During the grand finale of the third annual International Jazz Day concert held in Osaka, Japan (April 30th), more than 35 jazz musicians stretched across an elaborate stage in Osaka Castle Park and performed John Lennon's 1971 anthem, "Imagine." Most of them hailed from the U.S., but the lineup also included the South African guitarist and singer Jonathan Butler, the Malian songstress Oumou Sangaré, and Japanese virtuosos: pianists Toshiko Akiyoshi and Makoto Ozone and trumpeters Terumasa Hino and Takuya Kuroda.
With their bracing harmonies and deft musicianship underneath pianist Herbie Hancock's joyous South African-flavored arrangement, the ensemble looked like a miniature United Nations—and that comparison came as no surprise, considering that UNESCO and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz produced the two-hour concert.
Although Osaka was host city for this year, cities in 195 other countries joined in a worldwide celebration of International Jazz Day on April 30 by staging jazz concerts and educational seminars.
A quote similar to the one in this commentary's headline was coined and made popular 62 years ago (the year one of us was born) by Art Linkletter, the popular pioneer daytime talk show host in the early years of television. But Art said, "Kids say the darndest things."
There are big differences between the things white dudes say and the things kids say. The things white dudes say are not as cute and the things kids say are not as predictable. The prevailing similarity to kids, however, among more and more high profile white dudes is the lack of a filter so what comes up, comes out...especially regarding race.
The latest example is Chris "Mad Dog" Russo's declaration on his Sirius XM show that there are no black hosts whom he would deem "worthy" of doing a national sports radio show on a subscription radio service such as Sirius XM. And, if they could find one with the right resume, of course they would hire him.
The cold facts stare us in our face:
Fact 1: More than 300 girls were abducted from the rural northeast region of Nigeria on April 15 while attending secondary school; 276 are still believed to be held captive.
Fact 2: The federal government has yet to forcibly intervene to get our girls back.
The issue isn't just that the government hasn't fully addressed this atrocity, the deeper questions are: What decisive action is necessary to put a stop to what is becoming a normal occurrence? Does the Nigerian government have what it takes and what it needs to make this happen?
With the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls dominating the headlines, what has gone largely unnoticed is that some of the world's most powerful women in fields such as media, business, fashion and politics recently convened in Nigeria for a conference intended to empower global leaders.
Attendees and speakers at the third annual WIE Africa Symposium ("WIE" stands for Women, Inspiration and Enterprise), held on May 3, included movers and shakers such as CEO of Johnson Publishing Co. Desiree Rogers and CNN anchor Isha Sesay, as well as African powerhouses like business tycoon and billionaire Folorunsho Alakija and business executive Jennifer Obayuwana.
In addition to these prominent leaders, the conference could well have included women from the town where the girls' abduction took place, Chibok, given the Herculean efforts and proven leadership skills that these local women displayed in raising global awareness about the hostage crisis created by the terror group Boko Haram. These women worked tirelessly, and many did so without first world resources like the Internet.
Juxtaposed to news coverage in recent weeks about the horrifying abduction of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls is the sheer volume of national media attention devoted to Donald Sterling's garden-variety racist rants; a positioning that seems, frankly, absurd.
The girls' story is thankfully starting to get traction, but too often in mainstream media, coverage of critical news trails more sensationalized stories.
Despite many news programs featuring African-American women as on-air hosts – Joy Reid of MSNBC's "The Reid Report," Robin Roberts on ABC's "Good Morning America," Gwen Ifill anchoring "PBS Newshour" and Michel Martin helming NPR's "Tell Me More," to name a few – there are still far too few people of color, particularly black women, in executive, editorial and production positions who have the decision-making authority to promote stories in ways that reflect the concerns of our communities.
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