Hot Tamale Louie on the Main Stage at Iowa City Jazz Fest

17990668_10158527592675453_9164810119306617296_oWe first performed John Rapson & Daniel Gaglione’s Hot Tamale Louie just days before the 2016 election. My heart breaks at the degree to which democracy and compassion have degraded in our nation in the meantime.

Hot Tamale Louie is a project that defies description but I quite like this one from that early performance’s marketing material:

“A genre-bending tale with lilting Western ballads, gentle Mexican waltzes, folk melodies from the East, evocative tone poems and raucous ragtime melded together by Jazz”.

Hot Tamale Louie is the story of a remarkable man, Zarif Khan, and also a commentary on the history of immigration in the United States.

As we ready ourselves to bring this important work to the Main Stage of the Iowa City Jazz Fest tomorrow evening in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent devastating decision to uphold the travel ban, Senator John Lewis’s words ring in my ears:

“I never thought I would live to see a day when the Supreme Court of the United States would again make a decision as inhumane as Dred Scott v. Sandford or Korematsu v. United States.”

Later that same day, Sen. Lewis gave us some words of encouragement about the outrage that so many of us are feeling:

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

I also want to give you the words of the writer who inspired the entire piece, Kathryn Schulz in “Citizen Khan” The New Yorker. June 6 & 13, 2016:

“Over and over, we forget what being American means. The radical premise of our nation is that one people can be made from many, yet in each new generation we find reasons to limit who those “many” can be—to wall off access to America, literally or figuratively. That impulse usually finds its roots in claims about who we used to be, but nativist nostalgia is a fantasy. We have always been a pluralist nation, with a past far richer and stranger than we choose to recall.”

I hope you will be inspired as I am to remember our history and to make good, necessary trouble when the situation calls for it. May we listen and remember. May we answer the call.

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