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This open mic jam session is a way for young college students who might

not be familiar with jazz but who enjoy spoken word to discover jazz

Twin Poets                                                                                                                                                 Mayor John Street



First Annual Jazz And Poetry Festival 

Showcases Local Artists

By Junious Ricardo Stanton


About a year ago Warren Oree, a jazz musician who in 1995 was one of the first to blend jazz and poetry in an organized fashion in the city, and Graziella D’Amellio came up with the idea to have a Jazz and Poetry Festival to spotlight and honor the rich legacy of Philadelphia artists. 

They put together a planning committee and worked arduously to organize a first class festival that offered something for everyone’s tastes that maintained the integrity, dignity, and creative genius of the musicians, poets, and spoken word artists. What is being billed as the first annual Philadelphia Jazz and Poetry Festival was held this past weekend at fourteen venues throughout the city on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  

Planning an event of this proportion is more than a notion. Getting commitments, scheduling, booking venues, and artists, securing sponsors and funding were just half the battle.

The other half was convincing people that a festival blending jazz and poetry featuring Philadelphia artists exclusively was a great idea worthy of support. 

Once they accomplished that, the rest fell in line. The organizers took advantage of traditional venues and added new twists to planning a festival. “We’ve been working on this about a year,” explained Warren Oree festival organizer, bassist and leader of the popular Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble. “Around August of last year me and my partner Graziella D’Amelio came up with the idea and we went right to work.” 

To pull off a venture of this magnitude required the assistance and co-ordination of numerous agencies and individuals. “The City has been more than helpful not with actual money but in terms of services and support that really helped us cut through a lot of red tape and helped us promote the festival. We had a press conference on August 5th at the Municipal Services Building and we coupled that with something similar to the Great Day in Harlem but we called it the Philly Jazz Reunion and we had over a hundred and eighty Philadelphia Jazz musicians out at the MSB Plaza and the Mayor joined the shot.

Just to get all the permits, the people in the city were extremely helpful,” concluded Oree. The photo was unveiled at the festival. Mayor John Street was on hand to receive his personal copy. In addition to the city, they enlisted the help of Temple’s radio station WRTI, the Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress, venues like Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus, Chris’ Jazz Café, The Free Library, Sedgwick Cultural Center, and entered into collaborative partnerships with support services like Patrick Simione Photography, The Print Center, and Color House Printing. 

They were able to convince entities like UBS Financial Services to underwrite the project financially as well as secure in kind support from a host of professional services and cultural organizations like The Avenue of The Arts and the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Council. 

To promote the festival, musicians gave free lunch time concerts in Love Park in Center City during the week. The festival was intergenerational and specifically offered venues to attract new devotees to jazz, poetry, and spoken word artistry. Most of the venues and performances were free; the ones that were not offered great bargains. 

For youngsters a free workshop in poetry and jazz was held at the main branch of The Free Library Friday morning. Wherever possible, jazz, poetry and spoken word performances were blended together.  Both poetry and jazz share an openness and inclusion best exemplified in musician jam, poetry slam, and open mic sessions. 

Photo right: John Coltrane’s legendary Cousin Mary Alexander who received an award at the festival

The Philadelphia Jazz and Poetry Festival incorporated this phenomenon by holding an open mic musician jam session at the Rotunda on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania Friday evening. “This open mic jam session is a way for young college students who might not be familiar with jazz but who enjoy spoken word to discover jazz,” explained Stephanie Renee, a singer who organized a jazz vocal group called The Vocal A Capella Ensemble and also one of the festival planners and an MC of the jam session.

Oree is determined to succeed and make this an annual event. “We didn’t want to start off with a week long event this being our first one. We wanted to make it manageable, find out what things we need to improve upon, what things we need to tweak and work out in the future so when we do expand we’ll have a little more seasoning.” 

One of Oree and D’Amelio’s major challenges was to convince Philadelphians we should honor our own. “I guess one of the detractors was when we approached people about it they said, ‘We see Philadelphia artists all the time’. But my point was we’re not going to see them in this kind of setting all the time. We’re creating a whole festival atmosphere. Another thing is Philadelphia musicians need to be recognized and supported in their own home town. Philadelphia has always been a Mecca for innovative musicians, the list goes on — Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goldson, Lee Morgan — so why not celebrate Philadelphia musicians in their own home town. Fortunately it seems like people are ready for it.” 

Local mainstays like Sam Reed, Gerald Veasley, Jamaladeen Tacuma, Denise King joined with poets and spoken word artists Stephanie Renee, Pat McLean, The Unknown Poet, Wadud, Lamont “Napalm” Dixon and others to make the first annual Philadelphia jazz and Poetry Festival a success.

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

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#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—


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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 29 December 2011




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