Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Music: Save the Children

While looking for videos of Marvin Gaye's live performances, I stumbled across this beauty. The nine minute clip of Gaye performing "What's Goin' On" and "What's Happening Brother," is interspersed with footage shot mostly on the south side of Chicago. The contributor's caption states that it was an excerpt from an out-of-release documentary, Save the Children, from 1973. I went to Internet Movie Database for more information about the film. It was directed by an African American, Stan Lathan, a pioneer in the desegregation of television from behind the camera. He's still around, most recently producing the Def Comedy Jam series on HBO. The talent on Save the Children is amazing: Cannonball Adderly, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, The Jackson Five, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Curtis Mayfield, Wilson Pickett. Unfortunately, the original contributor was right; the film is completely out of print. Additional excerpts of the concert, including performers not listed on the movie credits, have surfaced on the internet.

More from Save the Children [Link]

Save the Children was the unifying theme for the Chicago Black Exposition of 1972. In 1970, the first Black Expo was organized by the Southern Christian Leadership conference's Operation Breadbasket, directed by a young, charismatic Rev. Jesse Jackson. A photo from a Chicago Tribune article about the exposition plans shows Jackson, exchanging a "soul handshake" with Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.

The entertainment part of the expo was especially well-attended. Since proceeds from the expo were intended to fund the mission of the SCLC, the royalty of Motown were more than honored to perform. In 1971, the SCLC suspended Jackson, pending an investigation into financial irregularities and the incorporation of the Black Expo as its own foundation. Jackson broke with the SCLC, and started his own organization, Operation P.U.S.H. (People United to Save Humanity), and continued to sponsor the expo through it. The entire staff and board of directors of Operation Breadbasket went with him, leaving the SCLC effectively with no fund-raising unit. It was a humiliating blow for SCLC president Ralph Abernathy, who eventually resigned. The Operation P.U.S.H. sponsored Black Expo continued until 1976, when exhibitors became sparse in part due to the economic recession.

In 1973, Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church honored Dr. Abernathy for his 18 years of service to the civil rights movement. Still devastated by Jackson's betrayal and the defections from SCLC, he took the pulpit and lashed out at the black community, accusing it of "giv(ing) only lip service to the dream of Rev. Martin Luther King Junior," adding that "(we) spend our money on marijuana, dope, liquor and booze, big fine cars, and walk around in fancy cloths[sic] to make us think we are free." In contrast, Jesse Jackson appeared on Sesame Street, reading his inspirational poem, "I am Somebody." It was a supremely media-savvy appearance, signifying that the movement had moved on.

"Daley's Soul Handshake Opens 3d Black Expo at Amphitheatre." Chicago Tribune. Sep 30, 1971. (photo) [Link]

"Black Expo in Chicago" Time. Oct 11, 1971. [Link]

"Abernathy blasts blacks for rights movement woes." Chicago Tribune. Jul 26, 1973.

Profile and Interview with Jesse Jackson. The New Internationalist. August 1973. [Link]

"How PUSH came to shove in Expo fund hassle." Chicago Tribune. Apr 22, 1975.

"I Am Somebody" (Wikipedia entry) [Link]

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