Monday, July 07, 2008

EW&F at Summerfest: Peace, Love and Understanding

The gloom-and-doom radio and blog wing-nuts who celebrate every inner city tragedy and interracial dust-up with sanctimonious hand-wringing and calls for change are going to have a hard time dealing with what happened at Summerfest last night.

When ‘70s soul-and-funk icons Earth, Wind and Fire appeared on the south end of the grounds Sunday night, so did an impressively-diverse overflow crowd of middle-aged music lovers, their children and grandchildren. Summerfest was created back in the late ‘60s as a bring-us-together event in the wake of the riots that marred the city in the summer of ‘67, but, with music acts creating often-racially exclusive niches, it seldom serves as a melting-pot. All that was different last night, as the sweet harmonies and thumping bass of what is left of EW&F tore through the warm night air, causing voices to rise and feet to move in joyful communion.

The space was jammed tight and it was hot. This is the sort of "tinderbox" that could lead to trouble if people were not as positive as they are, if given a chance. An eclectic mix of white and black Milwaukeeans moved slowly throughout the crowd, politely and positively making way for total strangers. There haven’t been this many black and white people bumping into each other since...well, since when? How often do thousands of us share the same space, much less in a free-for-all random admission situation? It was a rare event and spectacularly uplifting. And, you know what, [insert name of favorite race-baiting wing-nut here]? Not one flare of racial heat, not one flash of anger. The police did not need to be called, except to drop their batons and join in dance and song.

How many of us knew each other, but just didn’t recognize each other 30 years down the line? I probably knew many of these brothers and sisters back in the day; in high school, in the discos, at Peaches Records, where I worked in the mid-‘70s. I recognized the friendly smiles, the joy in music, the dance steps, the sing-a-long voices. We walked the grounds and connected with eye-contact, nods and winks; connected in ways we can’t be in our busy normal lives, where we get so isolated from each other and some of us imagine we are against each other, when we really aren’t. The illusion of racial animosity – exacerbated, as it is, by greedy hate-mongers on mainstream radio and elsewhere – falls away at times like this. The more chances we have to spend time together, the more we are not distant strangers to each other, the less we can attach our fears and insecurities to people we don’t know or understand.

We came – we sang – we danced. We laughed out loud at each other’s lame steps during "Boogie Wonderland" and stood shoulder to shoulder, swaying and singing to "That’s the Way of the World". "Where is that harmony?" asks Nick Lowe via Elvis Costello in the always-prescient "What’s So Funny (About Peace Love and Understanding)", but we found it this night. The night of unity and love put the lie to so much of the manipulative right-wing world-that-isn’t. They will squawk all this week about the shooting deaths on the north side, choosing to play up one sad story instead of reveling in the thousands of positive stories from a joyful interracial commingling at Summerfest.

Let ‘em. They missed it and who needs them anyway. Those of us who believe in the vibrancy of diversity will keep moving forward, leaving the professional haters in the dust of their own pathetic divisive agenda.


Crawford's Take said...

My first EWF show was in the 70's at the old mainstage (on the north end) at Summerfest.

I watched it from my daddy's shoulders and will never forget it...

They are quite amazing. Thanks for the review and the memories!


Anonymous said...

Only you Mike would try to correlate an EW&F concert with racial harmony.

The thugs that committed the murders on July 4th have probably never even heard of EW&F let alone name a song of theirs.

Why do you assume that every conservative radio talk show host thinks that ALL blacks/minorities are thugs??? Get a clue Mike! I guess if you truly didn't believe that then you wouldn't have 1/2 the content on your blog to rant/whine about.

I too saw racial harmony at Summerfest when I watched and danced to The Roots. There were no gangbanging thugs there with ulterior motives. Just singin, dancin, and drinkin amid people of all backgrounds.

There's a reason why Summerfest scheduled EW&F and The Roots and not Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, or Eazy E (deceased). They wanted to see the racial harmony you witnessed and not gang warfare on the grounds.

capper said...

Why do you assume that every conservative radio talk show host thinks that ALL blacks/minorities are thugs???

Maybe because they say it almost every day?

Anonymous said...

Please show me where Belling, Sykes, and Harris et al continually have said that ALL blacks/minorities are thugs.

Anonymous said...

I came across an online community for individual seeking interracial love. Here all the people are seeking interracial relationships. You can meet your like-minded friends or partners.

John Foust said...

Anon, of course they haven't said that all black and minorities are thugs! But when they say "thug" they want you to picture a young black man. That's how radio works. It builds an image in your mind.

Anonymous said...

Well the previous poster claimed that all conservative radio talk show hosts have stated that all blacks are thugs. I challenged him/her to prove it and of course they can' now you're trying to bail them out by attempting to infer what type of "image" a listener may or may not conjure up.

Nice try.

I've seen many a thug in my day of all colors, the term "thug" is not exclusively-owned by one color or another.

Rick Esenberg said...

Oh gee, if I'd have known, I'd have called Charlie to get his hood and ride with me to the sound of the funk. I'm sure Patrick McIlheran would have brought some wooden crosses from Bay View and I know Dad29 would have had some long guns.

I'm concerned, Mike, that you and reality are losing touch with each other.

Prosqtor said...

I enjoy music usually associated with the Left. Does that mean I'm not a conservative?

Equating music and politics is a large mistake. Some people just like the tunes.

Professor Esenberg, I have a shotgun to add to the party. ;)

Mike Plaisted said...

Rick, I have no idea what you are talking about. Actually, it would have done you all good, just as observers, to see a positive interracial event. It puts the lie to so much that you all hold dear about the "dysfunctional" black community and the impossibility of racial progress and harmony. And yet, these sentiments are scoffed at by the right as naive and worse. Tell me, Rick: What IS so funny about Peace Love and Understanding?

Anonymous said...

Mike, positive interracial events happen EVERYDAY. They are not rare or an exception to the rule. But what you and people of your ilk assume is that conservatives have NEVER experience ANY positive interaction with someone from a minority background. Since you seem to be the one bringing it up and highligting it, maybe it's YOU who doesn't have these types of interactions on a daily basis. For me it happens everyday and it's no big deal, it's the rule, not the exception. Quit being so surprised when people of all backgrounds can in fact get's called life in America.

Dad29 said...

Summerfest was created back in the late ‘60s as a bring-us-together event in the wake of the riots that marred the city in the summer of ‘67, but, with music acts creating often-racially exclusive niches

Well, that 'racially-exclusive' stuff did NOT happen at S'fest between the beginning and at least 1973. I was there as a volunteer-worker. Saw James Brown and Sly Stone (among others.) Drank at the black/tan bar on 5th/Locust with at least two different (minor) stage bands from 'fest. No troubles whatsoever.

There WERE a couple of incidents during those years, but it was thugs of both black and white persuasions who started the trouble--and they were arrested.

Dad29 said...

By the way, Rick, I don't like long-guns in crowds. Much easier to use handguns.