Acclaimed recording artist Oleta Adams remembers seeing commercials for Ajax laundry detergent as a child in which a knight on a white horse sweeps into the homes of apron-clad but iron-fisted women to help them with their household chores.
This colorful vision of “Coming to the Rescue” of people in need is much more than an ad campaign or fairy tale to this chart-topping gospel, soul and jazz singer. It is the inspiration that runs throughout her rendition of “Get Here,” the chart-topping Brenda Russell song that became the unofficial anthem of the Gulf War in the early Nineties – an ode to fighting soldiers and the families they left behind.
“The worst thing that can ever happen to people is to feel that there’s no hope,” Oleta says. “For the people of Haïti, life practically stopped. There are many stories where people have been in hopeless situations but they clung to something deep inside them that made them feel there’s a miracle or a change coming.”
Providing that feeling that normalcy can be restored is central to the message she’ll convey when she comes to Brooklyn and performs her classic hit “Get Here,” at the second annual “Hope and A Future” Benefit Concert for Haïti.
Presented by Community2Community (C2C), the eclectic, Haitian relief showcase takes place Friday, Jan. 13 at Walt Whitman Theatre located at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College.
Interestingly, at the time the 7.0 magnitude quake that claimed 300,000 lives and left more than one million homeless in Haïti hit, Oleta Adams was in what was to become another crisis-ridden country with her husband, drummer John Cuson. “We were in Japan when we saw the news on television. We felt terribly far away and at the same time it still touched us all. Especially when you’re away from home, you feel it even more and imagine what it must mean to people to go back to nothing?”
Currently, Oleta and her husband live just a few hours from Joplin Missouri, which in May of 2011, was devastated by a powerful tornado. Additionally, she was in L.A. during the Northridge earthquake of 1994. These experiences have taught her to appreciate life and resonate with her every time she hears the emergency test sirens go off in her neighborhood or sees pictures of people whose lives have been turned upside down in a matter of minutes by natural disaster.
“It is times like these that community becomes even more important,” said Ms. Adams. And that is exactly the premise behind C2C, the non-profit service organization established to create a self-sufficient Haïti in the wake of the Jan. 12, 2010 disaster by partnering with a task force on the ground to effect lasting change – one community helping to heal another.
Since its inaugural event at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, N.Y. on Jan. 12, 2011, the “Hope and A Future” Benefit Concert for Haïti has become New York City’s prime event commemorating the tragic earthquake and the promise of a healed nation.
Along with Ms. Adams, this year’s celebration of Haitian resiliency will also feature Haitian Kompa sensation Carimi and include performances by James “D-Train” Williams, Adante, Barbara King, CCC Mass Choir, Coalition, Concilio Taino Guatu-Ma-cu, Francine Ott/The Walk, Jean Chardavoine, Jocelyne Dorisme, Mavrick, Mecca, Monvelyno Alexis, Mozayik, Wanda Nash, and Wisdom, interspersed with vignettes spotlighting Haiti’s culture and history.
Courtesy Keith L.Forest