By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, email@example.com
We recently recorded the first episode of the latest incarnation of the AFRO First Edition podcast during the blazing hot Artscape weekend, at the venerable Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center on Howard Street. That night, the newspaper was honored during the ENGAGE professional networking event at “The Eubie” as it is known, named after the iconic American musician and Baltimore native.
I’ve been to the Eubie countless times over the years, but this trip was particularly eye-opening for a few reasons.
First, I learned Eubie Blake enrolled at New York University in 1946, where he graduated in two and a half years and later taught at the university.
For the First Edition podcast, I interviewed the venue’s new artistic director, Kier Johnson, who is also the producer of the Purple Honey Concert Series. Johnson, who is also a musician, informed me the Eubie will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020; had no idea it had been around that long.
During our interview he revealed his vision for his new venture. Essentially, Johnson says he wants to eventually make the Eubie the most important cultural hub on the East Coast. It seems pretty ambitious, but why not? Baltimore has historically been one of the most important cultural cities in the United States and that’s a fact.
However, a regular feature of the Eubie discouraged me mightily as I considered the plausibility of Johnson’s lofty vision.
There is a plexiglass box within the room dedicated to the immortal Blake, it has the word donations scrawled on white paper attached to it. And that box seems to perpetually contain only change clinging to the bottom of the box with one lonely one dollar bill. Honestly, I think that raggedy little dollar is probably the same one that was in the box the last time I was at the Eubie a couple of years ago.
Then, I started thinking about Johnson’s big goal again and my thought was, good luck with that Bro. Then, I caught myself, or should I say I checked myself.
The truth is I’ve been going to the Eubie for years as I alluded to earlier and I’ve always enjoyed the programming and events there. I’ve never had a bad time. And most importantly, the Eubie has been there for us for 50 years.
Now, it’s time for us to be there for the Eubie.
Why should the burden of making the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center the most important cultural hub on the East Coast fall solely on the shoulders of Johnson and his crew? The answer is it shouldn’t; the responsibility really falls on all of us who have sown into this city over the years and reaped the immense benefits of its thriving culture.
The Eubie has been an integral part of that culture.
So, I’m going to make this proclamation publicly, so that I can’t weasel out of it; I ain’t hardly no rich man, but I’m going to give $50 to the Eubie before August is over.
Further, I’m going to give this Black institution $120 to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2020. And I’m encouraging everybody who reads this column to do the same. Again, I’m not a financially wealthy man by any stretch of the imagination. But, I can sacrifice $10 a month for 12 months. Think of it, if a 1,000 people do the same, the Eubie will rake in $120,000. It may not be a whole lot of money, but it certainly will help.
And for the record, I’m not getting a kickback from the Eubie for writing this column, I just think its important for us to support our institutions. And hey, feel free to choose another Black institution, because there are plenty that can use our financial support.
So many of our Black institutions are just barely surviving, operating on shoestring budgets (or no budget at all!), while we obtusely sit back and wonder if they’re doing okay.
Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)
How many of our wonderful restaurants, nightclubs, art galleries and schools have closed over the years because of lack of support?
When we sow into our culture, we sow into ourselves.
And God knows in Baltimore we reap what we sow.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.