NEW YORK (www.jalc.org) - Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director
of Jazz at Lincoln Center makes a statement about the devastation in his hometown of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina:
New Orleans is the most unique of American cities because it is the only city in the world that created its own full culture - architecture, music and festive ceremonies. It's of singular importance to the United States of America because it was the original melting pot with a mixture of Spanish, French, British, West African and American people living in the same city.
The collision of these cultures created jazz and jazz is important because it's the only art form that objectifies the fundamental principals of American democracy. That's why it swept the country and the world representing the best of the United States.
New Orleanians are blues people. We are resilient, so we are sure that our city will come back. This tragedy, however, provides an opportunity for the American people to demonstrate to ourselves and to the world that we are one nation determined to overcome our legacies of injustices based on race and class. At this time all New Orleanians need the nation to unite in a
deafening crescendo of affirmation to silence that desperate cry that is this disaster.
We need people with their prayers, their pocketbooks, and above all their sense of purpose to show the world just who the modern American is and then we'll put our city back together in even greater fashion. This is gut check time for all of us as Americans.
In a country with the most incredible resources in the world we need the ingenuity of our best engineers to put the cultural heart of our nation back together. To put it together with 2005 technical expertise and with 2005 social consciousness, which means without accommodating the ignorance of racism and the deplorable conditions of poverty, and lack of education that have been allowed to fester in many great American cities since slavery.
We're only as civilized as our level of hospitality. Let's demonstrate to the world that what actually makes America the most powerful nation on earth is not guns, pornography and material wealth but transcendent and abiding soul, something perhaps we have lost a grip on, and this catastrophe gives us a great opportunity to handle up on.