Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chuck Berry: The Vine of Rock and Roll

Photo By: Linda Gardner
Born 87 years ago on October 18th, Charles Edward Anderson Berry became one of the most influential pioneers in music.  Better known as Chuck Berry, his musical contribution is considered to have been a vine for the growth of rock and roll. The popularity of the genre expanded greatly through Berry as it vibrantly moved from his unique lyrical style, electrifying guitar solos and his animated showmanship. Berry cleverly fused his catchy tunes with the common experiences of teenage life. The formula crossed over into mainstream music and gave a loud voice to the first generation of rebellious teens.  Driven by the themes of automobiles, rock and roll and education, the lyrics and music to his songs revved up vivid imagery of what American teen culture was like and led to several hits, including School Days, Maybellene and Johnny B. Goode. Berry scored his only number one song on the Top 100 Billboard in 1972 with “My Ding a Ling”. Berry holds the distinction of being the first inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1984.  Referring to the style of music, John Lennon once said that if you had to give it another name, "You might call it Chuck Berry". Considered by some to be the father of rock and roll, Chuck Berry is a native of Saint Louis, Missouri. The home that he once lived in  is located on Whittier Street and  is registered as a National Historic Site. A statue of  Berry was erected in the Delmar Loop, an area of his hometown. The structure stands not far from the Blueberry Hill landmark restaurant and music club where the "Vine of Rock and Roll" still performs once a week.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

East St. Louis Trayvon Martin Rally/March

On July 20th childhood friends of Tracy Martin, Tommie Liddell, Undre Howard, Reginald Jordan and Raymond House with the assistance of Stephanie Miles planned and organized a march/rally in Martin’s hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois. The march to the United States district court and the rally that took place there were to show love and support for Martin in his continued fight for justice in the aftermath of the acquittal of his son's killer. The peaceful demonstration, attended by several hundred people, started at the East St Louis Board of Education. It occurred under the umbrella of the National Call to Action Day, a nationwide protest where people in over a 100 cities marched on the lawns of federal courts to pressure the U.S. Justice Department to file charges against George Zimmerman for the violation of Trayvon Martin’s civil rights.

Barry Malloyd, a minister at Mount Sinai M.B. Church and author of the book Mama Said Write It, started the rally on a spiritual note.  He petitioned God with a passionte prayer asking that justice be served in the nationally known case. Malloyd said, "Truth crushed to stone will rise again." He also pleaded for peace in East St.Louis, a community plague by violence and crime.

Among  the featured speakers were personal friends of Tracy Martin, Tommie Liddell and Raymond House, Ayonna Khayyam, financial literacy educator and vice president of Young Money Entertainment Inc., and Saint Louis radio personality Carol Daniel.

House (left) professed the community's love for the Martin family. He said, "East St. Louis loves Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton and we are especially proud of them for the way they have expressed themselves with dignity, from the circumstances surrounding their son's death and throughout the trial of the man who killed him. They took the high road when there where so many other avenues they could have taken".

Daniel (left) delivered a powerful message to the youth in attendance. She said “We need you to be all that Trayvon Martin will never be”.

Liddell (right) read a statement from Martin to the residents of East St. Louis. His message in the wake of the aquittal verdict was “My faith is being tested right now".
14 year-old Khayyam (right) also addressed the younger people. She said "Knowledge is the key to success. If you're illiterate nobody's going to take you seriously, and with our generation, not taking school seriously, society is going to treat us like a joke"!

As Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton continue to pursue justice in the killing of their son, they are advocates of the Trayvon Martin Foundation, a non-for-profit organization that raises awareness of ethnic, gender and racial profiling. A goal of the organization is to educate youth in the area of conflict resolution as part of a larger effort to prevent deadly confrontations between them and strangers.                                                                         

Saturday, July 20, 2013

East St. Louis Trayvon Martin Rally Speech


Photo by Linda Gardner-(center) Raymond House
Good Afternoon Everyone. No Justice! No Peace! No Justice! No Peace! East St. Louis loves Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, and we are especially proud of them for the way they have expressed themselves with dignity, from the circumstance surrounding their son’s death and throughout the trial of the man who killed him.  They took the high road when there were so many other avenues they could have taken.
Last year when they came to support the stop the violence rally here in East St. Louis, we the friends of Tracy Martin, presented him and Sybrina with a plaque in memory of their son Trayvon. Inscribed on the plaque was our pledge to them and our prayer for them.  As written it reads “We stand with you, we support your fight for justice and we pray that God continues to be your strength”.  That was our promise then and in the overcast of the verdict, it remains the same. We stand and support them in their continued fight for justice.
Similar to the nationwide marches that led the state of Florida to charge George Zimmerman with second degree murder last year, there are nationwide marches now to have charges filed against him in federal court. Today is a national call to action and people all over the country have answered by marching, because we want an investigation to determine if Trayvon Martin’s civil rights were violated. George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, lied about the circumstances surrounding it, never explained it court and was still found not guilty by the jury. There is a grave injustice in that!
In the community of common sense we don’t believe for a minute that Trayvon was peering through windows and looking at houses, just because Mr. Zimmerman said he was.  Who does that when walking from the store in the rain while talking on the phone in a neighborhood where they have business to be? In the community of common sense we do believe that George Zimmerman created reasons to report Trayvon Martin to the police, to portray him as a suspicious person.  What really made him suspicious?  In the community of common sense we do believe that if Trayvon Martin were white George Zimmerman would have gone on to Target instead of making him a target.  He would have stayed seated in his vehicle and we would not have had to question whether he was standing his ground or not.
Fifty years ago, a march driven by the force of a quarter of a million people traveled to Washington D.C. to fight for civil rights and against this kind of discrimination. Because of that march and the laws passed behind it, forty-five years later an African American man was able to walk into the White House, not as a servant, but as the president of the United States, the highest office of power in the world. As far as he has come as an African American man to get there, if an African American boy isn’t able to walk a few yards to a house in neighborhood he’s visiting, without being discriminated against and being killed, then we as a people still have a long way to go. Thank you

Monday, January 21, 2013

The March on Washington 50th Anniversary

A walk from the National Mall to the White House is a relatively short distance to travel. Depending on the starting point and the pace the stroll could take as little as thirty minutes. At any rate, if  you begin from where African Americans began fifty years ago it would be a much longer journey. On August 28, 1963 from a place of second-class citizenship, a group of African Americans and their supporters gathered at the National Mall for the March on Washington. The march was a demonstration for freedom and jobs. Driven by a force of a quarter of a million people its influence would travel through time to the White House and into history.

As a vehicle of the civil rights movement, the March on Washington carried its message of equality for African Americans from the National Mall on Capitol Hill to the the floor of the legislature in Congress. Dispatched from the Lincoln Memorial, the message boldly served as a notice of intent to reform. Adjoined with a civil rights bill proposed by President Kennedy, it trudged through the bureaucracy of Washington. The moving message prompted the passage of two important laws in successive years, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Impelled into reality by the march,  the landmark laws embarked on a mission to remove the road blocks of injustice that prevented minorities from moving forward. Persevering for decades through systemic racism the enduring statutes went on to break down those barriers.  Consequently, a path toward better educational and employment opportunities was constructed. It was through that path that the course of life for black people changed and the way was paved for the first African American to arrive at the White House as the president of the United States.

On January 21, 2013, four years after serving his first term as president, Barack Obama arrived at the National Mall again, almost fifty years after the March on Washington.  He was there to be sworn in for his second term as president.  He took the oath on the holiday named for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the keynote speaker at the March on Washington. The bible used to swear him into office was Dr. King's traveling bible.