You want divisive? Here’s divisive…

Let’s see how divisive I can get. Journalists applied the labels ’divisive’ and ’hate-filled’ to the Rev. Wright’s sermons. While I didn’t hear any of that in the sermons nor in his two speeches and one interview I heard, I think I can supply some.

What has provoked me is the article in Sunday, June 6’s New York Times about the drummers’ circle in Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem. For almost forty years, Harlem residents have gathered – now mind you – just on Saturday nights, just during the summer and just until 10 p.m, to drum. When noise complaints were made, the drummers moved. Few complained because drumming is part of the culture of Harlem, rhythm is what drives the creative juices of the place. And Harlem is about Black people, after all, or why would the park be named after Marcus Garvey. I doubt many Whites even know who Garvey was. Harlem didn’t become Black because Blacks chose to move there.

What has happened is that a lot of very wealthy Whites have moved into refurbished apartments across from what has become an official, Park Authority site for drumming. While they apparently enjoy the highly diluted African rhythms of rock and roll, the real thing is hard for them to take. So they have begun a campaign against the drummers, a campaign to turn the now traditional summer event into something they are more comfortable with.

These folks who want the drummers to go away do not hate music. They listen to music at concerts in concert halls that they enter with expensive tickets. They listen to music on expensive “systems”. They readily credit the vibrancy of American musical forms to the African element in our musical culture. Music is just not an integral part of their lives.

They have a right to their musical culture and if one of the aficionados of drummers’ night moved to Iowa, I doubt he would ask the Iowans to come up with Caribbean and West African drumming just to make him feel comfortable. I also doubt he would ask them to turn off their rock and country music, esp if they played it only on Saturday nights until ten, during the summer.

My own taste in music? Right now as I type this I am listening to Rachmaninoff but I’ve studied African and Afro-Cuban music and even played a little my whole life. I like rhythm and blues and jazz a lot, enjoy country, and do not like rock and roll. The situation in Harlem is not an issue of personal taste but of respecting people’s culture. If the Boston Pops performances could be heard in nearby apartment buildings, I don’t think the inhabitants would complain, and if they did, they would be reminded that it is a city-sponsored event of some tradition.

Oh, did I say that the apartments, while cheaper than those in Manhattan, still go for half a million and up. Methinks the golden rule is in force here: those with the gold make the rules.

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