Standing on the corner of 139th Street and Lenox Avenue on the 5th of September 1969 at midnight would have been to bear witness to the maturation of a musician, still only at the age of 26. Jimi was engaging with the world around him, with the injustices and grievances of a nation beginning to find its voice for the 20th Century and beyond. His disbelief at the horrific effects of the Vietnam War on a generation almost a decade younger than even himself was becoming a feature of his performances, and mirrored the disillusionment of his home nation. All of this is summed up by his defining take on the Star Spangled Banner, a version whose plummeting, dissonant guitar nosedives sound just as relevant today as they did at its inception.
Real change never comes about through good intention alone, and it was this gig that represented Jimi’s acknowledgement of that. He was just beginning to add his voice to the growing discontent with the racist agenda of the US and beyond, and it is a deep tragedy that he was taken from the world at such a pivotal moment in his life. It deprived the world of a man who, had he been alive today, would surely have appreciated the cultural movements regaining force today. It is to do justice to the lives of Jimi and all of those in attendance at the Harlem Street Fair that we support the fundamental truth that Black Lives Matter, and endorse their contribution to ensuring that progress is never allowed to stand still.