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Life Arts    H4'ed 2/21/10

An Evening with Gil Scott-Heron: There is Joy in the Struggle

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I had meetings all week. I spent time going from phone call to phone call without much of a breath. Pitching, talking, and discussing organizational plans for an upcoming media summit on Columbia College Chicago's campus, I didn't have time to eat much, didn't have time to drink much, didn't have time to think and reflect much either.

The days blurred. What I did Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and even Thursday I couldn't remember but I knew I did something. I could feel it in my mind and body that I had done quite a lot. I was working my fool head off to break down barriers, to get rid of divides that were making it difficult to organize on my campus.

Thursday night was my opportunity to bring this screeching train to a halt. It was my chance to think about art in a way that I had not done for a long time.

At Stage Two on Columbia's campus, I lined up for a seat to see the great sociopolitical musician and lyrical poet Gil Scott-Heron. With a new CD out, reports indicated that Heron had become rejuvenated with energy and a renewed desire to perform.

The energy was palpable. I sat in a room that could seat about 200 people waiting for Gil to come out on stage. Scheduled to go on at 7 pm, it was getting late.

Who knows how many people thought Gil wasn't going to come out--that he wasn't going to show up. I never thought he wouldn't show up. And at 7:20, Gil Scott-Heron's presence filled the room.

His voice, its deepness, reverberated throughout the room. He spoke and essentially did stand-up comedy for a good half hour. Joking about how he was getting behind a new cause called Give Back February (GBF), he led people through good-natured jokes about how black people want to get another month other than February to be Black History Month (or if you go to Columbia College, African Heritage Month).

After time spent playing with language and making an audience of many generations laugh, he sat down at the keyboard. The microphone was pulled down. And, the keyboard began to give off a groove sound that laid the foundation for Gil's first song.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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