Sunday, July 19, 2009

And That's The Way It Is

Growing up, I remember watching the news and dreaming of being a journalist, and one of the newsmakers I always respected and admired was Walter Cronkite...So it was with sadness that I learned of his death over the weekend...Whether it was his coverage of Watergate, the Apollo missions, Vietnam, or Reagan's victory in the 80's, I could always count on a fair and accurate assessment of what was happening from this trusted newsman.
And, from an iconic standpoint and as one who had their teen years during the mid 70's and early 80's, I can tell you a lot of folks that I remember with great fondness from my youth have passed on...Why just over the last couple of weeks, we have lost Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, and here in Durham the first African American mayor Chester Jenkins recently passed and before him over the last two years, both Bill Cherry and Jim Fields passed.
Growing up, I listening to Michael during the Jackson 5 era and having a neighbor in Greensboro who swore up and down that she was going to marry Michael and I have learned since that this was a fantasy of many a young lady of that time......I also remember going to many a party at Marquette and hearing the sounds of Thriller and Off the Wall being played by the DJs at that various parties I attended at that school.
And as far as Farrah Fawcett, yes I was one of those youths who was trying to figure out was Charlie based on Howard Hughes, and yes I loved looking at the various women on that show, though as I wrote in a column many years ago, I never could figure out why they were wearing bikinis on a ski trip and I could have swore a saw that on at least a couple of episodes...I think from the character's standpoint I was drawn more to the intelligent one who seemed to always possess not just good looks, but brains and a great personality, who was played by Kate Jackson......But I did love her roles in Extremeties and Burning Beds, where Farrah proved you could deal with a powerful topic and give it the justice they deserved.
And of course I was one of those who enjoyed the bantering back and forth between Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson, and yes I even dreamed of one day him bringing me that Publisher's Clearinghouse ticket...Of course, it might have helped if I had actually entered the contest...Okay I might have turned it in once or twice, but that was probably it, and what's the old saying you can't win, if you don't play.
I can't really say I knew Chester Jenkins all that well, as he won during a time that I was exploring my journalism career on the daily side, and was not really that attached to Durham as I have become over the last two decades. But, I have heard wonderful things about him from those who remember him as a true pioneer on the political front here in Durham.
The other two I mentioned, Bill Cherry and Jim Fields, have been gone for awhile but they were definitely fixtures here in the Triangle...Bill, who had already done pioneering work with Jesse Jackson and Operation Breakthrough as well as the Negro Ensemble Company and Wattstax just to name a few before he moved here to Durham, continued to be at the forefront of mixing art and social justice together even after he moved here and continued his relationship with such national figures as Isaac Hayes, Howard Hewitt, and the honorable Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam and worked on various projects with them and was always here to support the various people of Durham who were trying to do innovative works in the entertainment field right here in our Bull City, including myself but also such folks as Brett Chambers, Eric Kelly, Ray Paschall just to name a few...
And of course so many people around here knew Jim Fields, Uncle Bubba, as he was known to many for his video work and his keeping on top of what was happening right here in our lovely city, both through conversations he held with folks who would lend him a ear and the shows he produced for Durham Cablevision.
But, as I reflect on this, I am glad to know that the future is bright right here in Durham and I saw that for a fact this weekend. I had the pleasuree of going to the open house for the Member show at the Durham Art Guild, and one thing the Guild has done has implemented a Junior membership for High School students and there work was just as equally impressive as some of the artist who have been doing things for years...I was really taken by the vivid colors and whimsical nature of some of their art work, and yet at the same time, there were others who gave sharp photographic images that really caught your attention...This is not to take away from the veteran artists who also had some great pieces in the show as well, and I urge you to go and check out the show...I think you will be impressed...
From there, I traveled to the Durham Armory and saw people of all ages playing a variety of music, some of which was provided by Music Explorium, and they were definitely enjoying themselves in a show that was originally scheduled for outside but was moved inside due to the threat of bad weather.
and I closed out that evening by going over to Golden Belt and checking out a wide variety of artists, including my friends Titus Heagins and Cynthia Grow who have studios there, as well as a variety of other artists who were featured as well...I heard from several people that the Play that was part of that showing and the dance by Mark Dendy were great, and I made it a point to see the Dendy show the next day and this installation piece which made tribute to the music and workers who helped build Durham and featured music, as well as the sounds of textile factories and references to both the blues and jazz music of our city's heritage definitely was amazing and was fun to watch.....I was also pleased to see that at the end of the show Dendy pointed out how many of the ADF dancers were on scholarship, and urged the audience to remember that even in tough economic times, the art plays a vital part in our community and should never be abandoned...This is a message that we need to spread throughout the city and the nation........
To close out this weekend, I went to see Fourth and A Mile which featured several friends and acquaintances of mine in great roles, and was another in the series of plays that Howard Craft has done to address various health issues, this one deals with the critical one of Prostate Cancer and does it by providing pertinent and important information, but still giving us a storyline and some great humor. At intermission, Craft told me that he had added the Muddy Waters tune for me, maybe he heard me tapping my feet from the back of the auditorium.......
I urge everyone, particularly my fellow men in their 40's, as well as those older and those approaching that age to see this powerful piece of theatre...As I already stated when talking about some of my friends who have passed, I am a big fan of using art to get people to think and ponder various issues....One of the greatest minds of our time, Albert Einstein, said "All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom."...........
So, for now, I'm outta here...but I look forward to discussing various topics of culture here on this to borrow from a Newsman I had a great deal of respect for, Walter Cronkite...That's the way it is on Sunday, July 19th.

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