The Night the Movement Moved

By Tammy Johnson Mar 24, 2007

There are few things that are sacred to me in life. Coffee in the morning, a spirited bellydance performance and music all belong in that precious box of joy. Last night, at Kaleidoscope, an evening of jazz, song, poetry and movement, I was transported to a point in time where I was saved from myself by the sacred artistry of others. Now, I know that sounds like some Northern California, hippy-child crazy talk, but I’m talking about something real here. Back in the day when I was a community organizer, putting in 12 hour days running elections or meeting with with teachers at 6am, my salvation was a hole-in-the-wall Milwaukee institution called the Jazz Estate. There I was introduced to a kickin’ bloody-mary, rowdy bar folk and music that spoke to my weary soul. It’s where jazz greats like Betty Carter would do her after hour shows, where I had my first New Year’s Eve kiss, where I learned that the world isn’t linear, and that syncopation is cool because it has no rule. I loved it. I’d go to the Jazz Estate and be renewed for the next day’s fight. So last night at Kaleidoscope, I was back there again. I felt the passion in the voices of La Bruja, Aladdin, Taiyo Na and Angela. The lost 10-year-old pig-tailed girl in me was validated by Kiri Davis’ film A Girl Like Me. And the drum, the timbales, the horn and sax, and Eddie Palmieri’s nibble fingers on that keyboard made my backbone slip and put a sway in my hip. And I was renewed again. Jeff was right. We need to ensure that we MOVE in the movement. That’s no small thing. Our songs, our music, our words, our stories are not just about producing entertainment for profit. They are there to remind us that in the midst of war, oppression and all the ugliness that we face day-to-day, that there is still joy, humor, adventure, sex, spirit, much more to be had in our struggle. Brewtown’s Jazz Estate is no more. It’s been turn into a sterile yuppy gentrified pub. But Betty’s sweet syncopated voice pulsates from my ipod as I sip my coffee in the morning. And every once in a while, when I am at my lowest point, someone like Eddie comes along to remind me what matters. Another addition to my box of sacred things.