Sunday, May 27, 2001

Brown says he appeared for everyone

By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A boy holds a sign mocking James Brown for appearing at Taste of Cincinnati.
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        James Brown was determined to finish what he'd started. He wasn't going to let a few hundred sign-carrying, penny-throwing protesters keep him from opening Taste of Cincinnati and getting his “stop the violence” message across.

        “A lot of the other entertainers got chicken and wouldn't come, but I wasn't gonna do that,” an unshaken Mr. Brown said Saturday in his limousine as protesters taunted him with wooden puppets and signs saying “No James Brown.” He and his entourage were rushing back to the private jet that would take them to Washington, D.C., where he was to perform Saturday night.

        Mr. Brown was the third R&B act to be asked to open Taste. Both Midnight Star and the Isley Brothers canceled their appearances under pressure to join the Black United Front's boycott of the event in protest of the April shooting death of Timothy Thomas by Cincinnati Police.

Brown shakes hands with the Rev. Damon Lynch III. Lynch had called for a boycott and admonished Brown for coming.
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        “I don't blame the people for being angry,” said Mr. Brown, as a female member of his group combed his wind-mussed hair. “I'd be angry too. I don't want James Brown or nobody coming here and stopping the strike. But they don't know the point has been made.”

        A longtime social activist who often made public appearances to stop civil unrest in the '60s, Mr. Brown, 68, is no stranger to conflict.

        “This is like after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King when I had to speak,” he said. “This was not a performance. To come up here and perform would have been disrespectful.”

        Instead, he spoke briefly to the crowd and sang a couple of verses of his anti-violence song, “Killing is Out, School is In.”

        He made it clear his appearance was not in support of any group.

        “I came for the ones that were protesting and the ones that weren't protesting, I came for all of them,” he said. “I just came because the city's threatened to be hurt and I want to be one of the people that helps stop it from being hurt.”

        He said he was not paid for his appearance. However, he was reimbursed $15,000 for his expenses, according to Mayor Charlie Luken.

        Mr. Brown's connection to Cincinnati goes back to 1955, when he recorded his first hit at King Records in Evanston.

        “I got started in my life here,” he said. “If it wasn't for me cutting "Please, Please, Please,' I don't know what I'd be doing.”

Taste of Cincinnati info: • EntertainmentMenuMap

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