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Great voices in Harlem support the Gloster Project

RISASI DAIS | 3/19/2015, 10:25 a.m.
Last summer, the Gloster Project provided three weeks of painting, public speaking, theater and performing arts, and music education to ...
Jazz great Hamiet Bluiett (Risasi Dais photo)

It was an afternoon reminiscent of Harlem in its glory years, when such artists as Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Charlie Parker, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Miles Davis, Gil Scott Heron, Sekou Sundiata, the Last Poets, Sonia Sanchez, Maya Angelou and other pioneering artists used various Harlem venues as a stage to launch their careers. It was in Harlem lofts, clubs, cafes, parks and on streets during the 1950s through the 1980s, where rebellious poets recited revolutionary poetry and innovative musicians played powerful, visionary, avant-garde jazz and African music for new generations.

This was the scene on a recent Sunday afternoon on 116th Street at MIST Harlem, where many great musicians and very talented poets appeared for three hours to lend their support to the Gloster Project, a nonprofit organization founded by Margaret Porter Troupe two years ago, which provides an enriching and very memorable arts education and free summer arts camps for three weeks to improvised children in rural Mississippi.

Troupe is a native of Mississippi and the wife of world-renowned writer and poet Quincy Troupe. The Gloster Project is her way of giving back to her roots in Mississippi.

Last summer, the Gloster Project provided three weeks of painting, public speaking, theater and performing arts, and music education to children in Gloster, even including an appearance by actor and activist Danny Glover and other artist friends of the Troupes. This summer, Glover indicated that he would be returning to support this project and inspire this generation of children to reach their greatness.

The fundraiser for the Gloster Project included a vast array of great musicians playing incredible live music, a buffet lunch, a silent auction and art exhibition. At the outset, DJ music welcomed the attendees in an intimate cafe room at MIST Harlem. During lunch, the audience was entertained for three hours by musicians such as guitarist Kelvyn Bell leading the House Band of the Gloster Project, which included drummer Will Calhoun of Living Colour and bassist Mark Peterson as they played funk, hip-hop, pop, blues, jazz and African-centered sizzling melodies. Poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths recited a poem inspired by the brutal murder of Trayvon Martin. Later, Quincy Troupe recited a poem dedicated to Romare Bearden.

Tomas Doncker gave an incredible performance, wailing on his guitar as he sang the blues, followed by two legendary jazz saxophonists, Oliver Lake playing the alto sax and Hamiet Bluiett playing the baritone sax. Next, Awa Sangho and Daniel Moreno performed powerful African rhythms for the assembled Harlemites. Legendary African jazz pianist Dr. Randy Weston played his composition “Little Niles,” named for his son, with T.K. Blue on sax. Singer Dee Dee Bridgewater was an unexpected surprise guest singer, who had fun singing one of Miles Davis’ compositions.

Glover appeared at the end of the program after rushing from the airport on his way back from Selma, Ala., the prior day and night for the rally, march and dinner commemorating the 50th anniversary of Blacks being beaten while marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in their fight to vote.

Finally, Margaret Porter Troupe went onstage and thanked all the attendees who came out to support the Gloster Project. Nearly in tears, she was overwhelmed when speaking her deep appreciation of what all the financial and artistic support will do to inspire and uplift the lives of many improvised children in her hometown. For three weeks this summer, thanks to the Gloster Project, many children’s lives will be positively transformed forever.