Prospect Park

BRIC’s Celebrate Brooklyn closes 2017 season in triumph

August 21, 2017 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“Leslie and Jack are geniuses!” City Councilmember Brad Lander insists as he describes the past season as one of BRIC’s finest. Eagle photos by Andy Katz

More than 8,000 Fill Prospect Park Bandshell to Hear Famed Senegalese Singer Youssou N’Dour and Malian Kora Virtuoso Yacouba Sissoko

“I don’t know how they do it,” Councilmember Brad Lander said after getting a Friends of BRIC wristband affixed and heading toward the Prospect Park Bandshell for a very special season finale concert featuring Youssou N’Dour on Aug. 11.  Lander’s excitement was contagious.

“This has been an exceptional season,” Lander said. “We’ve been trying to get Youssou N’Dour for years now. Rachel and Jack are geniuses!”

Rachel Chanoff is senior artist adviser and Jack Walsh is vice president for performing arts at BRIC, the downtown arts organization that bills itself as “the leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn.” Celebrate Brooklyn, one of BRIC’s signature events, is a summer concert series that began in 1979 and has featured artists such as Bob Dylan, the Blue Man Group, Philip Glass, Joan Armatrading and They Might Be Giants.

The 2017 season’s roster contained unmistakably political elements as well as cultural and artistic ones. Said President Leslie Schultz in a prior statement: “We believe it is especially important to use artistic platforms to reaffirm the very basis of what Brooklyn and America is — a welcoming supercollider of ideas and cultures, informing and enriching each other.”

BRIC’s showing of “Selma,” director Ava DuVernay’s dramatization of the epic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama led by Martin Luther King Jr. to help secure the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act, seemed especially serendipitous in its timing, just days before white nationalists would gather in Virginia for a rally to mark what they regard as a return to mainstream respectability and influence for white supremacist causes under the current administration in D.C.

Taking a break from his opening set, kora virtuoso Yacouba Sissoko reminded the audience: “Leaders promise everything to the people to get their votes, but once they get into office, they forget the ones who put them there.”

After Sissoko’s set was complete, Lander took the stage, joined by Schultz, Walsh and Chanoff, where he drew thunderous applause reminding people that this year, with all of its political significance, was also Prospect Park’s 150th anniversary.

Walsh raffled off two round trip tickets to Ethiopia compliments of the evening’s sponsor, Ethiopia Airlines, and then it was time to hear Youssou N’Dour.

A light rain had begun to fall as the Senegalese superstar began his set, but no one seemed to mind. The audience held their ground, transfixed and appearing utterly delighted at the culmination of another season of great culture held sway over Gotham’s most populous borough. 

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