Sunday, December 30, 2007

From Garvey to Gilliard

Steven Gilliard, Jr. 1964 - 2007

As one year draws to an end and another begins, many of us look to recapture and sum up the recent past and project what might lie ahead for us in the coming year. For me, that act begins with combing through newspapers, magazines and other media for their year end reflections and enlightened annual overviews. This weekend I happened to stumble upon The New York Times Magazine (December 30,2007 / Section 6), and its, "The Lives They Lived" article. In it, for the first time, I discovered the life and loss of a unique and talented African American and son of Harlem. The gentleman was Steven Gilliard, Jr., who through intellect and and online moxie, established a powerful and compelling online political blog presence. As I further explored his writings, I began to form a greater admiration and empathy for how the the web served to satisfy and address his individual desires, and aided his assault of profound and ongoing frustrations.

"The irony is that the web is a great place for passion, controlled passion, uncontrolled passion, unregulated passion,"... - Gilliard

In reading some of Gilliard's online commentary, it appears that he came to grasp the power of the virtual "empire" now being amassed online, and not unlike Marcus Garvey's view of Europe's accumulated "empire" early in the 20th century, sought to master and subvert the systems in similar ways. As scholars look back on the current rise of online technology, and its power and influence over America's political culture, Steven Gilliard's writings, may in ways, come to represent as radical and significant a Harlem voice of our era, as Garvey's was for his.

The Lives They Lived - Steven Gilliard Jr. - New York Times

Group News Blog: NY Times Magazine: Steven Gilliard Jr.

Steve Gilliard - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In searching the web, it was very amusing to come upon Gilliard's discussion listing (site of his earliest postings) to find his personal description and "image." There by his name was an image of the actor Greg Morris in his role as the technology geek on the television series, "Mission Impossible" (1966-73).
At the time, African Americans knew that jobs in technology, no matter how talented you were, were by no way readily available to them. However, you could appreciate and applaud an African American actor projecting to potential employers the possibility... thus making one's own mission less impossible! Despite the lack of any other physical resemblance, Gilliard obviously saw similar irony and inspiration in this character, inspiring his own assault on technology. -

Steve Gilliard
Steve was a NetSlaves Media Operative. He began his day with the Washington Post and ended it with Salon, which either left him laughing or totally depressed. When not trolling for information or serving as the driving force behind "lively" conversations on the NetSlaves discussion list, Steve wrote for Websites, sometimes even for money. -

Listed below is a sampling of surviving Steve Gilliard Articles from

Gilliard wrote for Netslaves, and many of his early works listed here comprise his contributions to the site from June of 2000 to February of 2001. These articles are arranged chronologically, because Steve often wrote multi-part articles. These articles capture Steve in fine form, and highlight an aspect of his character that many may have missed from his postings on DailyKos and elsewhere: the fact that he had pretty good "geek" credentials (check out his story on
building his own PC from scratch), and that he had a softer, introspective side (Winter Wonderland). He also had an absolutely wicked sense of humor, which came into play whenever he confronted and skewered the many clueless miscreants. These articles come in three groups: those articles written for The Netslaves Combat Manual, Steve's "Between the Lies" column, and articles once the site gradated to an automated posting system that also allowed comments. They show the evolution of Steve's writing, and provide a hint of the greater glories to come when he left and staked his claim in the larger Blogosphere. Steve Gilliard-authored articles written for "The Netslaves Combat Manual." These are the earliest articles Steve wrote for the site, and they were contributed before the site allowed for commenting. -edited from post by Steve Baldwin

Steve Gilliard's "Between the Lies" Series Written for After adding much to the Netslaves Combat Manual, Steve was given his own regular column, which he called "Between the Lies."

Steve's Articles for Netslaves' "General Topic" section, March 2000 - February 2001These articles include comments from Netslaves users.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mt Morris Park - 1969

By Richard Morgan

Stevie Wonder

Ethel Beaty-Barnes, then an 18-year-old fresh from her high-school graduation, still remembers what she wore to the Sly & The Family Stone concert in Harlem in 1969: a floral halter top and matching bellbottoms, her hair in a sidebun. "It was so overcrowded. People were sitting in the trees. It was boiling hot but not one ounce of trouble," she said recently from her home in Newark, New Jersey. The word "trouble" back then was a euphemism for chaos.

The concert she attended, what some now call the Black Woodstock, came on the heels of two of Malcolm X's former aides being shot—one fatally. The local NAACP chairman likened Harlem at the time to the vigilante Old West (earlier that year, five sticks of dynamite had been found behind a local precinct house; a cop dampened the charred fuse with his fingers). So it came as little surprise when the NYPD refused to provide security for the festival. Instead, security came from the Black Panthers, 21 of whom had been indicted for plotting to mark Martin Luther King's assassination by bombing Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Abercrombie & Fitch and other stores across Manhattan.

Besides Sly, the festival's roster included B.B. King, Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach, the Fifth Dimension, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Moms Mabley, Pigmeat Markham and more. Speakers included then-mayor John Lindsay, introduced on stage as the black community's "blue-eyed soul brother."

Jesse Jackson

Hal Tulchin, a longtime television producer, was the only one filming any of it—mostly on spec. "It was a peanuts operation, because nobody really cared about black shows," said Tulchin, now 80, from his home in Bronxville, New York. "But I knew it was going to be like real estate, and sooner or later someone would have interest in it."

Interest came from Joe Lauro, who discovered the Black Woodstock video amid his routine prowling of old TV Guide issues (hour-long specials had appeared on CBS and ABC). Lauro runs Historic Films Archives, the nation's largest collection of musical footage. He owns a good deal of Ed Sullivan material and provided most of the film for Martin Scorsese's recent Bob Dylan documentary. He is now teaming with Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, who produced "Muddy Waters Can't Be Satisfied," to tell the forgotten story of the Harlem festival. "People were unwilling to remember," said Lauro. "It's like how all the great black jazz men had to go to Europe to be appreciated." Curiosity has been growing since Lauro leaked some footage onto a Nina Simone DVD/CD last summer, mentioning the festival in the liner notes.

The footage shows seas of some 100,000 blacks whose dress and manner blend a Fourth of July picnic, a Sunday Best church revival, an urban rock concert and a rural civil rights rally. "You see the generations teetering," said Neville. "As opposed to, say, Wattstax, where you see a kitschy funkifying of 70s America. This is different: the tension between soul and funk, civil disobedience versus Black Power, the tension of Harlem itself at the time."

Staple Singers

At one point, Roebuck "Pops" Staples, of the Staple Singers, injects a sermon into his performance:

"You'd go for a job and you wouldn't get it. And you know the reason why. But now you've got an education. We can demand what we want. Isn't that right? So go to school, children, and learn all you can. And who knows? There's been a change and you may be president of the United States one day."

At least one person in the crowd took that speech to heart: Jesse Jackson, who ran for president twice in the 1980s. In an Afro, mutton chops and an orange-and-yellow dashiki, Jackson also spoke at the festival: "As I look out at us rejoice today, I was hoping it would be in preparation for the major fight we as a people have on our hands here in this nation. Some of you are laughing because you don't know any better, and others laughing because you are too mean to cry. But you need to know that some mean stuff is going down. A lot of you can't read newspapers. A lot of you can't read books because our schools have been mean and left us illiterate or semi-literate. But you have the mental capacity to read the signs of the times."

Reached recently in preparation for a voting-rights march in New Orleans, Jackson reflected on what was accomplished that summer in Harlem, and summers since. "Often, art and culture are one and the same with political statements," he said. "Look at Aretha Franklin singing R-E-S-P-E-C-T, or Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On' or Stevie Wonder's 'Happy Birthday,' a tribute to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. … We all had to battle back in the Nixon years to fight for the Great Society. And we're still doing that today in the Bush years. And New York is still a city of first-class citizens and second-class schools."

Another lost battle is the intimacy, the privacy of Beaty-Barnes' concert memories, which will soon be able to be bought, burnt or downloaded into retro-adoring hands. "This was before DVDs, before VCRs, when you can just soak in it whenever you want," she said. "You had to go to the concerts. And whenever you heard the songs you'd remember: I was there."

Nina Simone

  • HarlemOneStop encourages Harlemites who attended and/or remember this 1969 Concert series to please submit comments or images for us to post.