It’s incredible what music can do for humanity. It has the unique and unwavering ability to uplift and enlighten and create a strong bond between total strangers, uniting people from totally different parts of the world who may have never have met or become friends otherwise. The more I travel, the more that I see that it’s consistently true, and it amazes me every time I see it. The power of the bond that music creates can span generations and continents, and it’s something that I adore documenting. The next two blog posts will be based on some incredible times recently had in New York City surrounding the memorial of one of my all-time favorite musicians and humanitarians, Adam “MCA” Yauch of the Beastie Boys, a major catalyst of this musical bond that I so love to document. I am so honored to be able to present the following content.
If you are a regular follower of my blog you’ll know that last year when Yauch passed, it hit me and so many close friends pretty hard. It felt like the end of an institution, the end of our childhoods and put a ton of things into perspective. It feels like it’s “grown up time” now, and we must remember that while we are here today, we are not guaranteed tomorrow. We have to make the best of right now.
On Friday, May 3rd, 2013, I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing a New York City park officially be christened “Adam Yauch Park.”
Walking through Brooklyn with a giant boombox blasting Bboys around 9:30am you’d think people would yell at you to turn it down. Yet, nobody did. Folks getting up and on their way to work or maybe doing some morning gardening actually turned and smiled or gave us the thumbs up. This city remembers and loves the BBoys. It was awesome to see.
Mike Kearney, the organizer of 2012’s MCA Day in Union Square Park, Nicole “Mah Dukes” Waters-Minervino and I have been hard at work over the past year to plan a second MCA Day, with the help of a team of very dedicated volunteers from around the world. We started to call our little team “Three the Hard Way” because there’s nothing that’s really more ridiculous than planning an NYC event from Boston, MA, Trenton, NJ, and West Orange, NJ. It was kind of like planning something through triangle of transportation and childcare conundrums and a lot of late night skype sessions that eventually turned into blurs. The important thing is, we made it happen.
MCA Day was scheduled to be held on May 4, 2013, on the actual year anniversary of Yauch’s passing, to help give fans and friends a physical space to come together to celebrate and heal and spend the day smiling and not feeling sad. Everything came together beautifully, and by the time the start of May arrived, it seemed all was on schedule.
Of course, in typical Beastie fashion, (they always keep us guessing) you have to be ready at a moment’s notice to jump on something really cool. Well, the park dedication ceremony was no exception. I’d heard that family and friends were working on a memorial for Yauch, but all had been silent in the past year. I had a feeling it would happen, it was just a question of when.
Around May 1 the announcement came that Palmetto Playground would be renamed in Yauch’s honor, with a naming ceremony to be held the day before our event on Friday, May 3, 2013. It was a quick announcement and it meant that all of my planning deadlines had gone out the window: I needed to be in NYC well before 5/4 if I wanted to be able to attend the ceremony. Guess what – I needed to make that happen.
If there’s ONE thing that I will forever take away from my involvement in helping to plan MCA Day it’s that when you look at the big picture and see what NEEDS to get done, all the silly minutiae – that up until that very second had you completely tied up – just fades away and you clearly see the road through. Prioritize, make moves, delegate and CROSS. IT. OFF.
I’m still so excited about this because it’s not every day that someone gets a New York City park named after them. This is something special. A Brooklyn kid from the start, Yauch actually grew up playing in this park, just a few blocks from where he grew up. This small green space on Columbia Place and State Street provided safe open space for a young Yauch to play basketball, dream big and even learn to ride a bike, according to his parents. Even today, the park is bustling with kiddos, climbing, swinging and sliding on the playground equipment and shooting hoops. There’s a community garden, a greenhouse, and a dog run. I could see that this park would be an appropriate fit for the cause and to top it all off, what an absolutely lovely day it was.
The seats near the ceremony site were nearly filled when we arrived, and Mike, Nicole and I started to connect with some folks we know. Hugs were exchanged and we watched as an army of cameras rolled in. In this tiny park a crowd of probably more than 250 gathered to watch the dedication. Throughout the ceremony the sun shone warmly as I looked around at the people in attendance. All walks of life, all ages.
All lifestyles, size, shapes and forms…
Again this band brought people together. Albeit together to remember of the passing of an innovator, philanthropist and humanitarian, but together nonetheless.
Upon arriving at the park, I met our new friend René from Germany. Before now, he’d never been outside of Europe. He was in NYC for a four day trip, for the park renaming and for MCA DAY. He flew to New York, away from his wife and two small kids for his first trip outside of Europe, all with his first and ONLY Beastie Boys concert ticket in his wallet from 1999. He told me in no uncertain terms that once he heard about it, he HAD to be a part of this and that his four and a half year old knows very little English right now, but the English she DOES is know Mike D’s verse from “Here’s a little Something For Ya” on Hot Sauce Committee Part II:
Slip off my lows in the place to be
Always on time so I never botch
The tick to the tock of the Mike D watch
I mean that just blows my mind. René fit right in.
Brooklyn Borough and Parks officials took to the mic as the ceremony began and spoke briefly about what this kind of park means to the city and to the borough, and Borough President Marty Markowitz made up his own verses to the Beasties’ “An Open Letter to NYC” from their 2004 record To the 5 Boroughs -
We’re doing fine on the 4 and 5 line,
On the L we’re doing swell,
On the G it’s where to be
Named by GQ coolest city on the planet
Home of the Nets who slam it
Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin, black and white
Brooklyn. You do it just right.
I must admit, it was entertaining. It was like your uncle Marty rapping at family holiday dinners. Completely adorable.
See a video of his remarks here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFNTxUxfF4c
John Silva of Silva Artist Management – the Beasties’ longtime manager – spoke on what it meant to be a part of the Beasties crew throughout their long-standing career and stated:
“Adam brought a sense of joy and playfulness to his work—and to our lives. This park will foster future generations of artists like Adam.”
Finally Adam “AdRock” Horovitz stood and spoke about his bandmate and friend. He immediately began by thanking his sister, Rachel, who was instrumental in making this park become a reality, and spoke eloquently on Yauch and the significance of a place like this for young people growing up in New York.
I’m awful at summarizing and AdRock spoke so well, I wanted to be sure to include his complete speech.
“Seeing Marty Markowitz rap – it was great, but not as great as Adam’s parents rapping at Adam and Dechen’s wedding. If you were at the wedding, you know that was pretty great.
I want to thank first the fine people for everything today, everybody from the Parks Department, Adrian Benepe, John Silva, Frances Yauch, Steve Levin; but most of all I want to thank my sister Rachel. She really made this happen, and now she’s gonna make me cry.
It’s fitting that we’re here today to dedicate a playground to Adam Yauch because like the Wu-Tang Clan, Beastie Boys is for the children. I was trying to think of what to say today, and I was thinking what it means to be a New York kid: People come to New York to be themselves, to express themselves and to be who they want to be. And although Adam’s mom Frances is a New York kid herself, his father Noel came to New York to be himself. And together they raised a New York kid, Adam Yauch, and Noel and Frances raised him right. They taught Adam to be curious, thoughtful, kind and just enough crazy – that craziness that is New York. That New York frenetic energy: It’s musical, artful and always moving forward. And that’s not only Brooklyn, that’s Adam Yauch. And Adam and his wife Dechen raised a daughter Losel, a New York kid that’s equally talented, curious and utterly awesome. In life you don’t really get to chose your family, your siblings – you get what you’re given. I got lucky cause I got two great sisters and two great brothers, but I got extra lucky because around 1982, I got the chance to choose two other brothers: Mike Diamond and Adam Yauch. And together our families have grown. I’d like to thank the New York Parks Department and the people of Brooklyn for honoring my friend and brother, and recognizing how cool it is to have an Adam Yauch park for other crazy New York kids.”
After AdRock finished, Adam’s mother Frances Yauch took the podium while his dad Noel remained seated. To the ever-growing crowd she spoke with a proud smile about how she and Noel infused Adam’s life with music from the very beginning. Although he went through many different tastes and phases throughout his life, she considered it a success that music was always a big part of his life.
“To our utter astonishment, Adam and the Beastie Boys were famous. [...] We were so proud of the way Adam used his celebrity to fight for the Tibetan people and for fighting injustice.”
She continued on to express her pride in her son’s achievements and in his ability to help people in need, as well as gave thanks for her daughter in law and grandchild.
Unfortunately her speech was hard to hear at times due to the traffic on the nearby highway, but if you listen carefully you can hear her in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugntEoSkYrE
As the officials and family gathered around the new park plaque to officially unveil it for the first time, the cameras went crazy and everyone applauded. The media made a dash for AdRock and Yauch’s parents, and I sort of meandered around in the background, just observing. I was so glad to be there and so happy that this came together for the family and for the fans, and generally didn’t want to be in the way. I saw a lot more hugging and laughing and it was just such a perfect day, I can’t help but think some kind of astrological hornblower was looking out for us.
After the ceremony ended the large crowd dissipated and there were only a few folks left hanging around. The media followed Mike, Nicole and I around a bit while we had some fun taking photos with the park plaque and the Beastie caddy that was idling just outside the park, but soon it was quiet again, just like it had been that morning before the ceremony started.
Here’s a little taste of our goofiness.
On our way out of the park, we ran into this awesome little guy in a Beatles tee shirt who wanted nothing more than to dance to our big boombox. I asked him if he liked the Beastie Boys and he jumped and screamed with a smile “I LOVE THE BEASTIE BOYS!!”
He set the dance tempo, which, of course, was slow and low… he was only about two and a half feet tall… but he kept us all in check. Before we left, he and Mike were high-fiving outside of Yauch Park. Seems to me little man found the right park to play in.
And what trip to NYC would be complete without an official Three the Hard Way photoshoot? We decided that we wanted to give a little shout out to Glen E. Friedman’s cover shot from Check Your Head but with a brand new flavor. Thanks to Greg Schultz for snapping the two photos that I’m actually IN so I could hold it down in the pics with my team.
WANT MORE PHOTOS? Of course, there are plenty more to see!
Watch a slideshow of my favorite photos from the park naming ceremony:
(Friends… This website is brand new, so please, leave me a comment and let me know what’s easier – the slideshow or the gallery, or do you like both? Tell me what you prefer!)
Next up: MCA DAY 2013! Stay tuned!