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Terence Blanchard Brings Civil Rights Statement to Staten Island

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Wednesday August 03, 2016

From The Wall Street Journal

An Artist Brings Civil Rights Statement to Staten Island
By: Jennifer Smith

New Orleans trumpet player and composer Terence Blanchard has performed his latest album, “Breathless,” on both sides of the Atlantic, but his concert this week in New York, part of the annual SummerStage series in city parks, has a special resonance.

The multi-Grammy-winning jazz musician is playing on Staten Island, the home of Eric Garner, the unarmed African-American whose words during a fatal 2014 confrontation with police—“I can’t breathe”—inspired the title track.

In “Breathless,” Mr. Blanchard’s cool, muted trumpet floats above a spoken-word meditation by his son, T. Oliver Blanchard Jr.

“Am I wrong for believing that one day black and blue would not equal pain?” the junior Blanchard asks in a weary voice. “These black roses grow from cracked pavements freshly watered with the tears of the voiceless / As we’ll emit a muted scream to the heavens / We / Can’t / Breathe.”

At least eight members of the Garner family plan to attend the Friday concert at Clove Lakes Park, about 3 miles from the spot where a police officer placed Mr. Garner, 43 years old, in a chokehold. His death, and a grand jury’s subsequent decision not to indict the officer, triggered protests in New York City and beyond.

“I want you to know you are not forgotten and in fact, you are an inspiration,” Mr. Blanchard wrote in a letter last month inviting the Garner family to join him and his band, the E-Collective, at the show. “It feels like every week there’s another YouTube video going viral of police brutality or civil rights being sent back to the 1800s. ‘Breathless’ is my attempt to draw more attention to that.”

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