June 29 – August 24, 1969: consisted of six free Sunday afternoon concerts held between June 29 and Aurgust 24. The total attendance was some 300,000 people.
Held in Harlem at Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park), it was a self-consciously urban affair, a concert series rather than a one-off, and already in its third year. The New York City Parks Department and Maxwell House co-sponsored the series.
The festival was hosted and promoted by the effervescent Tony Lawrence, a New York night club singer. [NYT article]
Edwin Hawkins Singer
Sly & the Family Stone
Herman Stevens & The Voices of Faith
Reverend Jesse Jackson & the Operation Breadbasket Band
Gladys Knight & the Pips
Lou Parks Dancers
Harlem Festival Calypso Band
Harlem Festival Jazz Band
La Rocque Bey & Co.
Listen My Brothers & Co
1969 Harlem Cultural Festival
New York’s affiliate television station WNEW Metromedia Channel 5 (now FOX) broadcast hour-long specials of the footage on Saturday evenings at 10:30 PM in June–August 1969.
In October of ’69, writer Raymond Robinson took to the pages of the New York Amsterdam News. He said that the world would lionize Woodstock, and forget about Harlem. “The only time the white press concerns itself with the black community is during a riot or major disturbance,” he wrote of the shows, which had taken place during an eight-week period without a single report of violence.
From a USA Today article, Questlove said at a post-screening Q & A: “I instantly kind of scoffed. I was like, ‘Wait a minute. I know everything that happened in music history. There’s no way you’re going to tell me this gathering happened and no one knew about it.’ But sure enough, that was the case. Once they showed me raw footage, I just sat there with my jaw dropped, like, ‘How has this been forgotten?'”
Questlove won the Grand Jury prize and the Audience prize in the nonfiction category of the festival.
1969 Harlem Cultural Festival
On July 1, 2021, I was able to see the film. By July, various news media had covered the film’s forthcoming general release.
Even with those previews, I wasn’t sure what to expect. A concert film can simply be that: a selection of performance. The movie Woodstock won an Oscar for Best Documentary because not only did it show many outstanding performances, it told the story of the event as well.
Summer of Love does the same thing and in some ways in an even broader way. Woodstock the movie is not particularly political. That a half million young people, most of whom were likely against the Vietnam War, for the use of cannabis, against the status quo, and other counter-cultural views and behaviors, gave the movie a political subtext.
Summer of Love is overtly political and often includes footage of the civil rights movement and the plight of Harlem’s residents. Because the festival overlapped the USA’s successful landing on the moon, even that event is referred to. The views of Harlem’s residents stand in stark contrast to the general awe and praise by white America.
Woodstock alum can be understandably enthralled with the event and the movie. I’ve met dozens of people who say they were there and how great an experience they had but from their observations weren’t actually there and even move who say they wish they’d gone. There is a lot of emotional investment in the event and to deny its historic significance would diminish their own self-worth.
Summer of Love does not demean Woodstock, but does demonstrate the power of live performances in general and the power of live Black (as well as Latino) performances in particular. I kept thinking while watching Summer of Love, “The reaction of Woodstock’s attendees would have been astounding to this performer had Woodstock Ventures invited them to the festival.”
After the viewing, my parting attempt at a pithy headline was, “I’ll put up Mahalia and Mavis to any Woodstock performance.” And there were many others as well, including Stevie Wonder, The Staples Singers, BB King, Nina Simone, well, just go back up to the list above.
By the way, those Black performers were touring that summer and some of their gigs did sometimes include other festivals.
I separate the two events because the dissolution of Yugoslavia, also a Soviet satellite, because Yugoslavia’s story became a tragic one and one whose story continued well past USSR’s December 26, 1991 official end.
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
October 3, 1929: The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes changed its name to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
January 31, 1946: the Constitution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was adopted, creating six internal republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia [with Kosovo and Vojvodina autonomous provinces within it], and Slovenia. Belgrade was the capital.
The constitution, modeled on that of the Soviet Union, would serve at the supreme law of Yugoslavia throughout the Cold War.
Josip Broz Tito is the Communist leader most associated with Yugoslavia and despite the common political views with the USSR, Tito and Josef Stalin were not on the best of terms. In fact, in post-World War II, Stalin warned, ‘I will shake my little finger and there will be no more Tito.” Stalin even attempted to assassinate Tito, but failed.
Tito’s classic response to the assassination attempts was: Stop sending people to kill me. We’ve already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle. […] If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send a second.
President for life
April 7, 1963, the nation changed its official name to Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Tito was named President for life.
Tito died in 1980 and following his death, ethnic tensions within Yugoslavia grew.
December 23, 1990: in a referendum on Slovenia’s independence from Yugoslavia, 88.5% vote in favor of independence.
Croatia and Slovenia
June 25, 1991: Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia.
Republic of Macedonia
September 8, 1991: the Republic of Macedonia becomes independent. Because of a dispute with Greece over the name, In June 2018, Macedonia and Greece agreed that the country should rename itself Republic of North Macedonia. This renaming came into effect in February 2019.
October 8, 1991: Croatia independent from Yugoslavia.
November 2, 1991: The UN Security Council unanimously adopts a resolution opening the way to the establishment of peacekeeping operations in Yugoslavia.
January 9, 1992: the Assembly of the Serb People in Bosnia and Herzegovina proclaimed the creation of a new state within Yugoslavia, the Republika Srpska.
January 15, 1992: the Yugoslav federation effectively collapsed as the European Community recognized the republics of Croatia and Slovenia.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
March 1, 1992: Bosnia and Herzegovina independent from Yugoslavia.
Serbia and Montenegro
April 28, 1992: the two remaining constituent republics of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – Serbia and Montenegro – form a new state, named the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia=–after 2003, Serbia and Montenegro), bringing to an end the official union of Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Montenegrins, Bosnian Muslims, and Macedonians that existed from 1918 (with the exception of the period during World War II).
Operation Deny Flight
February 28, 1994: US F-16s shot down 4 Serbian J-21s over Bosnia and Herzegovina for violation of the Operation Deny Flight and its no-fly zone.
August 4, 1994: Serb-dominated Yugoslavia withdrew its support for Bosnian Serbs, sealing the 300-mile border between Yugoslavia and Serb-held Bosnia.
July 11 – 22, 1995: Bosnian Serbs marched into Srebrenica while UN Dutch peacekeepers leave. More than 8,300 Bosniak men and boys are killed in the Srebrenica massacre.
November 21, 1995: leaders of Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia agreed to the Dayton Accords ending nearly four years of terror and ethnic bloodletting that had left a quarter of a million people dead in the worst war in Europe since World War II. The Accords were formally signed in Paris, France on December 14.
December 14, 1995: the Dayton Agreement signed in Paris; established a general framework for ending the Bosnian War between Bosnia and Herzegovina.
December 20, 1995: NATO begins peacekeeping operation in Bosnia.
March 24, 1998: NATO launched air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which refused to sign a peace treaty. This marked the first time NATO attacked a sovereign country.
May 27, 1999: in The Hague, Netherlands, a war crimes tribunal indicted Slobodan Milosevic and four others for atrocities in Kosovo. It was the first time that a sitting head of state had been charged with such a crime.
June 3, 1999: Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic accepted a peace plan for Kosovo designed to end mass expulsions of ethnic Albanians and 11 weeks of NATO airstrikes.
June 9, 1999: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, signed the Kumanovo Treaty, ending the Kosovo War. The agreement also opened the way for the establishment of international security forces to maintain order in Kosovo and a UN protectorate over the region. The parliament of Kosovo subsequently declared independence in 2008.
June 10, 1999: Yugoslav troops begin leaving Kosovo, prompting NATO to suspend its punishing 78-day air war.
February 12, 2002: the trial of Milosevic–the ‘butcher of the Balkans–began at The Hague. Milošević defended himself.
March 12, 2006: Milošević died before the trial could be concluded; he was therefore never found guilty of the charges brought against him.
May 20, 2006: Montenegro independent from Serbia.
Republic of Kosovo
February 17, 2008: Republic of Kosovo independent from Serbia (partially recognized; not a member of the United Nations).
Crimes against humanity
March 24, 2016: Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader, was convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by a United Nations tribunal on Thursday for leading a campaign of terror against civilians in the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War II.
Karadzic, 70, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his role in lethal ethnic cleansing operations, the siege of Sarajevo and the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, in proceedings that were likened to the Nuremberg trials of former Nazi leaders.
The tribunal found that Mladic, 75, was the chief military organizer from 1992 to 1995 of the campaign to drive Muslims, Croats and other non-Serbs off their lands to cleave a new homogeneous statelet for Bosnian Serbs.
The deadliest year of the campaign was 1992, when 45,000 people died, often in their homes, on the streets or in a string of concentration camps. Others perished in the siege of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, where snipers and shelling terrorized residents for more than three years, and in the mass executions of 8,000 Muslim men and boys after Mladic’s forces overran the United Nations-protected enclave of Srebrenica.
Radovan Karadzic life
United Nations court increased the sentence of Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader, from 40 years to life in prison for his role in the Bosnian war of the 1990s, reaffirming his 2016 conviction on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Both the prosecution and the defense had appealed the 2016 result of Karadzic’s trial before the United Nations Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, in The Hague. Karadzic, who largely acted as his own lawyer in court, had asked to be acquitted of all charges.
The prosecution sought an increase in his sentence — a largely symbolic move, because Karadzic, 70 at the time of the verdict, was unlikely to live long enough to serve out his lengthy sentence. But symbolic or not, the court’s decision to raise the penalty drew cheers and applause from Bosnians watching in the gallery.
As we go through our daily routines, having someone else’s words as companions is comforting.
Robert Hunter’s lyrics have been that faithful companion.
Rolling Stone magazine said of him, Considered one of rock’s most ambitious and dazzling lyricists, Hunter was the literary counterpoint to the band’s musical experimentation. His lyrics — heard in everything from early Dead classics like “Dark Star” and “China Cat Sunflower” and proceeding through “Uncle John’s Band,” “Box of Rain,” “Scarlet Begonias,” and “Touch of Gray”— were as much a part of the band as Jerry Garcia’s singing and guitar.
Here is a taste of just a few.
Grateful for Robert Hunter
I told Althea I was feeling lost Lacking in some direction Althea told me upon scrutiny my back might need protection
I told Althea that treachery was tearin me limb from limb Althea told me: now cool down boy – settle back easy Jim
There were days and there were days and there were days between Summer flies and August dies the world grows dark and mean Comes the shimmer of the moon on black infested trees the singing man is at his song the holy on their knees the reckless are out wrecking the timid plead their pleas No one knows much more of this than anyone can see anyone can see
Grateful for Robert Hunter
If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung Would you hear my voice come through the music Would you hold it near as it were your own?
Got two reasons why I cry away each lonely night First one’s named sweet Anne Marie and she’s my heart’s delight Second one is prison, baby the sheriff’s on my trail If he catches up with me I’ll spend my life in jail
Grateful for Robert Hunter
Sugar Magnolia blossom’s blooming Head’s all empty and I don’t care Saw my baby down by the river Knew she’d have to come up soon for air
Sweet blossom come on under the willow We can have high times if you’ll abide We can discover the wonders of nature Rolling in the rushes down by the riverside.
Grateful for Robert Hunter
Touch of Grey
Must be getting early Clocks are running late Paint by number morning sky Looks so phony
Moses came riding up on a guitar His spurs were a-jingling, the door was ajar His buckle was silver, his manner was bold I asked him to come on in out of the cold His brain was boiling, his reason was spent He said if nothing was borrowed then nothing was lent I asked him for mercy, he gave me a gun Said Now n’again these things just got to be done