Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Honoring the Life and Work of Danny Schechter

Danny Schechter with daughter Sarah
"He's full of spirit and very expressive", those were the words Danny Schechter's mother, Ruth, wrote when he was still a toddler. Everyone who knew Danny Schechter as a journalist, filmmaker and author, will attest to this early and accurate description in his life: he was always full of spirit and never stopped expressing himself till his untimely death on March 17, 2015.

Last Saturday, June 27 - which was also Danny's birthday - my wife and I attended a celebration of his life in Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. The church was packed with friends and family from around the country and around the world, who had known Danny during one or more of his many chapters in life.

The celebration was kicked off with, for some, a bit of unusual music, the South African National Anthem, honoring Danny's close friendship with that country and his active role in its struggle against Apartheid, and was followed by an impressive number of speakers, such as his younger brother Bill who spoke about their childhood in the Bronx and their colorful family background as grandchildren of Russian immigrant grandparents. Other speakers who followed spoke about his fight for civil rights - from the US civil rights movement to South Africa and beyond -; his unique role at Boston radio station WBCN during the 1970s where he became known as "Danny Schechter, the News Dissector"; his multiple media activities with ABC and CNN, and later on independently as part of Globalvision with his longtime friend and business partner Rory O'Connor; and his role as loving son of his parents and father to his daughter Sarah.

A brief own view of his life was presented in this video, "Danny Schechter - In His Own Words"

In between the tributes, his friend Nenad Bach, a Croatian performer and peace activist, performed the following song, " Everything is Forever"

As I come closer to the end of this post, let me dedicate two memorable songs to Danny Schechter. The first is "Sun City", performed by Artists United Against Apartheid founded by Steven Van Zandt in 1985. Danny Schechter, who had met Van Zandt at that time and became instrumental in the production of "Sun City",  had suggested the song to be different from "We are the World" to be "about change, not charity, freedom, not famine"


Then the last song is "Danny Boy" performed by Roy Orbison, a song Danny had selected to be part of a compilation he created with his musical partner, Polar Levine, in January of this year. This is what he then wrote for this collection:

"When I was diagnosed with a serious cancer in 2014, one of my first purchases was a new turntable to find comfort in some of the music that made up the soundtrack for a life now at risk. I realized how important it was to me.........I wanted to give something back - to my many friends - by sharing some of the many songs that influenced me, kept me dancing and echoed my joy and outrage........These are the tracks of my hope. Danny Schechter, January 2015 "


During this celebration service, two ways to honor Danny Schechter were presented. I call upon readers of this blog, of Danny's books, and followers of his films and other work to consider donating to one or both of these causes to honor his work, his life and his legacy: 

A Civil Right Memorial and History Project at Cornell University
A Civil Rights Memorial at Cornell University to preserve the memory of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman and the commitment of the Cornell students, like Danny, who went south before or during the Freedom Summer in 1964. In addition to the memorial, Danny helped create a fund to provide financial support to students who volunteer to do social justice work.

The Danny Schechter Global Vision Award for Journalism
The Global Center, a non-profit educational foundation dedicated to developing informative and socially responsible media and a new type of journalism in which the reporting of events and conditions is done in conjunction with those most affected by those events, is pleased to announce the creation of an annual award honoring the life and work of the late journalist, filmmaker and “News Dissector” Danny Schechter. The Danny Schechter Global Vision Award for Journalism will be given annually to a reporter who best emulates Schechter's practice of combining journalism with social activism and/or whose work is deserving of greater recognition and wider impact.

In addition to the award itself, which will be announced and promoted each year on or about Schechter's birthday of June 27th, each recipient will receive a  check in the amount of $3000 to support future reporting. Recipients will be chosen by a panel including daughter Sarah Schechter and business partner Rory O'Connor.

An anonymous donor has already contributed $15,000 to ensure that the award is fully funded for its first five years. Those interested in contributing further can make tax-deductible donations to The Global Center, an IRS-certified 501 (c) (3) foundation that is acting as fiscal sponsor for the award.

Checks should be sent to:

The Global Center
PO Box 677
New York, NY 10035

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