Center City Jazz Festival Receives Homophobic Email After Inviting Martha Graham Cracker to Perform [UPDATED]

The Joey Harrison Group believes "faggot drag queens" should have no place in a jazz festival.

The term “inappropriate” has been bandied around the Martha Graham Cracker (pictured) camp quite a bit this year. In February, officials at an after-school program in New Jersey disinvited the Philly cabaret drag queen from a Dr. Seuss reading at their school because they deemed her “too inappropriate” for kids. And just when the dust is beginning to settle from that rigamarole, she’s now being told she’s inappropriate for jazz, too. But this time another word is being tossed into the mix — and it ain’t one bit pretty.

Center City Jazz Festival creator Ernest Stuart forwarded me an email sent to him from the Joey Harrison Group in response to his decision to include Martha in the lineup at this year’s festival. The subject line reads, “No fags in Jazz (Black American Music),” and the text goes on to say:

Really, A faggot drag queen at a Jazz festival. You are disrespecting your ancestors!

There was no signature in the email except that it was sent from “www.joeyharrisongroup.com,” but there appears to only be one active user on www.joeyharrisongroup.com: Joseph Harrison. His bio describes him as a percussion instructor and performer who “currently serves as the Director of the Children’s Choir at New Canaan Baptist Church” in Germantown. The homepage laughably claims that the site is “dedicated to promoting positive energy through good vibrations and thought-provoking commentary,” but there’s nothing positive or thought-provoking about bigotry, Mr. Harrison. It’s downright simple and vile.

Stuart concurs: “That’s just wrong on many levels. It’s almost difficult to know where to even begin with it all.” He invited Martha to play at this year’s festival after he played trombone in one of her performances. “As a straight male, I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant to get on stage with a drag queen, but the moment I got there I couldn’t stop laughing until I left. Martha has the most entertaining show in Philadelphia and she’s one of the most talented entertainers I’ve seen in the city. I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to showcase that talent at the Jazz Festival and I stand by that decision.”

Now let’s address this whole “disrespecting your ancestors” nonsense. Get out your pen and paper, Mr. Harrison:

“I would challenge this guy to play a song that wasn’t created by a gay composer,” Stuart says. “I’m not saying all composers in jazz are gay, but the most prominent ones are: Billy Strayhorn worked side by side with Duke Ellington. He’s one of the greatest American composers. Period. You have music coming from Cole Porter. How many times have you heard the Cole Porter Song Book or jazz musicians playing Cole Porter songs? You have Billie Holiday, who slept with men and women. And there was Tony Jackson, a pianist in New Orleans around the turn of the century. He was a mentor to Jelly Roll Morton, one of the forefathers of this music. Jelly Roll — who was very egotistical and often claimed to have founded jazz — would often admit that there was one person better than him and that was Tony Jackson.”

Stuart says this email from Harrison is the only complaint he’s received about Martha’s performance. “I’ve been getting emails from people who want to see that show. The manager of Time [the restaurant where she’ll be playing] even said thank you, because he knows it will be amazing. … I’m not sure where [Harrison’s] ignorance begins. It’s unbelievable. I think it definitely needs to be addressed.”

Agreed. I reached out to Joey Harrison via email but he has yet to respond. Stay tuned to G Philly for any updates.

The second-annual Center City Jazz Festival takes place Fri., May 10 to Sat., May 11. Martha’s extremely appropriate performance will be at Time Restaurant on Saturday at 4:50 p.m. For more info, check out ccjazzfest.com.

UPDATED [9:13 a.m., 5/8/2013]: Joe Harrison apologizes for “irresponsible, unkind and simply wrong” email. More details here.

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