Archive for February, 2008

Human rights violation is no joke

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Last July I wrote a blog from Beijing about a tale I heard concerning Yu Huafeng, general manager and deputy editor of the Southern Metropolis Daily in the southern city of Guangzhou.

As the story was told, “Yu Huafeng had gone missing.”I heard this account twice: once by an American when I was being recruited to go to China and later during a casual conversation with Chinese journalists in Beijing. We were discussing freedom of the press and the obstacles they face to report the truth. I kind of shrugged the “missing” story off upon first hearing it, but began to ponder the true meaning of “missing” during this latter conversation. I can still see the seriousness and concern on their faces when they talked about it. I’m ashamed to say, I also remember having a cavalier attitude and later making a few glib remarks in my blog.

Last week I read a report on washingtonpost.com about a newspaper editor in Guangzhou who had recently been released after 4 years in jail. Lo and behold, it is Yu Huafeng, the man I heard the rumors about. He served four years on corruption charges that journalists said were trumped up to retaliate for aggressive reporting.

According to the journalists, authorities in Guangdong were annoyed because of a Southern Metropolis Daily report in December 2003 revealing that a case of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, had been covered up despite pledges of openness by the central government in Beijing. Reading this article made me feel two feet tall. Regardless of which country it takes place, human rights violation is no joke and again I say I’m ashamed I made lite of it. It’s not funny when it happens in the states and even less funny when you know there are people who have very few rights at all.

In China, courts are under the control of the Communist Party and judges routinely take guidance from party officials on sensitive cases. To me that does not sound like the makings of a fair trial. I am preparing for a return trip to China on March 31st but this time with a more thoughtful and less cavalier attitude.

Washingtonpost.com contributed to this report

Amy Winehouse didn’t win them all

Monday, February 11th, 2008

On the night the Grammys turned 50, there were a few other memorable milestones. It had been 43 years since a jazz artist won album of the year and it was the first year of voting for Field 14 – Category 72 – Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album. I will forever cherish the memory of being in the audience the night Herbie Hancock and Terrance Simien walked away winners. Herbie’s album, River – The Joni Letters, beat out Hip hop, R&B, Country and Rock albums for the honor. Terrance Simien’s win culminated a 6 year campaign to award Zydeco/Cajun music it’s own category. And lets not forget brother Terence Blanchard who won for Large Jazz Ensemble Album.

I ran into Jan Ramsey before the televised program started – we were both starving and roaming in search of food. Jan is the editor of OffBeat magazine and she was elated about the New Orleans musicians who won their categories.

And speaking of everlasting memories of this night, let me just say, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Alicia Keys and Rihanna. Plus any night that I get to see Morris Day and The Time… I’m the real winner.

Found A Cure

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

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I normally make a concerted effort to avoid the lens side of a camera but when it comes to Ashford and Simpson, I can not resist. Nick & Val, as I like to call them, have been and will always be my favorite songwriters, performers, poets and couples. I froze at an opportunity to meet them years ago at an Arista party in New York. With nerves fueled by some kind of green, sweet martini I downed last night at the Clive Davis party, I was ready to meet, greet and have my picture taken with them. I love me some Nick & Val!

Oops… did I just bury the lead? Yes, I attended the black-tie, super cool, super fab Clive Davis party last night and it was everything I’ve ever imagined an exclusive Hollywood party to be. The live performances, people watching and schmoozing made this star-studded event the hottest ticket of the weekend. In addition to Nick & Val, I was more than thrilled to meet Leon Gamble and Kenny Huff who wrote mega R&B hits (Philly sound) for years.

Also in the house were Alicia Keys, Leona Lewis (hot new artist from the UK), Foo Fighters, Lionel and Nicole Ritchie, the ageless and still very hot Raquel Welch, Sanaa Lathan, Serena Williams, Slash, Wyclef Jean, Jon Voight, Angie Stone, Tommy Lee (on good behavior), Meatloaf, Missy Elliot, Andrea Bocelli, Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Silverman (without Matt Damon), Usher, Pink, Nelly, Lang Lang, EWF, Buster Rhymes, Dave Stewart, Babyface, Lindsey Lohan, Quincy Jones and a seemingly never ending list of A-listers.

And how did I manage to crash this blowout of celebrity movers and shakers, you ask?

I’ll never tell.

Long live the Queen of Soul

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

I’m in Los Angeles and last night I was packed in a ballroom with over 2000 people. Fortunately for me, it was the likes of Tony Bennett, Ivan Neville, Bill Cosby, Patti Austin, Q, Nick & Val (my all time favorites), Fantasia, Corinne Bailey Rae, John Legend, Shirley Caesar, Roy Hargrove, Herbie Hancock, Tyler Perry, Anthony Hamilton, my dear friend Edna Gundersen and many others. We were all there to honor Aretha Franklin as MusiCares Person Of The Year. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, Re-Re took the stage at the end and reminded everybody why she is truly the Queen of Soul.

MusiCares is an organization whose mission is to give back to those who have given so much through their music. It gives them a place to turn in times of crisis and need. Ivan Neville read a letter sent to MusiCares by a New Orleans roadie who fell and hurt his back at a show. MusiCares helped him with his hospital bills and other needs. The organization helps people we all have heard of and many others behind the scenes not performing on stage. You gotta love that.

So in honor of the Queen of Soul, this fabulous tribute concert, plus live and silent auctions were held and it was a wonderful evening. I’m still smiling. I also met an impressive couple from San Francisco, Mira Veda and her husband Jaz Banga. Jaz is a technology guru working to develop software to help monitor play of music on the internet so musicians get their deserved royalties. Mira is on the Grammy board and as it turns out, is quite an artist herself. She is a singer/song writer with a very soulful, sexy sound that really catches you by surprise. You go girl!

So if I didn’t embarrass Edna too much last night, I get to go to Clive Davis’ party tonight.