Been waiting long, have you? I guess I really had nothing to tell you until now...
Just recently, I performed with gospel legend Shirley Caesar and other artists on Higher Ground: A Hurricane Relief Benefit, Live from Lincoln Center. I sent out a mass e-mail to notify people to tune in and I added the following message:
I was in a car hanging out with my good friend Sheila Anderson and she shared some things about the way authorities are responding in New Orleans; I became so infuriated, tears began streaming down my face. (I'm not normally that emotional.) I immediately went home and got on my knees to pray that I rid myself of hate.
At our rehearsal for the broadcast of HIGHER GROUND yesterday, the atmosphere was thick with love and rejoicing. After Diana Krall finished rehearsing "Basin Street Blues," she and her husband Elvis Costello came over to me and gave me big hugs and then Diana began to cry just at the thought of WHY we were there but also rejoicing BECAUSE we were there.
I warmly embraced drummer Herlin Riley (one of the many who lost their homes in N. O.; he had the same picturesque smile on his face that he's always had. Reacting to a befuddled look on MY face, he responded, "I lost EVERYTHING, but I haven't lost my spirit -- “ THAT CAN'T be broken..."
During the rehearsal of a piece ("Ain No") with Wynton Marsalis' septet and me, some Crescent City citizens who were able to make it out in time were on hand to "second line" all around the room. When we stopped, Aaron Neville exclaimed, "You can keep that going!"
I have acquaintances that are relatively non-religious implore me to pray at gatherings. Here is my bottom line: there's plenty of anger to go around -- most of it justified. However, I would like to encourage you to concentrate on whatever positive feelings you can muster so that you can offer prayers and supplications for those who are suffering. For me, I want to turn any of my own negative thoughts toward neglectful authority figures into prayers FOR them that they soften their hearts and do WHAT IS RIGHT.
-- Eric Reed is a jazz pianist from Philadelphia who lives and works in New York City.