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


Stevie Wonder on Ferguson & New York grand jury verdicts #BlackLivesMatter

Stevie Wonder... from a YouTube video posted on December 4, 2014.

"Can you believe that within one month, two secret grand juries declined to indict two policemen for the killing of two Black men? I just don't understand that.

Let me just say this also: I don't understand why a legal system would choose secrecy when there's so much mistrust of what they're saying. I don't understand why there could not have been a public trial where we would be able to hear all sides...I just don't understand that.

I tell you what I do understand. I heard Eric Garner say, with my own ears: 'I Can't Breathe.' And as much as he's apologized, I don't understand why he [the policeman] did not stop...I've heard politicians say, you've got all this black-on-black crime, but my feeling's that guns are too accessible to everybody.

I do understand that something is wrong, real wrong. And we as family, Americans, all of us of all colors, need to fix it with a quickness, real soon.

I really love you, you know that. This is why this song unfortunately is still relevant today....."

"Living For The City" - Stevie Wonder performing during the Seattle stop of his 2014 "Songs in the Key of Life" concert tour..


Remembering the Great DIZZY GILLESPIE

dizzy gillespie

Yesterday, January 6th, marked the anniversary of the 1993 passing of one of the world's greatest musicians... the great John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie.

As a special treat, I wanted to pull together and share a few videos highlighting Dizzy's musical genius.  The first two videos are a couple of my kids' favorite Dizzy songs (School Days, as well as Stevie Wonder's Do I Do which features Dizzy).  Then there are a couple of additional really great Dizzy recordings, and finally a nice documentary from Cuba about Dizzy Gillespie and his music.  I hope you all enjoy these as much as I do!

Before the clips is a biography I'm sharing from the official Dizzy Gillespie site...

John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, along with Charlie Parker, ushered in the era of Be-Bop in the American jazz tradition. He was born Cheraw, South Carolina, and was the youngest of nine children. He began playing piano at the age of four and received a music scholarship to the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina. Most noted for his trademark "swollen cheeks", Gillespie admitted to copying the style of trumpeter Roy Eldridge early in his career.

He replaced Eldridge in the 'Teddy Hill' Band after Eldridge's departure. He eventually began experimenting and creating his own style which would eventually come to the attention of Mario Bauza, the Godfather of Afro-Cuban jazz who was then a member of the Cap Calloway Orchestra, joining Calloway in 1939, Gillespie was fired after two years when he cut a portion of the Calloway's buttocks with a knife after Calloway accused him of throwing spitballs (the two men later became lifelong friends and often retold this story with great relish until both of their deaths).

Although noted for his on and off-stage clowning, Gillespie endured as one of the founding fathers of the Afro-Cuban &/or Latin Hazz tradition. Influenced by Bauza, known as Gillespies musical father, he was able to fuse Afro-American jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms to form a burgeoning CuBop sound. Always a musical ambassador, he toured Africa, the Middle East and Latin America under the sponsorship of the US State Department. Quite often he returned, not only with fresh musical ideas, but with musicians who would eventually go on the achieve world renown.

Among his proteges and collaborators are 'Chano Pozo'. the great Afro-Cuban percussionist; Danilo perez, a master pianist and composer originally from Pnama; Arturo Sandoval, trumpeter, composer and music educator originally from Cuba; Mongo Santamaria, an Afro-Cuban conguero, bongeuro and composer; David Sanchez, saxophonist and composer; Chucho Valdes, an Afro-Cuban virtuoso pianist and composer; and Bobby Sanabria, a Bronx, NY-born Nuyorican percussionist, composer, educator, bandleader and expert in the Afro-Cuban musical tradition. Indeed, many Latin jazz classics such as "Manteca", "A Night in Tunisia" and "Guachi Guaro [Soul Sauce]" were composed by Gillespie and his musical collaborators.

With a strong sense of pride in his Afro-American heritage, he left a legacy of musical excellence that embraced and fused all musical forms, but particularly those forms with roots deep in Africa such as the music of Cuba, other Latin American countries and the Caribbean. Additionally, he left a legacy of goodwill and good humor that infused jazz musicians and fans throughout the world with the genuine sense of jazz's ability to transcend national and ethnic boundaries--for this reason, Gillespie was and is an international treasure.

So... since I highlighted Stevie Wonder's Do I Do video above, I also wanted to share another version of that song that I also came across.  If no other reason than I just love the piano in this recording!!

Stevie gives a rare studio concert at London's Teddington Studios following the release of his 'Conversation Peace' album. A sensual ride for an intimate audience of less than 200 fans.


A Father’s Jam Session with Stevie Wonder, Sir Duke, and the World’s Greatest Children

When I picked my son, Damani, up from school on Wednesday, he asked me if I'd ever heard of the song, Sir Duke.  Now let's be clear, this is a ten-year-old asking me about Sir Duke!  I was gentle with him.  I asked if he was talking about Stevie's Sir Duke.  Indeed, he was. Then I asked him who daddy's favorite artist in the whole world is... Of course, he knew exactly who it's been for as far back as I can remember... the one and only Stevie Wonder!!

Damani went on to tell me that they had a substitute teacher in music class that day, and that the sub had them listening to Stevie Wonder's hit song Sir Duke.  He went on to talk about how much he LOVES the song - in fact, he said Sir Duke is now his favorite song.  (Sometimes I really wish I could still be in elementary school!)  So of course, after we got home, in the middle of the homework routine, we went right into an impromptu Stevie Wonder family jam session.

After about 4-5 times listening to Sir Duke, my daughter Aya got into the mix, and started doing the wild girl dance (she actually asked me not to tell you all that, although I'll admit that she's definitely a better dance than I am).  Naturally, after she hung in there with Sir Duke for a few repeats, then we had something waiting for her, too.  We went right into the live clip of a combined Isn't She Lovely and Sunshine of My Life.  (Video clips of both songs are just below.)

In addition to knowing daddy's favorite artist, Aya remembers that these are two of the songs I sang to her every single night when she was just a little baby.  That was our special father-daughter routine, singing, humming and carrying her around our little apartment, first when we put her to bed the first time, and again when she woke up in the middle of the night.

By popular demand, we continued the Sir Duke jam session in the car on the way to school the next morning.

The reason I'm sharing all this is because I absolutely LOVE being a father.  The development of good character, becoming a good person - of service in healing and developing our community, and the pursuit of excellence at everything we do... those are among the core values that guide us.  In the midst of all of this come the constant reminders that family comes first,  life can and will indeed be challenging sometimes, and that there are many lessons about living to be learned along the way.  Everything else is either extra, or an unwanted distraction.

Something I've come to realize is that there is no easy pathway to becoming a firmly anchored African American young adult... one who is confident, with a strong sense of purpose, and an intact cultural identity.  It takes a lot of thoughtful nurturing, structure, filtering and consistency.  Unfortunately, what can easily get lost in all of this, especially in this hyper-busy and hyper-competitive society we live in, is the importance of being fully present and genuinely joyful in the moments we have with our children.

While maybe not a huge deal in the larger scheme of things, it felt great - as it always does, to just stop everything - completely unplanned - and have some real fun as a family... in this case listening to some of our classical music that spans the generations.  It's the kind of thing I had the gift of being able to do with my parents growing up, and something I appreciate being able to do with my children more and more every day.

I wanted to share this because I see every day that our children are longing to be connected... connected to us (parents and elders) in particular.  Unfortunately also, too many of our children begin to lose that essential joy,  that sparkle in their eyes, as a result of the (almost exclusively) directives they get from us about what to do, what not to do, what they messed up on, etc.  In this society, too many of our children miss out on the opportunity to actually be just that, growing and learning children.

So my encouragement to all of us is that we make a special effort to take the few moments of every day to actually be fully present with our children, laughing, smiling and showing them the simple beauty in being alive, especially in relationship with others who care deeply about them.  I want this for all of our children, just as much as I want it for my own.  Ultimately, our children really are the most precious gifts we bring forth into this world.