Mt. Hope Neighborhood Works To End Youth Violence

23 Jul

On Tuesday, July 21st, I attended the event,  A Call For Community Action at Billy Taylor Park located on the East Side of Providence.   The  gathering was in service of working to end the violence that continues to escalate between the young people  from neighborhoods including Mt. Hope and South Providence–from the West End to the Chad Brown Houses, to Manton Avenue.  There have been ten homicides in Providence this year, including the shooting death last weekend of  [Read more...]

Remembering Michael 5 Years Later

25 Jun

Michael Jackson - Off The Wall Album Cover

Michael Jackson – Off The Wall Album Cover

Today marks the five-year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s passing, and I’m not sure what I want to say about that.

That I still miss him?  That my little bits of MJ memorabilia–the Michael light switch cover my sister-in-law Paula gifted me, the Best Of Michael Jackson 8-track cassette turned key holder hanging in my kitchen that I bought myself, the MJ in Billie Jean regalia hologram poster my sister Sarah gave me on a recent birthday–are teetering into fanatic fan territory?  That I’m grateful that so many of my friends tag me on photos and highly creative videos involving all things Michael on Facebook?  But, that I sometimes tire of having to defend Michael’s standing as one of the most talented entertainers of this century because a mostly younger generation only remembers the post-way too much plastic surgery Michael, or the pedophile rumors?

As for the last question, I know the Michael that even I long for most, is the Michael from the Jackson 5, all the way through his peak in the 1980′s.  I remember hanging his Off The Wall album cover–my favorite–on my college dorm wall, and dressing in a vintage tuxedo jacket with the sleeves rolled up when I went out dancing.  I can freeze Michael there, and not have to worry about the sadness that creeped into his life, the price of fame, the emotional and physical pain that he sought to escape, and fix by remaking his identity over and over again, until there was barely anything recognizable left of him.

Except his talent, and his passion, and his mastery of his art.  That never waned. His music, and the small tokens around my home remind me of his greatness. Today I wear my MJ earrings.  Proudly.

Here is a link to a wonderful piece that Rolling Stone Magazine put out this week in honor of Michael:  50 Best Michael Jackson Songs.

What do you want to remember about Michael?  Share your comments here.

________________

SOURCE:

www.rollingstone.com

Photo Credit: www.onehellofaneye.com

 

 

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Jimmy Scott – Time After Time

22 Jun

Jimmy-ScottI can’t remember how I found out about Jimmy Scott, but I do remember it was right around the time I moved from New York City to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2003, because I do remember gushing about him to the owner of the black-owned upscale bakery I began to frequent there.  I was in my overt “connect across colorlines” phase after leaving the melting pot of NYC, and feeling like my world had gone white (you can read a little more about that on my About page).

Wanda, the owner of the bakery,  often had jazz playing when I visited her shop to take home some tasty treats–slices of turtle cheesecake, fruit tarts, or to order a cake for a special occasion.  I told her and her son about the jazz singer, Jimmy Scott, and how he’s often mistaken for a female singer because of his high contralto voice.  Sometimes called “Little Jimmy Scott,” his small stature and high-pitched singing voice were due to Scott having Kallmann’s syndrome, a very rare genetic disorder, which prevented him from ever reaching puberty.

I brought Wanda in a copy of a Jimmy Scott CD I owned, and she appreciated the gesture, as much as I appreciated her energetic and kind manner, and her wonderful sweet delicacies.  I missed her bakery after moving back East, and I have to admit, I haven’t listened to Jimmy Scott in quite some time.

When I heard that he passed away two weeks ago at the age of 88, I knew I had to pay tribute to him here.  Scott, who hailed from Cleveland, sang with many of the greats–Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Wynton Marsalis, and Ray Charles.  Snubbed early on by not getting credited on albums he sang on in the late 1940′s and early 1950′s, and even once having his recordings attributed to a female singer, Scott struggled for some time with getting his due recognition.

In the 1960′s the career Scott was able to build, began to fade, and he returned to Cleveland where it’s said he worked for decades as an elevator operator, hospital orderly and shipping clerk.  In the early 1990′s he sang at his friend, singer/songwriter, Doc Pomus’s funeral, and it was there that Scott’s magical talent was finally recognized once again, and he began to get a good deal of attention and recording and performing opportunities.  Scott was still performing right up until the time of his death, on June 12th of this year.

Here’s Scott singing, and talking about the importance of lyrics, in Time After Time.

 

 

SOURCE:  www.youtube.com, Jimmy Scott, Time After Time, posted by Warner Jazz Videos

www.wikipedia.org

Photo Credit:  www.marcussamuelsson.com

 

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Sam Smith – Stay With Me featuring Mary J. Blige

15 Jun

sam smith mary j.

I think I heard Bono once say that Mariah Carey had the voice of an angel.  That must mean Sam Smith is a man angel.  Here he is with another favorite of mine, Mary J. Blige, singing Stay With Me.

 

 

SOURCE:  www.youtube.com, Stay With Me, (Live) Sam Smith with Mary J. Blige, posted by VeVo

Photo Credit:  www.baeblemusic.com, page by Matt Howard

 

RIP Ruby Dee

13 Jun

Ruby DeeYesterday saw the passing of another great female icon, actress and activist, Ruby Dee.  Dee was 91 years old.

It made me ponder how I think we all form in our minds, and our hearts, our own image of how we “know” a celebrity.  At least I know I do.  It’s how I just knew as a girl that Michael Jackson was shy, but kind, and that he and I would make good friends.  It’s how I know, say, that actor John Cusack must be a cool guy because he stays out of the Hollywood celebrity drama eye.  It’s how I know that Frida Kahlo would think we were kindred spirits because when I do paint, I like to create very detailed, personal works in what might be considered a naive style.   It’s how Prince would know I was a funky white girl, and would want to go out dancing with me.

The truth is, I don’t really know what these people are like, but still I imagine I do.  It’s my way in to feeling closer to someone who seems to be on this untouchable pedestal.  It humanizes the star that is out of my reach.

As for Ruby Dee, I do not have extensive knowledge of her talent, tremendous career, or personal life–only a skim coat of knowing her acting career–from her stand out role in A Raisin In The Sun, to her role in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, when she is paired with her beloved husband of over fifty years, Ossie Davis.  I know lightly of her friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and her work as a civil rights activist.

I didn’t really know Ruby Dee, but anytime I heard her name or caught her in a film, or heard her speak on television, the words that came to mind are two found in the quote below attributed to Dee, which I saw posted numerous times on Facebook yesterday.

“The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within–strength, courage, dignity.”

Strength and dignity are the words that always came to mind for me when thinking of Ruby Dee, and now it is clear to see that yes, it takes courage to put forth and maintain the other two–especially as a woman of color in her time who strove to be the best she could be at her craft, in her love, in doing her part to make the world a better place, in raising her children, and for letting us in to create those images, in our minds, and in our hearts, of who Ruby Dee was to us.

Here is my daily Facebook poem from yesterday, a tribute to Ruby Dee, created from my friends’ Status Updates, as well as several links to articles posted on-line that pay tribute to this great woman.

 

facebook dailymades (from your status updates)

I was writing
poetic soul tonic
underneath the weather
…and the day is
not my own…
sadly, we are
losing our elders
another icon gone
rip-loved your
raisin in the sun
she was the
consummate artist
she walked with
heavy ancestral vibrations
and I wish her
safe passage
more anon…
back to editing
rest in peace, ruby dee

FB Status Update contributors:  Denitra Letrice, Debby Irving, Rochelle Morgan Taylor, Carol Hubbard, Tracy Baptiste, Carmen Head, Denise Byrd, National Civil Rights Museum, Donald King, Ryan Stevenson, For Harriet

Links to articles paying tribute to Ruby Dee:

Thinking of Ruby Dee by Hilton Als for The New Yorker

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2014/06/thinking-of-ruby-dee.html

How To Spend 9 Years Without The Love Of Your Life ( A Tribute to Ruby Dee),

by Stacia L. Brown

http://stacialbrown.com/2014/06/12/how-to-spend-9-years-without-the-love-of-your-life-a-tribute-to-ruby-dee/

 

Ruby Dee, Actress and Activist Has Died, by Monee Fields-White, for The Root

http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/06/ruby_dee_actress_and_activist_has_died.html

 

 

 

SOURCE:

Thinking Of Ruby Dee, posted by Hilton Als, June 12, 2014, www.newyorker.com

How To Spend 9 Years Without The Love Of Your Life ( A Tribute to Ruby Dee), 

by Stacia L. Brown, June 12, 2014, www.stacialbrown.com

Ruby Dee, Actress and Activist Has Died, by Monee Fields-White, June 12, 2014, www.theroot.com

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Leela James ft. Anthony Hamilton – Say That

8 Jun

A little Sunday afternoon love soul song by Leela James, featuring Anthony Hamilton.

 

 

 

SOURCE:  www.youtube.com, Leela James ft. Anthony Hamilton – Say That, posted by VeVO

Remembering Maya Angelou With A Collective Facebook Poem

30 May

maya2For those of you who don’t already know, I write a poem a day on Facebook made up entirely from my friends’ Status Updates.

With the passing of the phenomenal woman, Maya Angelou–poet, activist, teacher, survivor, author, playwright, director, this week, I wanted to share the Facebook poem written on the day she left us.  There was, on that day, such an outpouring of love and remembrance, and it continues still with posts of her many inspirational quotes, and videos of her reading her work, and even of Ms. Angelou’s last tweet:

 

maya angelou tweet

I can recall from time to time on social media I’d see, primarily, women of color, post a poem of hers–Phenomenal Women, or Rise, or, reference I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, and relate how the poet’s words spoke to them, healed them, inspired them.  Yet, I know during her lifetime, and I am witnessing in her passing, that Maya Angelou was revered by all of humanity–whether brown, black or white, people are mourning her loss, and celebrating the gifts she bestowed upon all of us with her genius, compassion, her fight for what was right, and for how she lived her life being who she truly was.

I know that this is a time where I can grow and be enriched by returning to and reading more of Ms. Angelou’s work.  Here is the poem that was written using many of my friends’ voices on the day that this great woman left us.

 

Facebook Poem 5/28/14

 

#ripmayaangelou
a remarkable woman…
“you done been through
some things”
thank you Maya Angelou
for your words, your presence,
your joy, your love
“with Maya Angelou’s passing,
America has lost a
national treasure”
but the world has lost
a brilliant soul
unbearable. and borne. no words.
and, there are a few people
who leave this world
truly the less when
they leave us behind
she will be missed but
her gifts to us all
will live on
your words will live
forever in my soul
speak life into
every soul you
talk to today
#grace #dignity #shero
#mayaangelou #rip

Thanks to this day’s poem contributors:  Mary-Fran Honeyman, Carmen Head (a Maya Angelou quote), Keith Thompson, Ken Harge, Hilton Als, Rodney L. Davis, David Still, Kelly Quinn, Adrienne Wallace, Denitra Letrice

 

 

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Buddy by De La Soul

25 May

DeLaSoul3FeetHighandRisingalbumcoverThere was a lot of fun 90′s r & b and hip-hop, and I remember when De La Soul hit the scene with their album, Three Feet High And Rising.  They brought something so fresh with their hippy, jazz-rap sound, and lyrics both positive and witty.

 

This song was one of the tunes that popped up on my playlist today while out for my morning walk.  Here’s Buddy, featuring Q-Tip, the Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, and Monie Love.

 

 

 

 

SOURCE:  www.youtube.com, Buddy by De La Soul, posted by BVMundergroundhiphop

 

Keeping MJ Alive…Without The Hologram

23 May

I have to admit, I sat on my couch with much anticipation for the Michael Jackson hologram performance on the Billboard Music Awards.   Despite some tweets and Facebook posts beforehand already slamming the idea, I held onto hope.

I miss being able to witness the otherworldly talent and energy that Michael emitted on stage, and wished for the goosebumps that dimpled my arms on those occasions–like the time my sister Robin and I watched Michael’s historic performance of Billie Jean on the Motown 25th Anniversary Show.

Alas, the hologram did not give my goosebumps.  I don’t want to say it gave me the creeps either, though I did post on a friend’s Facebook thread that night that I thought  there was something creepy about it.  Yes, the technology to create Michael’s moving figure through space was amazing.  And this virtual Michael still had a healthy nose, and a healthy physique.  But, it didn’t satisfy.  It wasn’t human, and it made me wonder, what’s next–entire concerts performed by deceased stars–MJ, Whitney Huston, or a full-on Tupac show, that expands on his Coachella hologram from a few years back?  The hologram left me feeling empty, and missing the real Michael.

Luckily, the feeling of aliveness returned this week in the form of a high school talent show in Turlock, California.  Many of you may have already seen splashed across social media sights this video of a high school student performing Billie Jean, but if you haven’t here it is, and if you have, it’s worth watching again.  This boy, who happens to be white, has recreated the dance, move for move, and does a brilliant job.  When I watched, I imagined how many hours he must have studied Michael’s Billie Jean performance, and how many more he danced in front of a mirror to nail every move just so.  Most of all, I thought this boy must revere Michael Jackson, and how great it is that Michael’s work continues to live on, even in this generation, by those that recognize MJ as one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century.

My friend, Keith Thompson, who is always sharing amazing music with me, shared this video today. Keith works at Brown University as a senior computer education specialist, and I am certain he will be featured more in-depth in a blog post in the near future.  About the boy and MJ, Keith had this to say:

I thought is was possibly the best rendition of that dance that I’ve ever seen.  I remember watching it when I was a kid on television when it actually happened.  We likely lost our minds when he broke out with the moonwalk. 

I’m thinking most of his fans were not black, but mostly of international origins.  I don’t even think blacks were his biggest audience in America.  So to see this young man doing his act isn’t a shock at all to me.  Most black people want to do some sort of hybrid (Usher, Chris Brown etc) of his dance, but nobody actually breaks out MJ.  Blacks claim Michael Jackson now, but when he was alive they didn’t claim him and he didn’t claim us.  He was more of the people than of race.  Which is what made him in my mind so amazing, he completely obliterated the color barrier when it came to entertainment.  In the same breathe as Jimi Hendrix did….

Thoughts about Michael and race could fill a blog post and a half themselves, but I wanted to include Keith’s perspective, and love his line that Michael “was more of the people than of race.”

Skip the hologram.  Watch this.

 

SOURCE:  www.youtube.com, Teen Dances To Michael Jackson video posted by Global Flare

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Erykah Badu & Stephen Marley – In Love With You

18 May

Erykah Badu & Stephen Marley

Stephen Marley & Erykah Badu

 

 

simply put:  a beautiful love song. that is all.

 

 

SOURCE:  www.youtube.com, In Love With You, by Erykah Badu featuring Stephen Marley, posted by 24Adrian24

Photo Credit:  www.bet.com