Vol. 9, No. 36
September 6 - 12, 2001
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“We Feel Good” … “The Big Payback”

Last weekend’s James Brown Show at Calvert Marine Museum was more than just an opportunity, as Mr. Brown exhorted, to “get up off that thing.”

The Solomons museum’s annual Memorial Day and Labor Day fund-raising concerts have become regular examples of harmonious racial integration in Chesapeake Country.

(We saw similar heterogeneity - though not always harmony - at the NAACP mayoral debate at First Baptist Church in Annapolis last week. Read about what the seven contenders had to say there in “Dock of the Bay.”)

We think that gatherings like these are noteworthy. Whites and blacks along Chesapeake Bay generally go about their private lives separately. Too often, race relations make the news because of intolerance and antagonism, as has been the case with the recent spate of hate crimes in Anne Arundel County.

Our schools are integrated, thanks in part to Maryland jurist Thurgood Marshall. But as much as we like to think otherwise, much of society is not.

The region of Chesapeake Country we cover has almost no African American elected leaders. African American leaders abound in our churches - but often they’re preaching to largely black congregations. Leadership is integrated throughout our schools, from kindergarten to the University of Maryland, but most of us graduate back into our separate communities.

So we were glad to be part of the strikingly mixed crowd of 4,300 following the leadership of legendary singer and showman James Brown on an idyllic, moonlit Saturday evening.

Brown has been a giant in the music world, if not consistently a model citizen. But on stage, the “hardest working man in show business” is a model leader. He filled the museum’s outdoor stage with his diverse show of musicians, vocalists and dancers, stepping back to give each one plenty of room to strut her or his stuff. He not only got the crowd “off that thing” but led them into an altered state where everybody was feelin’ good. And he punctuated his “feel good” exhortations with a bluntly proclaimed message in his recently recorded song “Killin’ Is Out; School Is In.”

Calvert Marine Museum’s Waterside Music Series has raised in the vicinity of $200,000 since Director of Development Lee Ann Wright expanded the concerts from folk and sea singers to big names, beginning in 1995 with Los Lobos and then securing funds to build the Washington Gas Company stage in 1998. Along the way, people throughout the community have poured in time and money. As a result, stellar performers such as the Neville Brothers and B.B. King have delighted huge audiences of black and white alike.

“Calvert County’s African American population is about 20 percent, and these are people who have a huge amount to do with the history and success of the county. I love it when we have somebody everybody loves to hear: black, white, old, young, white collar, blue collar,” says Wright.

We thank Wright for her efforts, and we hope that Calvert Marine Museum will continue to guide us not just in unearthing our past but in celebrating the richness of our diversity.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly