By Stanley Crouch
New York Daily News, Thursday, June 26, 2003
On Tuesday, at a White House event entitled
Harlem's Song, President Bush declared June Black Music Month
and gave a speech that was a further indication of what could
amount to a grand strategy. I mean a strategy that could make
Democrats a bit unsure about owning the black vote, especially
during presidential elections.
I was there because I had been invited to make
some remarks before the performers came on stage. The audience
then heard the All-Stars of the Jazz Museum in Harlem under
the leadership of Loren Schoenberg, the executive director
of the museum and a highly respected saxophonist and bandleader.
It also heard three selections from George Wolfe's "Harlem
Song," a show that ran for six months at the Apollo Theatre
and drew such integrated audiences that you could say downtown
and uptown become one town.
The performances on Tuesday were splendid and
the audience, which included national security adviser Condoleezza
Rice and Secretary of State Powell, truly seemed to enjoy
itself. At the conclusion of the program, the President gave
his brief speech, which was very pointed in its acknowledgment
not only of the importance of black Americans to our nation's
music, but of the history those Americans have had to live
in the worst times of our nation.
Bush surprised many when he said, "From
the earliest generations of slaves came music of sorrow and
patience, of truth and righteousness and of faith that shamed
their oppressors and called upon the justice of Almighty Goad
and praised His holy name."
At one point, he said that when "Franklin
Roosevelt wanted to show the king and queen of England the
fines music in America, he brought them to his room to hear
Marian Anderson sing 'Ave Maria.'"
If this event was indeed part of a grand strategy,
Bush seems well on his way to redirecting the ethnic tone
of the Republican Party in a way that may not automatically
make black people feel friendly toward it but that could,
over time, bring issues of importance to Afro-Americans to
the front and put party affiliations in the back.
I though about all of that walking around the
White House as the rehearsals were going on. Integration was
everywhere. It felt good to see the military personnel and
all the guests representing the many faces of the nation just
as much as they did under President Bill Clinton.
Further, with Bush's emphasis on educational
policy, with his appointments of Rice and Powell, with his
pledge to refurbish Frederick Douglass' home, with his $15
billion relief package for black Africa and with his recent
admonishment that federal law enforcement agencies should
not profile any ethnic community unless the issue of terrorism
is at hand, this President is changing his party.
Were Bush to go further and make it clear that
federal assistance will be made available to all communities
bent upon removing the anarchic thugs who, to cite one example,
have been responsible for the killing of 10,000 people in
Los Angeles over the last 20 years, many would have to stand
That would be a policy coup that neither the
civil rights establishment nor the Democrats - or black Americans
- could easily dismiss.