Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families

23Sep/151

Celebrating John Coltrane’s 89th Birthday

A small reminder and recognition of one of Coltrane's classic works. By all accounts, and most importantly through his own acknowledgement, Coltrane's music was always in conversation with the times in which he lived.

1964 - John Coltrane - A Love Supreme

22Sep/151

Pausing For a George Duke Moment

George Duke

I really don't have a lot of commentary on this. I used to see George Duke in concert somewhat regularly back in the late 1990's. It was always a treat; frequently with Rachelle Ferrel, Jonathan Butler, and even Al Jarreau on occasion.

His physical presence among us is missed, but the gift of musical expression he shared with us lives on. Below is just a sample of, as well as a small tribute to, his musical influence and legacy.

I hope some of you enjoy...

George Duke - No Rhyme No Reason

George Duke - Dukey Stick (Disco Version)

George Duke Band & Rachelle Ferrel - Welcome to My Love

Rachelle Farrell & George Duke Band - With Every Breath I Take

George Duke, Stanley Clarke - Sweet Baby (Original Video)

George Duke Live

Tribute to George Duke Live at Java Jazz Festival 2014

20Sep/151

Loving the Transformative Power of Gospel Music Since Childhood: Richard Smallwood & ‘Same God’

I grew up actively involved in church - specifically People's Community Church on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. There's so much that I learned throughout those years - about the nature of religion, human psychology, and even more so about the ways in which our people have maintained a level of hope in the possible... throughout the devastating circumstances we've endured throughout our history in this country.

One thing that I always wanted more of, and occasionally found traces of at People's, was a more progressive and even revolutionary message about the potential role of the church in helping African (-American) people understand our place in world history (including the spiritual place of African people and culture in world history), and our potential for transforming the world into one that is healthy and whole, for African people and others. This was a part of the message that undergirded our family's sensibilities about race and religion, and certainly the messages we were exposed to in our home. I continued to search for, and eventually found, these sensibilities and this worldview in a few churches after going off to school at Howard University in Washington, DC.

Notwithstanding these reflections on my early church experience, it's certainly the case that I'll always be indebted to the individuals at People's Community Church, especially the folks there during the 1980's, and as long as my parents continued to remain involved through at least several years ago.

While it's true that the music ministry at the church was always evolving, I still got my first exposure to the transformative power and potential of gospel music within our community during those early years. I especially felt in my core the deep spiritual faith that came through the classical gospel artists like Mahalia Jackson, and also felt the power of contemporary gospel artists (at that time) like the Winans family, and eventually Fred Hammond and others. This early love of gospel music was reinforced in my conversations with a dear friend Tammi, as well as her sister, during our early undergraduate years, and again in my frequent and beautiful conversations with my cousin Elnora while I was in graduate school. Those were a series of years that brought about significant family transitions; years during which I once again saw and felt the grounding and reinforcing messages of encouragement from countless previous generations as expressed through the music.

When I listen to gospel music today, like the song by Richard Smallwood below, I'm continually reminded of the classical gospel artists, as well as the ways in which contemporary artists continue in (and even expand) the tradition.

While I'm not convinced the collective church has come anywhere closer to it's potential for transforming the larger life conditions of African people in a positive way, the musical tradition is still one that carries the great potential for carrying our people through the wilderness and pathology of racism and white supremacy in this country and beyond.

It remains that Same God presence in our lives, speaking through the lives and music of multiple generations.

If only now we could add a bit more of that African revolutionary fervor!

16Sep/150

Mos Def – History ft. Talib Kweli

Taking it back a few years...

25Aug/150

With Its 100th Episode, Larry Wilmore’s ‘Nightly Show’ Has Found Its Voice

From NPR last week..

Though Larry Wilmore had always hoped to be a performer, his early career was as a comedy writer. He wrote for shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and In Living Color, and created The Bernie Mac Show. He moved in front of the camera as The Daily Show's "senior black correspondent" in 2006. So when Stephen Colbert endedThe Colbert Report last year, Comedy Central tapped Wilmore to host the replacement show.

The Nightly Show premiered in January. In the beginning, Wilmore struggled to hit his stride. "People are holding your feet to the fire immediately," Wilmore tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "It was so difficult those first couple of months. I mean, you're just in the middle of the storm, just trying to figure out how to do the show."

Wilmore is a self-proclaimed nerd — and proud of it. He practices magic, loves space and cites Woody Allen and Monty Python among his comedy influences "It used to be that the black comic figure had to have this bravado and always showed strength," he says. "Now there's a comic figure where it's okay to just be a nerd and be black."

He brings that sensibility to The Nightly Show, where he has to find the comedy and the outrage in the often tragic events of the day. When it comes to the incidents of violence between police and African-Americans that have dominated this year's headlines, the host is unequivocal:"The fact that we live in a world where black people have to strategize so they're not brutalized by police is insane," he says.

(August 19, 2015)

14Aug/150

Remembering Curtis Mayfield – A Musical and Cultural Legend!

Yesterday was a special day in the history of Black music.  It was on August 13, 1990, that our musical legend Curtis Mayfield was injured and paralyzed during a concert performance in Brooklyn, New York. Mayfield was a groundbreaking artist on many levels, and provided many songs that would be anthems of that and future generations.

Today I'm interrupting my brief blog and social media vacation to share just a few of Curtis Mayfield's many musical gems, as a tribute to the legacy he left us in both musical artistry and in his advocacy and social commentary.  His music, and the urgency it spoke of then, is just as timely today.

Remembering Curtis Mayfield...

Remembering a legend...

(the official website)

12Jul/150

#StayStrong: A Love Song to Freedom Fighters — Bree Newsome

by Bree Newsome feat. 7thSoana (beat by Passion HiFi)
This song was initially inspired by the tragic events in Ferguson, MO in August 2014. As the title says, it's a love song to all the freedom fighters like myself around the world, an encouragement to stay strong and to keep fighting. Most especially, this song is dedicated to the many inspiring young organizers I've encountered in the field who are blazing the trail toward freedom. I love you all. #StayStrong #BlackLivesMatter

(Song released December 13, 2014)

10Jun/150

Poet Aja Monet Confronts Police Brutality Against Black Women With #SayHerName

#SayHerName - by Aja Monet

2Jun/151

Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs: Reading Classic Poem ‘What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black?’

Burroughs_Margaret_wm

Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs, reading her classic 1963 poem, 'What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black? Reflections of An African American Mother'.  (Video excerpt appears below the full text of her classic poem.)

What shall I tell my children who are black
Of what it means to be a captive in this dark skin?
What shall I tell my dear one, fruit of my womb,
of how beautiful they are when everywhere they turn
they are faced with abhorrence of everything that is black.
The night is black and so is the boogyman.
Villains are black with black hearts.
A black cow gives no milk. A black hen lays no eggs.
Storm clouds, black, black is evil
and evil is black and devil’s food is black…

What shall I tell my dear ones raised in a white world
A place where white has been made to represent
all that is good and pure and fine and decent,
where clouds are white and dolls, and heaven
surely is a white, white place with angels
robed in white, and cotton candy and ice cream
and milk and ruffled Sunday dresses
and dream houses and long sleek Cadillacs and Angel’s food is white… all, all… white.

What can I say therefore, when my child
Comes home in tears because a playmate
Has called him black, big lipped, flatnosed and nappy headed?
What will he think when I dry his tears and whisper,
“Yes, that’s true. But no less beautiful and dear.”
How shall I lift up his head, get him to square
his shoulders, look his adversaries in the eye,
confident in the knowledge of his worth.
Serene under his sable skin and proud of his own beauty?

What can I do to give him strength
That he may come through life’s adversities
As a whole human being unwarped and human in a world
Of biased laws and inhuman practices, that he might
Survive. And survive he must! For who knows?
Perhaps this black child here bears the genius
To discover the cure for… cancer
Or to chart the course for exploration of the universe.
So, he must survive for the good of all humanity.
He must and will survive.
I have drunk deeply of late from the fountain
of my black culture, sat at the knee of and learned
from mother Africa, discovered the truth of my heritage.
The truth, so often obscured and omitted.
And I find I have much to say to my black children.

I will lift up their heads in proud blackness
with the story of their fathers and their father’s fathers.
And I shall take them into a way back time
of kings and queens who ruled the Nile,
and measured the stars and discovered the laws of mathematics.
I will tell them of a black people upon whose backs have been built
the wealth of three continents.
I will tell him this and more.
And knowledge of his heritage shall be his weapon and his armor;
It will make him strong enough to win any battle he may face.
And since this story is so often obscured,
I must sacrifice to find it for my children,
even as I sacrifice to feed, clothe and shelter them.
So this I will do for them if I love them.
None will do it for me.

I must find the truth of heritage for myself and pass it on to them.
In years to come, I believe because I have armed them with the truth,
my children and their children’s children will venerate me.
For it is the truth that will make us free!

Margaret Burroughs was born in St. Rose, Louisiana, on November 1, 1917, and moved with her family to the South Side of Chicago in 1922. She is an accomplished poet and author of children's books. In 1961, with second husband Charles Burroughs, she founded the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago. Margaret Burroughs died Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010.

27May/150

Jazz – The African (American) Art Form: From Deep Within the 40(plus) Year Archives of ‘Like It Is’ with Gil Noble

Below is an informative and under-told discussion about the historical context and origin of jazz music.  It's well worth watching, and using as a cultural enrichment and educational resource - for youth and adults alike.

From the opening exchange:

Question:  Do you all know the story of 'Paul Revere'?

Response:  Indeed.

Question:  But do you know the name of the horse that Paul Revere rode?

Response:  Nobody knows that.

Final question:  You know why they don't know it?

Final response:  That's because the horse did not write the story!

The story of jazz is ours to tell.  Gil Noble tells a part of that story in this early episode of his 43-year educational show, Like It Is.

Originally aired in May, 1970. Note that this was developed and aired some 30+ years before the mass marketed documentary by Ken Burns aired on PBS during 2001.