Rivertown Film sponsored a tribute to local legend and filmmaker, musician, Sam Waymon on Saturday, February 16. Sam's history in Nyack dates back to 1973 when he played the role of a preacher and composed the music for "Ganja & Hess", produced by another Nyack resident Chiz Schultz and directed by Bill Gunn who lived in Nyack at the time. It was filmed in Nyack Center with members of the congregation at that time playing roles, including Pastor Alston, a current Nyack resident. The film was cut up in the US, but preserved by MOMA and is now available intact again.
Clips from this film as well as other films in which Sam Waymon played a role either as actor or music composer were "Weeds" and "Philadelphia" directed by Jonathan Demme.
Assemblywoman, Ellen Jaffee and Chairwoman of the Rockland County Legislature, Harriet Cornell presented proclamations to Sam and read them aloud on the stage. Honorable Cornell declared February 16, 2013 "Sam Waymon Day" in Rockland County. Louise Parker, Nyack Village Trustee represented Nyack Mayor, Jen Laird-White and City Council President, Yuhanna Edwards represented the Mayor of Mt. Vernon, Earnest Davis.
Other honored guests included Frances Pratt, president of Nyack NAACP, Orangetown Supervisor, Andy Stewart and RCC president, Cliff Wood. Two directors of theatres in Rockland also attended, William Tucker of "Freedom Summer" and Patrick Vitale, director of The Tappan Players at the Manse in Tappan where Sam has performed musical scores.
The noted author, Randall Grass who wrote "Great Spirits" with a chapter devoted to Nina Simone also attended and signed copies of his book.
Bill Batson, Nyack resident artist/historian interviewed Sam about his history as a resident in Nyack and Mt. Vernon and his years in the civil rights movement with in depth discussion about "Ganja & Hess" in which Chiz Schultz was included in the interview. Mr. Schultz spoke about the filming of "Ganja & Hess" during the '70's as a very early film by Black filmmakers that paved the way for others that followed.
Following the film clips and interview and exploration of his history, Sam's bands, the New School Band (Music Director, Dylan Kelehan), and the Magic Band performed music from these films, Sam's own compositions and songs by Sam's sister, Nina Simone. Two of her compositions were sung by Barbara Cepeda (also the evening MC) and Phyllis Kee. Stephanie Vitale was another vocalist of the evening.
During the performance Sam wore his grandfather's hat, still worn from the years dating back to slavery. A poem about the hat was read by Daryl Brownlee, poet, all representing Black History.