Every year right about this time I remind people: Please contribute photos taken on MLK Boulevards, Drives, Streets, Avenues, etc., anywhere, to the MLK BLVD Flickr pool, an open-source photojournalism project. Highlights appear on the blog MLK BLVD. The image above, from an MLK parade on MLK in New Orleans.
Archive for the ‘MLK BLVD’ Category
I’m pleasantly surprised to report that I still get notes from readers of Letters from New Orleans who have only recently discovered the book, and enjoyed it enough to tell me so. One such note came across the transom yesterday, and the writer asked if I had in fact done anything about the idea mentioned in the book to create a kind of “open source” project related to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvds (and Drives and Avenues and Streets).
As you may know, the answer is yes. But maybe you don’t know! Here is: The MLK BLVD Flickr Pool. And find highlights from that pool at the MLK BLVD blog — images from MLKs in 42 cities and towns, and counting.
Better yet, join in and contribute something.
The only way this counts as an interesting picture is if you use Andy Warhol’s definition of a successful photograph: In focus, and of someone famous. Wynton Marsalis, performing here in Savannah as part of a local music festival, spoke at a brief ceremony for the unveiling of a plaque in honor of King Oliver, who died here. The event was at 514 MLK Blvd. — which used to be West Broad Street, and, apparently, was the center of jazz activity here at one time. This is what I gathered at the presentation, anyway. A number of older local musicians were on hand. I have to say, Marsalis was impressively gracious. Plus he wore an excellent suit.
I ran into our friend John Stoehr, a writer for the local paper, at the envent; he was shooting a bit of hand-held video that he posted on his blog.
King Oliver died here in 1938, and the adjective that is invariably used to describe his condition at that time is “penniless.” Words like “unknown” or “obscure” often get used as well. I believe he died at 408 Montgomery Street, although the paper says 308 Montgomery. In any case, King Oliver is of course relevant to the story of “St. James Infirmary” by way of his massive influence on Louis Armstrong, whose first recording of the tune I consider definitive. Here is the Red Hot Jazz writeup on King Oliver. King Oliver’s Orchestra recorded “SJI” in 1930 (after Armstrong) and you can hear that here.
At some point I’ll take a closer look at King Oliver’s Savannah stay, and perhaps at Savannah jazz in general. One of the interesting things about the Marsalis appearance was the attendance of a handful of older guys who were apparently local jazz players here back in the day. We’ve only lived here since October, but it was news to me that there was any local history like that at all, frankly.
Stoehr also posted this bit regarding another speaker at the event, a man named Walter Evans. He’s a local businessman involved in redeveloping Savannah’s MLK Blvd. “It would not have been unusual for someone like King Oliver to have settled in this area, because this is where all the entertainment was,” Evans remarked. Apparently making the area an “entertainment center” again is part of his thinking.
Speaking of MLK: I posted a kind of miniature higlight reel of MLK BLVD on Murketing.com, right here.
The subject of MLK Blvds etc. came up on yesterday’s installment of the African-American roundtable, on News & Notes on NPR. Host Farai Chideya introduced one question by noting that for people her age (I think she’s in her 30s):
By the time [people our age] reached our tweens or our teens, you had MLK Boulevards all over the country, and usually they were in some of the most jacked-up neighborhoods that you will ever find. So there was this complexity that I had in my mind: Why are they going to honor this man by naming the dingiest, dead-end street after him? … Hearing the words Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. don’t necessarily bring hope to younger generations the way they did to previous generations…