There is an aspect of New Orleans life which is not often spoken of: The New Orleans people are a society “with a great tolerance.”
I suppose that I am chastened, and humbled to agree. We still have it today – almost two generations down the road from Mr. Barker's days. This point of allowance that African-Americans seem to arrive at, in each generation (Danny and I prefer, 'Blacks') confronted with the madness of: de-humanization, deprivation, and poverty which they are cast into.
Old Danny seems to be in a sentimental, reflective mood. By the time that he had reached his mid-60's, Danny Barker had a pretty keen sense of life in America, for Africans and their many descendants throughout these last few hundred years of human history. Perhaps he's not quite sure as to how, or when to place it for the Xavier students – and in so doing he reminds them: “your ancestry... or some of our ancestry.” He nevertheless is stating a fundamental truth, one which still requires a razor's edge scrutiny: That we are here only because the habitants of generations before us made some degree of concessions that have kept us alive and strengthening from having their humanities completely annihilated by a traumatically brutal bondage.
“With what they possessed in here...” Of course this excerpt is of only beautiful old poverty analogue tape; I cannot show or tell you exactly where Mr. Barker was pointing to. Was it his head? Was it his heart? It is obvious that he has a great reverence for “those people” the ancestors who devised some form of survival, and liberation... and more survival, and more liberation... so that we can go further along in this journey, in this country to which we belong.
The “levees” which broke on August 29th and 30th, 2005 due to over-topping and undermining were man-made devices. They were the borders between: canals designed to carry products efficiently and profitably, and neighborhoods where people raise their families. The other “protective walls” formed the drainage canals which are there to make a swampland into real estate development.
Of course humans need places to live and indeed, New Orleans and its surrounding area is breathtakingly beautiful. Modern humans need food and products to be shipped around the world. A few reap great fortunes from this imperative; a few get washed away at some point. Countless others remain at various points in the buy & sell
balance. New Orleans is situated on one of the most economically and thus geo-politically important river deltas on Planet Earth. (For those of you who don't live here, or otherwise don't know this: We drink that muddy water; it's good to drink.)
That there are generations and generations of African-Americans who have sacrificed their lives and liberties in order to keep New Orleans going somehow, is a reality which the ruling class – both here and beyond – has had to deal with.
The musicians have always been on that certain border line of tolerance. Maybe we are that line. The music keeps everybody dancing and finger-popping... having a good time, as old Danny would say. Each Jazzman and... Jazz woman has had to find their own threshold between their own survival and their own idea of freedom. The organized sounds and tones of this state-of-mind is Jazz music.
“Out of this came a strong people with a great tolerance."
Peace to the people; peace to the land.
Peace & Pops,
Maison Musique, New Orleans
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