Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
Sistas’ Place, 456 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Veteran political strategist, educator and business woman with a passion for culture and the international African community, Viola Plummer is 80-years-young and unstoppable! She is chairperson of the December 12th Movement, a black human rights organization currently celebrating its 30th birthday, and the founder-operator of Sistas’ Place, a coffee house established in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in 1995.
Under Viola’s guidance in the course of the past 22 years Sistas’ Place has become an irreplaceable cultural institution at the heart of the borough and influential far beyond it, with programming based on live performances by A-list jazz and blues musicians.
Sistas’ Place obtained honorary landmark status by the New York State legislature in 2015 for its extraordinary contribution to the people of Bed-Stuy. Setting it up was not Ms. Plummer’s first time laying foundations for local arts. “Years ago, in the wake of needing to have somewhere musicians could play, we started a series in Harlem called ‘Jazz Comes to Fight Back,'” she says of an earlier venture. “And the first person we presented, at the old Music & Art High School, was Wynton Marsalis, when he had first come onto the scene. We understood even then that jazz expressed who we were, and talked about our humanity and our values. It was in the music, it was in the rhythms, it was in the melodies and the riffs.”
She is emphatic about the inseparability of culture from politics. The Jazz Journalists Association’s Award is not an explicit endorsement of her political perspective, but does acknowledge the tenacity of her activism. “The December 12th Movement was a way for us to say to the people that struggle is for liberation and there is no struggle for struggles’ sake,” she says. “Art is that expression, and the music has saved our lives. From the blues to the gospel, to jazz, to r&b, it has really saved our lives. And as for the December 12th movement — people have heard our politics better as a result of the music. From Africa, to Brooklyn, to Harlem, to Goshen… It was always the music, it was always the dance.”
The December 12th Movement describes itself as an International Secretariat, a non-governmental organization with consultative status in the United Nations Economic and Social Council. It has participated in the Commission on Human Rights since 1989 representing the interests of Africans in the United States, has established independent alliances with various nations and organizations, and its work has resulted in judicial hearings on racism and summary executions in the United States. That’s some serious stuff.
So is music like that featured at Sistas’ Place. The signature slogan there is “Culture is a weapon!” Viola Plummer, Jazz Hero, wields her weapon with precision and love!