On September 4, 2021, LES Creative People In Action (LESCPIA) celebrated their 12th annual free, live, music concert at the legendary outdoor venue off the FDR Drive at Grand Street. Artists featured this year were mellow band lead by Jeanne Ricks, crooner Lester Robinson, theatrical singer Jalyn Johnson and an impromptu treat by her sister Bree Johnson, Latinas Milly Millicent and Gloria bringing their individual vocal flavor, inspirational rappers JR & Coogie, R&B singer and LES legend Norris Barrino, Hip Hop Dancehall Latin rapper El Capitan Ortiz, entertaining rapper/writer/vocalist/dancer Hazel and a treat of a performance by “LES Bands” music supervisor, our own LESCPIA board member, Robbie Mitchell.
The “LES Bands” events at this amphitheater was the second incarnation of this unofficial landmark after being renovated the second time since being built originally in 1941. The site of the first Hip-Hop film, “Wild Style” in 1982, many were saddened to see it demolished by October of 2021 but be of good cheer: the Amphitheater is coming back, more beautiful than ever! LES Creative People In Action were invited to join the Amphitheater Working Group, a division of NYC Department of Design and Construction (NYCDDC), to provide valuable feedback to the committee regarding pertinent usage and utility of the venue, and to inform the committee on crucial needs of the venue. Among them, was insistence on building the canopy, otherwise it would not be an amphitheater! Needless to say, the Mayor’s office committed extra money to finance the building of the cover for the stage and the design, as shared at the NYCDDC and NYC Department of Parks and Recreation presentations, will be an amazing site for visitors as well as beautifying the LES waterfront view from Brooklyn. Anticipated completion of the park – considering the reason for the renovation is to improve the sea walls for future storms and rising tides against the promenade — is scheduled for 2026.
We will all miss talented singer Hector Rivera (2nd from r.), thankful for his talent, enthusiasm and love for music and helping to preserve R&B music and support live musicianship. May God bless him for sharing his creative gifts and that he rest in peace.
As a co-founder of LES Creative People In Action, we also mourned the passing of Michael Steele who we all affectionately knew as “Rocky” (far left). He dedicated his adult life to community work as Rutgers Houses Tenant Association President, and advocating for public housing rights for tenants. He introduced us to the funding resources that helps us to this day. May he also be blessed and rest in peace.
COVID-19 has put society on a new path of living, but hopefully on a temporary basis until health and safety for all is restored. Keep caring for one another by wearing your masks and thoroughly washing your hands!
The Lower East Side Avenue Reunion was held on the first Saturday in August on Aug 1, in East River Park on the FDR Drive at 9th Street headed by organizer Ezell Turner.
The Smith Family Day – usually the 4th Saturday in August – despite the pandemic was still held in the Smith Houses.
Sadly, L.E.S. Bands 12: Lower East Side Showtime2020 had to be cancelled at the Amphitheater in East River Park as issued by NYC Parks & Recreation due to criteria having to use the stage and service road. Rather than put residents, performers and visitors at risk, LES Creative People In Action, Inc. (LESCPIA) decided to postpone their live music concert until 2021. Look forward to an announcement of a new venue while East River Park and the Amphitheater is expected to be closed for renovations throughout selected portions. We appreciate every one of you for attending faithfully and making our events a standout in our neighborhood for over a decade.
The L.E.S. family is devastated by the recent passing of Paul “PJ” Johnson, a dear childhood friend of many of us. He has been a staple of the “LES Bands” events as a spectator and performed twice: in the reunion of Boyz N Girls R&B/Funk band and later in the jazz band Mo’Jazz Network. Paul has left an indelible mark on all of us not only as a caring man for the people he considered ‘family,’ but truly an amazing brother, uncle, father and grandfather. He leaves a legacy of being one of the standout role models from our community and one of the smartest, talented musicians out of LaGuardia Houses. Whether playing drums, congas, steel drums, or having a great eye for talent, offering advice, connections, or managing artists, PJ dedicated himself to creating many opportunities for others with ease. Our hearts ache as he will be terribly missed. May Paul rest in peace in the Arms of the Most High.
The live, free, music concert known as LES Bands 11: Lower East Side Showtime presented by LES Creative People In Action, Inc. (LESCPIA) took place for the last time at the Amphitheater in East River Park on September 7, 2019. The artists again represented a wonderful variety of talent from LES favorites Chazz, to teenager Joseph McBain, hip hop singers McGruff & Patrick, guest rapper Troubled Mal, former LESCPIA intern turned artist RickySmithNow, seasoned pop band Nfinity and for a return play, hot R&B band The Mighty Kamm.
Special moments included presenting plaques to well-deserved recipients. LESCPIA dedicated a segment called “Salute to the LES DJ Legends” awarding pioneering DJs Ice and Spanky, DJ Hank, DJ Sammy Sam and posthumously DJ Apache and DJ Lenny Patterson. Apache’s wife Cathy and Lenny’s brother Clifford accepted on their behalf. As part of the presentation, the Boogie Down Boys, a dancing troupe known in Times Square, choreographed routines to classic jams known to be played by these veterans decades ago.
In addition to awarding the DJs, a welcome surprise came when legendary recording artists and New York City heartthrobs BLACK IVORY [!] stopped by to introduce The Mighty Kamm Band, who back them up during their live shows. Unknown to them, with much help from LES own Eric Young from the band, requested the surprise for Black Ivory’s 50th Anniversary and LESCPIA obliged happily! It was an honor to recognize the important contributions by the trio of Leroy Burgess, Russell Patterson and StuartBascombe for their classic 70s Romantic Soul songs. “Don’t Turn Around,” “You & I,” “Spinning Around,” “Baby Won’t You Change Your Mind,” and even a smash disco anthem “Mainline,” will always be part of our musical, cultural history. Hopefully they can grace our stage at a future “LES Bands” concert.
If you know George Escalante, originally from Rutgers Houses and formerly a counselor for Lower East Side youth, is now a social worker specializing in innovative re-entry programs helping those released from correctional facilities. However, feeding his passion for Hip Hop, he also is a podcast producer and co-host of a live show called “Sound Minds.” Airing live on Sundays at 7:00pm, he (known as “Liteskin”), along with a few co-hosts discuss topics rooted in hip hop and its many cultural elements. It is refreshing to hear these young men intelligently take their culture to heart as relates to their generation. Their second season ends at end of this month, but the shows are posted on You Tube after the live podcasts which can be viewed on their website SoundMindshiphop.com or check out the last couple of live episodes on Instagram at realliteskin123.