Hamlet — The ninth annual John Coltrane commemorative festival event was held on Saturday, October 7 at the Wayman Community Center in the Ghio area of Hamlet.
Always mentioned in any conversation regarding the greatest, most influential jazz musicians, John Coltrane was born in Hamlet on September 23, 1926. While he only resided here for two years before his family relocated to Guilford County, Coltrane’s original roots and relatives were in Hamlet.
Gerard Morrison of Hamlet was the organizer, coordinator, director, and facilitator of the event. Vivacious, effervescent and seemingly omnipresent, Morrison offered a warm welcome to attendees, calling them by name and seemingly knowing every detail of not only their history, but that of their extended family members as well.
As noted so eloquently by Morrison, the spirit of the occasion was indeed a tribute to Coltrane, but even more so to the progressively enveloping (albeit slow in moving forward) culture of unity and cooperation that can be traced, at least to some degree, to the proliferation of Coltrane’s music and, specifically, the ways in which jazz music helps to transcend otherwise divisive issues of race, politics and religion that far too often plague society.
Morrison noted that it is the need to unify community members into a viable coalition of individuals, regardless of race, color, or creed working for the betterment of our society that commands him to pursue such projects with such vigor. If music genres such as jazz help to facilitate the development of focused togetherness between persons of otherwise different backgrounds, then explorations of such a medium should be maximized to the extent possible.
In the spirit of bringing together diverse groups, Morrison arranged for several vendors to set up displays on-site and then answer any and all inquiries about their respective products and how they contributed to the spirit of unification and the legacy of John Coltrane.
Ms. Shawn Foster, of Paparazzi Accessories, offered advice regarding style and appearance as well as specific pieces of jewelry and scents to accentuate the lifestyle of both women and men.
Musicians of different styles and types of entertainment were also present to demonstrate the ways in which music effectively equalizes and integrates society. Representatives of jazz were there, of course, as were talents in the realm of hip-hop, rap, soul and gospel.
At least two authors were present as well, touting the need for awareness and action in regard to overcoming the perpetuation of negative stereotypes, bias and prejudice in our society. It was noted that Coltrane was performing during an era when racially discriminatory practices were quite prevalent and African-Americans were not readily accepted, much less recognized for their talent, in many areas of our country.
In conjunction with paying homage to John Coltrane, Morrison encouraged attendees to come together as one, especially in rural areas such as Richmond County.
“The challenges are real and they tend to remain steadfast in rural areas,” Morrison said. “For that reason, we should practice what I call recognition of “Rural Royalty” in the sense of highlighting talent and skills that may otherwise remain overlooked or ignored in small towns.”
For those interested in seeking a greater understanding of how to help seek to ameliorate social negativity by improving, accentuating, or otherwise augmenting positive interpersonal relations, through music or otherwise, contact Morrison. He is available via phone at (347) 286-8742 or email at 4JCMEF@gmail.com.