For over 40 years, the District has welcomed the purple haze out of which Prince appeared. We’ve looked to the skies as a spaceship of funk slowly landed, driven by George Clinton and his wacky soldiers. We’ve even experienced the “wonder” of that super-talented blind boy from Michigan, Stevie Wonder. And we’ve gathered on the lawn with picnic baskets and spirits in Anacostia Park, waiting for the sun to go down so that families could safely groove to the tunes of Chuck Brown, Roberta Flack and Gil Scott-Heron.
And we have two people, in particular, to thank for those many moments of “summer madness” — Darryll Brooks and Carol Kirkendall — an unlikely duo who have taken the concept of concert promotion to new heights. And while they’ve changed the name of their company several times, they’ve never abandoned their goal of bringing the best possible entertainment to the greater Washington area in spaces that are safe, accommodating and family friendly.
Now, more than four decades later, they exist under the banner of C D Enterprises, tantalizing us with their annual Summer Spirit Festival each August. And they make sure that all kinds of musical genres make their way to the stage from Go-Go and hip-hop to old-school funk and R&B.
We wanted to know how this twosome, these hardworking “pied pipers” of funk, soul and a whole lot more found their way and what continues to keep them going. Here’s what they and their team had to say.
Washington Informer: Why did you develop and promote Human Kindness Day? What impact you feel it had on the community in Southeast? Given the inequities faced by those who live in Southeast, do you think that it’s time to revive the Day or offer something similar?
Brooks/Kirkendall: “Human Kindness Day” evolved from the goals desired and mandated by COMPARED TO WHAT? Inc. (“CTW?”), a community arts/education organization developed after the riots to help meet community needs that could be exposed and addressed through the arts. CTW?’s founders included Les McCann, Lloyd McNeil, Tony Taylor, Darryll Brooks, Maceo Leatherwood, Carol Kirkendall and others dedicated to change. Vantile Whitfield, newly-appointed “Arts Administrator” at the NEA, was deeply involved with the founding members to create new avenues for artists, writers and musicians to develop outlets for young people through the schools and new potential outlets.”
“The Sheet,” a monthly publication, featuring works by area artists, poets and painters, was the first program developed. It was followed by Human Kindness Day, a monthlong celebration that culminated with a day of celebration and events. The celebration opened with art and writing contests involving the school system (grades 7-12), focusing on the meaning of Human Kindness. Winners received certificates at the close of the Human Kindness Day celebration at the Monument Grounds — a day that included a prayer breakfast, a run through the city, performances of national and local artists on the Monument Grounds (including Roberta Flack, Dick Gregory, Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder), a one-hour television show on WJLA (Ch. 7) and a civil rights exhibit at the Smithsonian.”
“In conjunction with the first Human Kindness Day in 1972, the NEA accepted the “Summer Hut” proposal which brought area artists and artisans along with several hundred school children who were bused in daily by the DC Public Schools and provided lunch donated by McDonald’s. The first site was Anacostia Park in Southeast — a site chosen by the Mayor’s office, the Recreational Department and the DC Arts Commission.”
“The Summer Hut program ran daily for six weeks each summer and, upon the request of the community, was augmented with evening concerts featuring local talent. Nightly attendance averaged 10,000 people of all ages. And there was never an incident that required outside involvement. The Summer Hut was a great success and continued to expand at the request of the Park Service to other park sites, lasting until 1975 before being replaced the following year by bicentennial events that did not involve the communities to whom we were dedicated.”
WI: Summer concerts have become quite commonplace today in cities throughout the U.S. but they were not as frequent during the ’70s. Were your initiatives used as a blueprint for those summer concerts that have since followed?
Brooks/Kirkendall: “We feel strongly that the model we created in Anacostia and on the Monument Grounds was the blueprint for future events. But, we wish that “future” events had a stronger educational/arts component.
WI: Looking at this summer’s upcoming concert, how did you get entertainers of the caliber of Erykah Badu to come aboard?
Brooks/Kirkendall: Our relationship with artists like Erykah Badu started in the early days of their careers. We are grateful that many major artists keep us involved.
WI: If you had to identify the artists with whom you have worked and brought to D.C. that had the most impact on you and those who attended the concert, who would they be?
Brooks/Kirkendall: Stevie Wonder, Chuck Brown, George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic, all area Go-Go acts, Herby Azor-produced acts — Salt N Pepa, Kid N Play, etc.; Prince and of course, Erykah Badu.
And so, there you have it readers — the real deal behind these super-powered concert promoters — veterans in the industry who remain committed to the D.C. community.
We’ll be front and center this summer when Sister Badu and others roll into town at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in early August. We hope to see you there for a two-day concert that will knock your socks off, thanks to the hard work of the co-directors of C D Enterprises, Inc. — Carol Kirkendall and Darryll Brooks — two self-avowed “senior citizens.”