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A Lutheran and a jazz composer

Revisiting Martin Niemöller’s poem ‘First They Came’ at a New York jazz concert

A Lutheran and a jazz composer

Mingus Big Band (Fran Kaufman)

A New York moment: 

I went to the Jazz Standard, a New York jazz club, to see Mingus Big Band, a band that plays mostly Charlie Mingus compositions. Mingus’ widow (his fourth wife) manages the band, and several members of the band played with Mingus back in the day. Mingus is one of my favorite jazz composers. Sometimes I get so caught up in my everyday scramble that I forget I live in a city where people who played with Charlie Mingus perform jazz on a weekly basis. 

The band performed his song “Don’t Let It Happen Here,” where he adapted the poem from World War II–era German pastor Martin Niemöller, “First They Came.” The band wailed as one of the saxophone players read Mingus’ adaptation of Niemöller’s words: 

One day they burned down the Catholic churches.
And I said nothing because I was born a Protestant.

Then one day they came and they took me.
And I could say nothing because I was guilty as they were,
For not speaking out and saying that all men have a right to freedom.

Worth your time:  

A 19-year-old bioengineering major who calls himself “Hand Solo” has built himself prosthetic arms out of Legos. 

This week I learned: 

Over half of the New Yorkers who signed up for the city’s Superstorm Sandy housing program did not end up receiving help to rebuild. 

A court case you might not know about: 

The first criminal ramifications of New York’s new abortion law have hit the news. In early February a man from Queens was charged with the murder of his pregnant girlfriend, and prosecutors initially included a charge of second-degree abortion for the death of the child. 

That was a crime in the state until last month, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democrats in the Legislature removed second-degree abortion from the criminal code as one part of the Reproductive Health Act. As a result of the law’s passage, Queens prosecutors dropped the second-degree abortion charge against the man. 

Though prosecutors have ways to charge violent criminals who assault pregnant women, they no longer have a way to charge someone in particular scenarios. For example, there is no criminal charge now if a disgruntled boyfriend puts an abortifacient drug into his pregnant girlfriend’s drink. A man was recently sentenced to 22 years in prison for doing that very thing to his girlfriend in Wisconsin. Ironically, he had been on the run since facing the charges, and was arrested in New York. 

Culture I am consuming: 

The first hour and a half of Bohemian Rhapsody. I couldn’t make it through the whole thing—sorry to the fans out there, but I thought it was terrible. I also couldn’t get the accusations of sexual misconduct against the director, Bryan Singer, off my mind while watching.

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at ebelz@wng.org 

Comments

  • wgbEden Prairie
    Posted: Tue, 02/19/2019 11:05 pm

    Small point: Charles Mingus always preferred "Charles" to "Charlie". He was a complex individual (as his autobiography Beneath the Underdog reveals), as well as a brilliant composer, bandleader, and musician. There'll never be another like him.