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2005 Writers Forum
Steve Hernandez Effingham

Steve Hernandez Effingham was born in Queens, New York in 1953. He moved to Los Angeles in 1975, determined to pursue a career as a Jazz journalist. After accidentally discovering the writing of Henry Miller (he thought he was purchasing a book by Arthur) and becoming a fixture at several Venice, CA jazz clubs where he befriended the musicians playing there, Steve decided to take the same creative risks as the musicians he watched perform each night. Thus began his pursuit of creative writing. He soon published poetry in the Free Venice Beachhead, and performed with local Jazz players such as John Carter, Vinny Golia, and Nels Cline. He was editor of Griot, A Journal of Native Consciousness, for more than ten years and has published poetry in a variety of journals. Steve currently resides in Seattle and is working on an historical novel about Jazz musicians in turn of the century New Orleans. Steve Hernandez Effingman photo
photo credit:
dean wong
Read and listen to excerpts from a discussion between Steve Hernandez Effingham and 2005 curator John Mifsud.
Listen to an excerpt of Steve's reading (MP3)

Fourteen year old Jean Auger runs away to the city in search of Buddy Bolden and finds him on Franklin Street as two brass bands battle, only to lose him in the crowd.

July 22, 1900 – New Orleans, Louisiana

Jean zig-zagged through the procession of longshoremen and into the ranks of the Onward Brass Band. The musicians all wore military hats with the word ONWARD on the front and jackets with rows of brass buttons and plush epaulets. The leader of the band stood to the side holding a cornet. He was a short, light-skinned man with thick wavy hair sticking out from under his hat.

"Manuel Perez is the greatest cornet in the world," shouted a boy, pointing at the leader of the Onward.

"Hell he is," shouted someone else. "King Bolden is the greatest."

"No, it’s Perez," came another voice.

Perez walked backwards, facing the band, holding his cornet in his left hand and motioning with his right as he shouted "Number thirty-seven," and each man paged through a booklet clipped to a tiny music stand attached to his instrument. Perez nodded to the Grand Marshall, a tall thin black man wearing a white military uniform with gold stripes on the pants, gold buttons on his coat, gold epaulets on his shoulders, and a tall hussar’s hat. He blew two piercing whistle blasts signaling the drummers to start. The rest of the band readied their instruments, watching Perez for the cue, which he gave with a downward movement of his horn. Everyone blew simultaneously into a blaring military march and stepping in unison. The crowd gasped at the band’s precision, following as they moved down Perdido Street. Scores of children marched mock military struts on the side of the street, everyone marveling at the band’s abrupt exactness, cutting to the military rhythm as if all the men were a single individual.

Jean was soaked with sweat and still felt a chill at the sight of the Onward. He’d never seen black men marching so brazenly, shoulder to shoulder, the music brash, bold, and loud, as they careened down the streets of the white city – as far as Jean knew, all cities must be white cities.

Yet, what moments before was a white street in a white city, transformed beneath the feet of the Onward, as black faces emerged from the crowd, workers stopped working, and men and women pushed to the side of the street and cheered as children ran along side the procession. Even some white people stopped, gaping at the bright military colors flashing and at the machine-like precision of the band. Jean thought, "Maybe New Orleans ain’t just the white man’s town."

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