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Oneida Nation promotes racial unity with pre-Grammy celebration

LOS ANGELES - For the second consecutive year, the Oneida Indian Nation hosted an event celebrating racial diversity in the music industry in celebration of the 46th Annual GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 7. Members of Black Eagle, the popular drum group (who one night later went on to win the GRAMMY for "Best Native American Music Album - Vocal or Instrumental" for their CD "Flying Free") were the special guest performers of the evening. Featuring an impressive lineup including an all-star "house band," the event benefited Oneness, a non-profit organization whose goal is to eliminate racism and promote racial unity through music, the arts and education.

Held at the hip music venue Platinum Live in Los Angeles, the exclusive VIP evening saw numerous award-winning artists take the stage. Star Nayea jumpstarted the jubilant spirit of the more than 600 party-goers with a set reflecting her eclectic and contemporary repertoire. The multi-talented Star was featured as a guest vocalist on Robbie Robertson's 1997 GRAMMY-nominated album "Contact from the Underworld of Redboy." She has also performed at the Annual Native American Music Awards, the Sundance Film Festival, the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and at the American Indian Film Festival.

Next up was Freddie Ravel, who serves as head of the Los Angeles office of the Latin GRAMMYs and is a world-renowned composer and pianist with multiple number one hits who has performed with such artists as Earth, Wind & Fire, Quincy Jones, The Boston Pops and Madonna.

Certainly one of the highlights of the evening was the thunderous reception for the 18 member drum group Black Eagle, which hales from the Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico. It proved to be a harbinger of greater accolades as the group went on to win the Grammy the very next day.

The evening was capped by special performances by Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan, and 11-time Grammy nominee Alan Parsons, who wowed the crowd with both old-time favorites and newer material.

At the center of all the merriment was a more serious commitment on the part of the Oneida Nation to support all efforts to halt racism in the music industry. To that end, the Oneidas chose Oneness as their beneficiary for the evening. The founders of Oneness ( had the vision that a song could make a difference. That vision has evolved into an organization comprised of some of today's most talented entertainers, businesspeople, and activists - all inspired by the mutual belief that music and the arts can provide a key to effectively fighting racism and promoting racial unity. Their vision is being realized through the efforts of their supporters, which include some of today's hottest artists including Carlos Santana, Ricky Martin, Patti Labelle, Brian McKnight, Chaka Khan, Sarah McLachlan, B.B. King, Macy Gray, and a host of industry professionals - producers, recording industry officials, attorneys, songwriters, managers, and recording label executives. Oneness board member K.C. Porter, one of the most prolific producers/musicians in the business, played in the house band.

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Another special guest was Grammy winning producer/

musician and SOAR Records president Tom Bee.

In presenting the $10,000 check to Oneness, Chuck Fougnier, chairman of the Oneida Nation Foundation Board and Wolf Clan Representative to the Oneida Nation Men's Council, said, "The Oneida Indian Nation is proud to sponsor tonight's event and pleased to join Oneness to promote racial unity through the arts. We're firmly committed to bringing about an America that truly embraces its diversity

of cultures."

Dennis Stafford of Oneness added "We at Oneness believe that fighting racism in all its forms is among America's most vital and challenging issues. Through events such as this, Oneness seeks to inspire more embracing of Native artists by the music and arts communities, as well as by society as a whole. Furthermore, any efforts to address racism, in the entertainment industry or our country, are by definition incomplete until we address racism against the continent's 'First Americans.' Through celebrating the majesty and beauty of Native music and artists, we open windows of understanding into the souls of those in the entertainment industry and America as a whole."

AFM Advertising's Ken Rose produced the evening and co-wrote a new song, "Circle," with Freddie Ravel, which served as the centerpiece of a rousing and emotional finale with all the evening's artists participating.

Event sponsors included Four Seasons Hotels, SOAR Records, Millimeter Magazine, AFM Advertising, Hypnotiq, Obie's Cookies and Element 18.