, creating a self-sustaining, self-determining home sphere. This term, "home sphere" was coined by Earl Lewis. It basically is concerned with the connection between the household and the community in the fight for racial equality and uplift. I have always embraced my work from this perspective of the home sphere and also found it challenging to do so here in Oakland. With this invigorated collaboration between OPC and ESAA, and other community institutions with whom OPC is forging collaborations, e.g., East Oakland Youth Development Center and the West Oakland Youth Center, I feel a much-welcomed return to my Kansas City radical arts activism roots in/with community.

The alignment is happening and connections are surfacing. Last night I continued my conversation with Jon Jang about leading the Frederick Douglass Youth Ensemble. In our email conversation he recalled the following when I told him that the ensemble would be based at East Side and collaborating with their Beats and Flows program:

"Eastside Arts Alliance! Greg Morozumi and I go way back. ON my recording Two Flowers on a Stem, I dedicated my composition Eleanor Bumpurs that featured David Murray on tenor saxophone to Greg and Modibo who were hardcore activists in the Justice for Eleanor Bumpurs, a 66 year black grandmother who was legally lynched by the Bronx Police for not paying her rent on time.  I know Elena and Suzanne and performed with Amiri Baraka at the First Malcolm X Jazz Festival and performed at the tribute to Amiri after he transitioned to ancestry in January 2014."

And so it goes. And still we rise.

I am looking forward to the journey.

Arise and Shine, beautiful people! Our time has come!

In Peace and Wellness!


(and remember to listen to today's musical motivation.