Program Notes

That nasty man Luther "Luke" Campbell has been working hard on behalf of the Liberty City Optimist Club. The effort includes a big celebrity golf tournament this weekend (see "The Calendar" listings). The other night I watched a Frontline documentary called A Kid Kills, which concerned hard life and quick death in a ghetto outside Boston. At one point producer/reporter June Cross allowed the kids to take over the film, and what the youngsters focused the camera on was the unusable condition of the local gym. If the kids have no place to play organized sports, aren't they mighty likely to stray in other directions, to crack alley, to holding heat and running colors, and, of course, to getting killed before they're old enough to vote? I don't know.

"If this was just to keep kids off the streets," says Liberty City Optimist president Samuel K. Johnson, "I would have stopped participating. Eventually they won't be little kids any more. We have to help them build their decision-making process so they can make the right choices in life. You can't put it on these kids. You can't put it on them. These kids are born into hellish conditions." That spins my theory, and sounds very nice and all, but words aren't reality.

Reality is a ten-year-old kid who weighs 200 pounds and quits playing little league because the others deride him, call him Fat Boy. Reality is Sam Johnson going to that overweight boy's grandparents' home and telling that child, "Hold your head up. Carry yourself with pride. Then they'll call you Big Boy - out of respect." Reality is two years later, a tournament game, Big Boy ripping his first over-the-fence home run. "To see his facial expression," Johnson says, "was the pay for all the work."

During the day Johnson drives a bus for the county. Five years ago he started out with nine youngsters - a baseball team. Two years ago he met the evil Luther Campbell, who decided to sponsor baseball teams and help kick off a football program. In October of 1990 the operation moved under the Optimist umbrella. The first Optimist-sanctioned event was not a baseball, football, or basketball game. It was an oratorical essay contest. "Not all kids want to play sports," Johnson notes. "This is about helping them develop to adulthood - self-discipline, respect, what they need to survive in this world. Eventually they'll be the Greg Bakers calling me for a newspaper quote." (C'mon, Sam, they can do better than that.)

"Look at the majority of our kids in this community," Johnson, who lives in Liberty City, continues. "They don't have the resources or the strong family structure. Some are abandoned even though they're up under the roof. There are parents that don't come to a game, while their child is out there doing his best. And there also are good hard-core parents who come to all the games and functions. Someone in Luke's position who takes time to reach back is more than just helpful financially. He presents a good image for some of these young kids. You help try to put something back in. Put this in your story: The call is out to everyone in the community - business, religious, grassroots - to find some way to give support. And those outside the community need to realize that what goes on here affects the whole city. It takes dollars and manpower. Give me one hour or two hours out of the week and I'll find plenty for you to do. With 500 kids, you have to have resources. I'm a working person, and I know $100 can hurt to give. But put that against a kid getting caught up with the wrong crowd. It's nothing but a penny when that kid winds up dead."

For the records: Reggae stalwart Bigga is back, bigga than ever, with his new album Riding the Wave, fronted by a single featuring "Sealed with a Kiss," an upbeat summer scorcher that features contributions from master DJ Papa San and Latino rapper Mangu. Human Oddities celebrate their new release, the four-song seven-inch The Earth Will Shake, at Yesterday & Today's Bird Road outlet Saturday at 4:00 p.m. They'll be joined by Eclipse.

After experiencing Marianne Flemming solo, we had the chance to catch her with full band not long ago. Awesome. But it also raised an interesting debate: Better on her own or with band? I don't know. Either way, I recommend that you check out an interview with the guitar-slinging songstress at 2:00 p.m. Saturday on WLRN-FM (91.3) and go see her (with full band) that night at theIsland Club.

You can do so many things at Spec's. Including register to vote. Every Saturday through July 25, Spec's employees (duly deputized) will gladly sign you up for the democratic process. Now you can do just about everything at Spec's - except, of course, buy vinyl recordings.

A few welcome visitors passing through this week: Buckwheat Zydeco, fresh from blowing 'em out on Dave Letterman's teevy show and touring behind a fine new album called On Track, plays at the Musicians Exchange on Friday and Saturday. And Widespread Panic, which I assure you is not the metal band their name suggests, brings some bluesy rockin' to Washington Square on Saturday. Alien Sex Fiend gets weird at the Reunion Room on Friday.

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