Markham and Mayfield. Courtesy WWOZ.

Who Do You Love?

With the revolution busting men for sexually harassing women, the question has been asked: How do you love someone who’s done something really bad? I imagine this question is considered by everyone who’s had a kid who may turn out not so well (having and raising a child is an investment of your time, love, money, after all, as a parent). This may be a bit extreme, but Jeffrey Dahmer’s father professed his love for his son even after he’d been convicted of totally horrific crimes. They’re your kid, after all. They weren’t always a serial killer, right?

What about Sarah Silverman’s statement about Louis CK?“I love Louie,” she said, “but Louie did these things. Both of those statements are true. So, I just keep asking myself, can you love someone who did bad things? Can you still love them? I can mull that over later, certainly, because the only people that matter right now are the victims. They are victims, and they’re victims because of something he did.”

The fact is that there are multitudes of people who have done bad things and abused others in some pretty nasty ways. Does their bad behavior cancel out our appreciation of their talent and their vision? All of these men, for example, were known to have abused women emotionally or sexually in some way: Albert Einstein, Miles Davis , Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Bill Clinton, James Brown, John Lennon, Chuck Berry…the list is very, very long (growing daily, and historically).

And then we come to people who have a vision for good, but who have broken laws in making their vision come true. I’m referring to Irvin Mayfield and Ronald Markham because I believe that had a vision and that they meant to do good things for the community.

I distinctly remember when Mayfield and Markham created the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra in 2002. Markham came to my office and told me about a vision of creating a homegrown orchestra that would consist of Mayfield as leader and the cream of the crop of New Orleans jazz musicians. The concept was modeled after Wynton Marsalis’s Jazz at Lincoln Center (Mayfield admired Marsalis and wanted to emulate his successes).

I loved the idea but cautioned Markham that setting up something like this would be difficult to sustain monetarily, because while the idea is wonderful, there probably weren’t enough financial sponsors in New Orleans to create and maintain it.  Support of a jazz orchestra at that time (2002) wasn’t top-of-mind for the sponsors of non-profit endeavors.

But Markham was very optimistic that they could make a go of it. I pledged OffBeat’s support in their endeavors.

Both Mayfield and Markham were tight with then-mayor Ray Nagin, and had found a way to tap into a deep well of money  http://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/entertainment_life/music/article_d17ea608-e50f-11e7-8135-4b70bebbbdea.html  (the Wisner Foundation, which the Mayor of New Orleans controls) to finance NOJO.

When Nagin left office, the money well dried up, but Mayfield/Markham by that time had used their combined talent, good looks and charm, and intelligence and quick wits to figure out how to wiggle their (and NOJO’s) way into the top echelon of New Orleans sponsor/funders who were apparently blinded by the glamour and cachet of music—and the guys themselves. Mayfield and Markham cultivated the crème de la crème of board members, most notably Ron Forman of the Audubon Institute,  who formed the board of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. They also engineered a board friendly to their financial machinations at the New Orleans Public Library Foundation, one of whom was Ron Forman’s son. There’s a lot more to this story, but it most probably will not end well for Mayfield and Markham. There are 19 serious counts in the indictment that was handed down by a federal grand jury.

These guys are in deep trouble. There was a vision, but they got sucked into the idea that their vision also came with a lot of money for them personally. Just dumb. And sad for them and their families.

It’s generally agreed that hubris,  arrogance and the creation of an upscale lifestyle for both of them men put them where they are today. What bothers me the most is that they had a beautiful vision for the New Orleans Jazz Market and the Jazz Market that’s been sullied by the methods in which they created it. The NOJO is still operating, but struggling mightily. The Jazz Market’s major sponsor Peoples Health pulled their name off the Jazz Market. Will these institutions be able to continue and thrive? I certainly hope they do. They deserve our support—without Mayfield and Markham.

Can we continue to love and support the concept, the vision of Mayfield and Markham’s fertile brains? They meant to do something good for music and musicians, but let their egos and screw up a really good thing for them, for music and the city. They are to be pitied.