Sunday, December 11, 2016

Oakland Symphony honors the Black Panther Party at sold-out Paramount Theatre concert

Maestro Michael Morgan, Oakland Symphony Conductor
art by James Gayles

In a sold-out concert at the elegant Paramount Theatre, Conductor Michael Morgan and the Oakland Symphony paid tribute to the Black Panther Party on its 50th Anniversary. Near the end of the concert and before the orchestra performed its last number STAND, Maestro Morgan had BPP members stand. We recognized Huey Newton's widow, Fredrika Newton, Tarika Lewis, Billy X. Jennings, Majeeda Rahman, Elaine Brown, Terry Cotton and Melvin Dickson. Morgan said if it wasn't for the BPP, he would not be conducting the Oakland Symphony. For sure, there was resistance from the Oakland Symphony Board to Michael's intention to honor the BPP with a concert. Michael was adamant, "If I can't honor the BPP with a concert, I'm outta here!" Obviously, he overcame board resistance. Next year he will do a concert honoring America's indigenous peoples.

 Oakland Symphony Orchestra and choirs performing tribute to the Black Panther Party, Paramount Theatre, Oakland CA 12/11/16
photo Marvin X

The Oakland Symphony and Chorus shared the stage with a host of guest artists including the award-winning Mt. Eden High School Choir, Terrence Elliot's Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Linda Tillery and Friends, Vocal Rush from Oakland School of the Arts and perennial favorites, the ebullient Klezmer band, Kugelplex.

The groups performed music from the Black Panther era and even before when they did Sly Stone's Everyday People. Other tunes included Marvin Gaye's classic What's Goin On, Sam Cook's A Change is Gonna Come and a Jewish resistance song sung by Linda Tillery in Yiddish, once sang by the great artistic freedom fighter, ancestor Paul Robeson.

The Maestro could have utilized a Black choir but chose not to do so, since the majority audience was white. We know white people find strong Black music slightly overwhelming, so the choirs were great but for us slightly Miller Lite. This is not to say whites can't approach the intensity of Black singing. One need only attend San Francisco's Glide Memorial Church any Sunday to find whites singing as powerfully as Blacks. We recognized one of  Glide's members departing the concert, the Honorable Judge Baranco. Also present was Oakland's Master Athletic coach, Benny Tapscott, who requested BlackPanther Party members attend a meeting at the West Oakland Senior Center across from Bobby Hutton Park, Monday, December 12, 5PM. Spread the word.

Overall, it was a great tribute to the Black Panther Party for the sacrifice they made in the name of social justice. The song in Yiddish was a reminder of the blood Jews and North American Africans have shed in their respective holocausts.

--Marvin X, Publisher, The Movement, Voice of the Black Arts Movement International

Readers wanting to download the print version of the December edition of The Movement. December 2016 - The Movement Newspaper

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