“What happened to Nicholas’ sense of social justice, fairness and morality? How could he possibly perform in ISRAEL, whose APARTHEID is worse than the APARTHEID FORMERLY IN SOUTH AFRICA? I would hope that Nicholas carries with him the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, so similar to the human rights movement among Palestinians against Israeli oppression!!”
The past few weeks I’ve gotten commentary like this from a lot of folks who seem to have a problem with me playing in Eilat, Israel for the Red Sea Jazz Festival. I’ll address all of you right here, right now:
I’m down with fighting for oppressed people all over the world. But what would I be serving by not playing? If I didn’t play places where I didn’t agree with their Zionist, oppressive policies, I’d have nowhere to play, starting with America.
Whereas, I am aware of the historical implications of the Jewish state, I am also aware of how the United States came to be. How is what’s going on over there any different than what’s happened in America with the natives? Aren’t Indian reservations a form of oppression and apartheid? What about the systemic, structural, and institutional racism that allows Black people to be policed and marginalized to this very day? We are still not valued as human beings in a country that was built by free slave labor on the backs of Black people. So unlike many folks who love to fetishize and glorify oppression abroad, I’m concerned with it all, but with particular regard for my people.
I’m not buying the idea that all Israeli people are nazis, either. And how hypocritical would it be for me to refuse to play in Israel when—politically speaking—America is the Hitler of the world?
Furthermore, I never understood Black American artists who seemed to be more concerned with minorities who suffer from colonization in other communities, more than their own. I’m not insensitive to the matter, but I’m realistic. The We Are The World, USA to Africa tip may have been a noble effort, but I think it would have been a more powerful statement for all of those artists to have addressed the starving, malnourished, undereducated, economically imprisoned and politically maligned Black people who lived in their own country.
That famine Hands Across America was fighting against in Ethiopia is manmade. Modern farming techniques such as “slash and burn,” has rendered hectares of this land infertile. Live Aid was just a Band-Aid to the problem. People must be educated in how to not only dismantle oppressive constructs, but must be also shown a way to build. This is the sole purpose of what I strive to achieve through words and music. Refusing my voice to my audience is the sonic equivalent of “slash and burn,” and I refuse to participate in such nonsensical and ineffective tactics.
Though highly unlikely, let’s say my audience in Eilat would be comprised of nothing but Zionist oppressors: Has anyone thought that perhaps those who most need to hear love in action through music are the people who think it’s cool to fuck over others? Why should all attendees of the festival be punished for the actions of a few assholes in power? Sometimes you’ve got to go into the belly of the beast to make progress. If you always boycott and refuse to use your art to heal those most in need, what’s the point? Not only am I an artist, but I’m a cultural diplomat. It is my job to open people’s hearts and minds all over the world through the power of art.
By your way of thinking, I would never play another jazz festival or club again. Jazz itself is musical apartheid. It’s the whitewashing of Black music. It was stolen from Black people who aren’t still fully credited, and to this day, is not controlled by Blacks. White people make most of the money and the very existence of the White race—which enables White supremacy and privilege—is apartheid to all people of color. So any time I play a gig anywhere, I am serving The Colony. It’s all dirty money. If I refused to play jazz venues or refused to teach at jazz schools, I would be doing the ancestors and the music a disservice. So whereas for you, “Eilat” may be a name that has an oppressive connotation, to me, the name “JAZZ” has the same effect.
I refuse to boycott Eilat and I refuse to boycott jazz venues, for your reasons, so those of you who are trolling me online about my decision to play the Red Sea Jazz Festival are just wasting your time trying to call me out. How much do any of you know about who I am, anyways? How many of my recordings do you own? How many of my shows have you attended? You appear to only be interested in using Nicholas Payton for your own personal, political narrative. I write my own stories. I don’t allow others to define me and will not be pressured into feeling guilty about using my life passion to instill more beauty in the world.
This is my job. You free oppression your way, and I’ll do it my way. You can put me on as many lists as you’d like, but I will not allow you to put me in your box.
- Nicholas Payton aka The Creator of #BAM