Entry No.54;Remembering Jaik Miller
Jaik Miller's 2/17/13 memorial at Brooklyn Bowl was really moving.
Seeing his dad Marty, who I first met with Jaik when were about 9 or 10, was a sweet, tear filled moment. Marty has that same sweetness Jaik carried. He's always been in my life too. Jaik and I were kids into guitars and we met and became immediate friends playing them every chance we could. We showed each other stuff and learned how to play together. I remember there was a little Led Zep and there was Harry Chapin and Joni Mitchell...really basic good stuff like "All My Life's a Circle" and "Circle Game". We tried to play it and eventually could. Jaik and I hung some through high school, though we were in different towns and when I was in the Hour, Jaik would come to shows with his sister Polly, mostly at Wetlands and the Rhinecliff Hotel. Polly was into The Hour. It was really sad when Polly passed away. Many know she had inspired the name of one of Jaik's bands: Xanax 25. I was happy Jaik did so well on the downtown scene with Blues Traveler and John Popper and was signed to Hard Head Management. He was like a little cousin. I loved seeing him at CBGB. For years we would always love to hang when we saw each other. We would get booked on certain festivals together. One time I asked what he was up to he showed me a picture of his smiling self in Amsterdam and said, "Look Matt, who's that happy guy?" Cause Jaik wasn't always happy. Who is? Even rainbow guy...Jaik was funny, he claimed I taught him how to play guitar. He claimed Jeff Buckley stole musical ideas from me. I never agreed, but appreciated his love. Jaik was a super special dude. I was completely shocked to hear Jaik had a massive heart attack in February of 2011. The feelings I subsequently had really informed some of the songs I was writing at the time. I thought a lot about Polly and Jaik this last year. It's true, what The Beatles sang, "And in the end, the love you make is equal to the love you take." Well, Jaik Miller, many love you, including me. We miss you down here today and feel your groove and see your light! Shine on!
Entry No.53;The Newark Interfaith Coalition for Hope and Peace Slideshow
In October 2012 I was invited to travel to Israel with the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Hope and Peace. I have worked with its founder, Rabbi Matthew Gewirtz before, and this trip would be significantly different. We would be traveling as a multifaith group. Rabbi Gewirtz came together with Imam W. Deen Shareef and Bishop Mark M. Beckwith to deal with violence in Newark. The trip had 33 members: Christian, Muslim and Jewish. There were many professional clergy and several artists as well leaders of the Newark, New Jersey community.
WE TURNED HEADS EVERYWHERE. It seemed very few had ever seen a group of Jews, Muslims, Christians, Blacks and Whites, Men and Women traveling together, praying together, learning together...
The trip brought me to places I had never been as well those I had not been to for a long time due to violence. Overall the intention was to clarify: "What is justice?... and what justice isn't! What is reconciliation?... and what reconciliation isn't!" There were many African-American Christian leaders who had served in the civil rights movement with Dr. King who said... "We've seen white people before who came to help, only to disappear to the suburbs." There was wisdom and trepidation. There were some African-American muslims who converted to Islam holding on to the bitterness of American racism and slavery. In a region engulfed in violence (nearby Syria especially) we encountered barriers to building trust. It was only after visiting the Mifta Refugee Camp in Bethlehem and Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Museum) that our group emerged in unified understanding that no victim has the moral high ground. Even more sobering appeared the realization that our world has changed little regarding the fate of victims and refugees. Little if any nation cares for the victim refugee. Today, if you are a Syrian victim refugee, or a Sudanese victim refugee... you are in dire straits... just as it was for those before...
We met with a Jewish father and a Muslim wife who are part of a national network of Jews and Muslims called The Parents Circle for those who have had a family member murdered by someone from a different faith. They each told their tragic story and recounted how support and faith led them through bitterness to a deep commitment to reconciliation.
Sami Awad is the executive director of the Holy Land Trust, which connects women leaders and works for non-violence. He took us to the Mifta Refugee Camp in Bethlehem where children are visibly traumatized. Sami's view is that non-violence is the way spiritually and holistically. Sami is a Palestinian refugee who journeyed to Auschwitz and now leads other Palestinian leaders to do the same, so that they can attempt to understand the complicated narrative of their neighbors on the other side of the Security Wall.
Sheikh Ghassan Manasra, Director Light of Peace Society is a Sufi mystic devoted to dialogue within Islam and with other faith and community groups. Based in Nazareth, Sheikh Manasra is one of the most genuinely joyful and kind people I've ever met. I was profoundly moved by him.
Upon our return, I met Rabbi Gewirtz at the Bethel Church in the heart of Newark. Home to an incredible couple, Reginald and Marianne Osborne, I led singing for many dealing with addiction and violence. The church is neutral ground for the Latin Kings, Bloods and Crips.
Further... because I love you... so much... always... at the beginning...
Please check out the Slideshow