“I wrote ‘Black Lives Matter’ because today some have long forgotten and have created an atmosphere that we can no longer trust. Fifty years ago we marched on Selma, Alabama - today its Ferguson, Missouri, New York, DC, Detroit, world-wide - even here in Toronto. For me, nothing says it better than a song that puts the whole situation on blast, along with Donnie's back drop – ‘The Ghetto.’ Let's not forget - Black Lives Matter! - for real,” - Michael Dunston.
Within large urban areas, the American ghettos of the 60’s and 70’s became tenement prisons housing impoverishment African American families and over time dissolved into ancestral encampments.
The term ‘ghetto’ had its beginnings in the Jewish Quarter of Venice in 1516, a place where Venetians insisted Jews live. Between 1880 and 1920 America absorbed wave after wave of ethnic relocation from Southern and Eastern Europe.
These areas were segregated by language, heritage, culture and economic circumstance. The most well-known were New York’s Lower East Side, Little Italy, East Harlem, and Chicago’s South Side – every major American city had settlements promising a new beginning for those fleeing persecution, discrimination, war, and poverty. The black experience centered on northern cities where there was greater liberty and opportunities as many African Americans relocated from the Old South 1914-1950. White America countered with a mass exodus to the suburbs.
Life in ghetto was at times hazardous, creative, communal, and destructive and most times; hopeless. From this came artists, musicians, poets, writers, entertainers, athletes, professionals, criminals – the voices, the leaders who never forgot their roots -in most cases preserving those memories in art, literature and song.
In the late 60s’ early 70s’ the ghetto was the story along with the war in Vietnam, police brutality, the love generation, - peaceful and violent demonstrations leading to riots in the streets. The nightly news focused the long lens on these neighborhoods, the injustice and the need to properly service and then one day all memory of the areas were erased from the public conscience as television turned its attention to celebrity worship, automobile carnage and sensationalist stories. News coverage went blank as the upper class prospered. It was the oral impressions, the rhythm and poetry of those communities summed up in verse and melody and performed by artist like Don Hathaway, Phyllis Dillon, War, Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, and others that documented the struggle and delivered the message community to community, one DJ at a time.
Through perilous wars - rising income inequality and the elevation of the one percent the planet has greater swaths of concrete ghettos. The Rhythm Express returns with two profound songs (Women of the Ghetto/The Ghetto), that in their time, spoke eloquently of the hardship, danger and futility millions felt tucked out of sight of the well-heeled.
Nearly every country, every tropical island, every region of the planet has constructed barriers shielding the money makers from the underclass. Artificial ghettos flourish and will continue to oppress, diminish and deny unless we recognize the existing hardships and learn to share and care and face this with compassion, education, mediation and universal action.
Michael Dunston has long revered singer/songwriter Don Hathaway. In 1970 Hathaway released one of the seminal recordings of the times, “Don Hathaway Live,” recorded at Greenwich Village’s, The Bitter End. It’s was the near seven minute Latin/jazz treatment to Hathaway/Leroy Hudson’s, “The Ghetto” that played street to street, neighborhood to neighborhood - a declaration of pride and resourcefulness. Dunston reshapes the two chord jam by penning original lyrics that reflect not only Hathaway’s times but the episodes of police brutality 2015 in Ferguson, Missouri, Dallas, Tulsa, Quinlan, Texas, New Jersey, and South Carolina – state after state.
Black Lives Matter:
“The say that black lives matter but when the man arrives they scatter. Even with their hands up, still shot down and covered up. The only way to keep it real, we need the truth to be revealed. The only way to right the ship, we need a change in leadership. Day after day, night after night, I keep on living this ghetto lie. From coast to coast, nation to nation, the ghetto screams of frustration. If you live in my skin, you’ll never figure out the groove I’m in. If you try to walk in my shoes, and take a wrong step, you’re bound to lose. Let’s be clear, not hesitate, been down to long, no time to waste. Mother’s crying - sons are dying. Fathers broken - they give up trying. I know one day, we will overcome. And we’ll break this ghetto down, one by one. In the ghetto you have to be strong. Show a sign of weakness and you’ll be long gone. “
released February 1, 2016
Both sides feature arrangements/production and keyboard work by Bill King, drums – Everton ’Pablo’ Paul, guitar/engineer – Shane ‘Shaky J’ Forrest, bass/artwork design – Jesse ‘Dubmatix’ King. The Ghetto features a splendid horn section with a riveting trumpet solo from William Sperandei - Christopher Butcher trombone and Bobby Hsu alto sax, percussion by Everton Paul and Jorge Luis Torres. Recorded at Side Door Records.
The Ghetto: Writer(s): Donny Edward Hathaway, Donny E. Hathaway, Leroy Hutson, Alfred Eaton, Todd Anthony Shaw, Donny Hathaway - Copyright: Universal Music - Z Tunes LLC, Kuumba Music, Peer International Corp., Universal Music - Z Songs, Don-pow Music, Universal Music - Mgb Songs.
Black Lives Matter: Writer/Publisher – Michael Dunston - SOCAN
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