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"Mr. Queen, who has held a Swiss passport for thirty years, was informed this week that, due to a run-in with the law as a youth, a half century ago, while a minor, he would have to apply for a Waiver from the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security, despite the fact he was born in the USA. This would take months, making it virtually impossible to participate, barring Presidential decree, and we know that’s unlikely. But this is not “fake news.”
“Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me one bit,” comments Mr. Queen, 67, from his home in Geneva. “I’ve spent months preparing for this concert. Dozens of others are also implicated in its planning. Funny thing, I gave up my U.S. passport to make life simpler at tax time. I never dreamed I would one day be denied entry, and with such ridiculous reasoning. I am frankly disgusted to be disrespected in this way, after a half century devoted to music.”
Mr. Queen, who until 2016 held dual citizenship with the United States and Switzerland, has previously worked numerous times for the US State Department as a Cultural Ambassador, and participated in numerous tours of Brazil, Africa and Japan. Queen also performed at the American International Jazz Day in Paris several years ago.
Mr. Queen has held a U.S. passport, and regularly worked under the auspices of the American government, for over fifty years of his life. Like many citizens, he’s had brushes with the law, but these have never impeded his ability to enter and exit his native country. A one-time DWI charge and a minor drug offense both resulted in not guilty charges.
For this occasion, the US State Dept had only to apply for an “O1B Work Visa” in order for Mr Queen to enter in the United States. This was done correctly, but after the process was completed, fingerprints matching a 1967 FBI file were dredged up and presented as a reason to prevent him from entering the USA. So now we can see that the infamous “travel ban” is not limited to citizens of Sudan, Syria, and Iran. It extends to a then 16-year-old drummer who once sat in with John Coltrane.
How can you process someone fifty years later for charges that occurred when they were a youth, a mere child? And why punish this now acclaimed adult, a leading light on the international jazz scene, who is now 67 years old? He obviously forged a path and created a fabulous life for himself. Adds Queen, “I feel this is more about racial profiling than anything. It’s all about trying to control everyone. I am not a criminal and in fact never was. When I became a Swiss citizen, I “became a criminal” again in the eyes of US law enforcement. If I was undesirable fifty years ago, why have I been issued a fresh passport every ten years for the past six decades?” Indeed, this is the question."
Jazz great, former Oscar Peterson drummer Alvin Queen, denied entry into USA.
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As brilliant, controversial and even anti-semitic as Baraka Sr. could be his insights on American culture and his understanding of African American philosophy and music was and is groundbreaking. I met him through saxophonist David Murray who I was managing for a short while during the early 1980s. I spent many an evening at the bar of the long defunct jazz club, Sweet Basil's with Amiri and his wife Amina discussing music politics and America. I particularly like this section from your article Eugene Holley Jr."...Blues People argues that in their art, Louis Armstrong, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and countless other black bards confronted the forces of racism, poverty and Jim Crow. This gave birth to work songs, blues, gospel, New Orleans jazz, its Chicago and Kansas City swing extensions, the bebop revolution (which in turn spawned the so-called cool and hard bop schools), and the then-emerging avant-garde of the late '50s and early '60s, characterized by the forward-thinking artistry of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor. For Baraka, jazz is "the most cosmopolitan of any Negro music, able to utilize almost any foreign influence within its broader spectrum" — a cultural achievement Baraka says was downplayed and ignored by Eurocentric whites.
"They have to do that to make themselves superior in some kind of way: that everything has come from Europe, which is not true," Baraka says. "And if you study, you'll see [the Africanisms] even in the way Americans talk; it's quite unlike English [from Great Britain]. And certainly the music has been one abiding register of Afro-American influence."
Baraka wrote that Blues People was a "theoretical endeavor" that "proposes more questions than it will answer" about how descendants of enslaved Africans created a new American musical genre and turned "Negroes" into "African Americans" in the process. That message still resonates deeply with many scholars, including Ingrid Monson, a professor of African-American music at Harvard University and author of Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa...". This is the essence of White Supremacy. "... Monson wrote in Blues People: Amiri Baraka As a Social Theorist, a speech she delivered in 2004, "to remind my students that cultural studies and critical race theory didn't begin in the academy, but in 20th-century African-American thought and intellectual practice from DuBois to Garvey, Locke, Ellington, Ellison and Baraka..."
Black History Meets Black Music: 'Blues People' At 50 : A Blog Supreme : NPR