Das ‚Woodstock‘-Festival der schwarzen Musik!
mit folgenden Künstlern:
At 3 p.m. Sunday, under an August-hot sun and an unusually clear sky, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was transformed from sporting arena to a soulful expression of the Living Word … it was a dazzling soul revival, dance-athon spontaneous fashion show.
What seemed like the entire Black population of Los Angeles County turned out in incredibly uninhibited clothes to spend an equally free afternoon with Black heroes like the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Isaac „Black Moses“ Hayes.
At a dollar a ticket, the seven-hour session of rock and rap was the best deal in town. Any town. Ticket sales benefitted the Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation, the Martin Luther King Hospital in Watts and future Watts Summer Festivals.
Singer Kim Weston climbed the stairs to a central stage and began „Wattstax“ with a rocking national anthem. No response at—nobody stood up saluted or even acknowledged what she was calmly crooning about.
Then she ripped into the Black National Anthem. People shot out of their seats, raised clenched fists and fervently screamed along with her. And that was just the beginning.
Reverend Jesse Jackson bounded on stage and took the microphone for the National Black Litany. „I AM SOMEBODY“, he screamed. „I AM SOMEBODY“, he screamed louder. Sweat poured down his multi-colored dashiki as he strutted around the stage.
When the Staple Singers strolled on stage, people suddenly be-came quiet—almost reverent. There was very little clapping, snap-ping or whistling. It was a silent tribute to a group „that has gotten over“, as one fan put it.
In between soul/rock groups like the Bar Kays, the Emotions, the Soul Children and the Newcomers, the audience sat and rapped or got up to get hot dogs and drinks. There was enough fashion news in the aisles alone for an entire season of knockoffs. And the people knew it. Slow, rolling gaits, and a tendency to pause and pose made intermission time a playday for photographers. Isaac Hayes‘ influence was everywhere—and his bald head is the latest Black status symbol. Shaved heads looked as good on girls as guys.
Just when Wattstax looked as though it might wind down, Rufus Thomas ran up the stage stairs in a hot pink cape and shorts. The crowd went wild. As he started singing „Funky Penguin“ people lumped walls, scaled fences, ran over seats—anything to get down to the field and dance. A couple of thousand kids moved in unison on what was previously a green, well guarded field.
Official reaction was „controlled alarm“. After the longest „dance along“ in history Rufus did an incredible job of ad-libbing people back to their seats. „Hey man“, he fake whined, „you gotta take your place and set the pace!“. After two more field runs, the crowd settled down to the down-home renderings of the Soul Children.
Isaac appeared as planned. And when Isaac arrives, the whole world knows it. Two Harley Davidsons rumbled through the main tunnel with lights flashing and sirens going full blast.
People stood in the aisles screaming „Black Moses“ as he emerged in Academy Award splendor: a gold chain vest, shiny bald head, metallic orange pats with black and white fringed cuffs: flamboyant, cool, haughty and without a doubt, the true Black sex-symbol-idol of the century. Nobody pulled any field gimmicks.
Nobody pushed and shoved Isaac had arrived—he was on stage—in person—and ready to sing. „Right on, right on,“ he crooned warmly. And with that he took off into „Shaft“: the arrangement that brought on world wide recognition for minority music.
He exited with an equal amount of fanfare—more motorcycles, minibuses and police escorts. Rev. Jackson gave a final blessing to the happy, exhausted group. „Let us join our hand in prayer“, he beseeched, „let us thank the Lord for this day“.
As over 100,000 people bowed their heads, joined hands and reaffirmed Black pride and power.
The Wattstax staff members patted themselves on the back and smiled.
It really was the best way to end the 7th anniversary of the Watts riots.