Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5 – Never Can Say Goodbye

31 Aug

Friday, August 29th was Michael Jackson’s birthday. And, you know me. I’ll always take the opportunity to squeeze something about MJ onto this site.

Here’s one of my favorite tunes of his from his Jackson 5 days:




SOURCE:  www.youtube.com, The Jackson 5, Never Can Say Goodbye, posted by TheSoulKings

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: J. Cole – Be Free (Michael Brown tribute)

24 Aug

Here’s hip-hop artist J. Cole’s heartfelt tribute song he wrote in honor of Michael Brown, the young, black man who was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

We need to value the lives of black boys and black men.


www.youtube.com , J. Cole, Be Free, Tribute song for Michael Brown, posted by PaperChaserDotCom

A Vigil for Michael Brown…And All The Other Young, Black People Whose Lives Were Wrongfully Taken

15 Aug


Michael Brown Vigil

Providence, RI Vigil For Michael Brown

I never considered myself political, and I’m not sure I do now–I don’t really understand how politics work, and I haven’t spent time going to political rallies or protesting (except for in the early 90′s I went to my first and only one–to protect the Roe vs. Wade law in Washington D.C.).  I haven’t been a part of organizing against anything,  and don’t even venture into political discussions.  I tell myself, if anything, I’m a humanist, which I’m not sure I even know what people would say is the definition of that is.  My definition is  that I care about all human beings and their right to live a respected, dignified life, with equality and fairness for all people.

Yet, last night I found myself at my first vigil.  It was a vigil to honor [Read more...]

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Mabel Mercer – Once In A Blue Moon

10 Aug

Mabelmercer1As it often happens, I learned about artist Mabel Mercer via social media–this time a posting on Facebook.  The post came from Donald King, former founder/Executive Director of Providence Black Repertory Theater, and now co-founder/owner of Fete, a truly hip and gorgeous live music venue that according to its website is “dedicated to providing innovative music programming to an audience as diverse as New England itself.”

I learned a bit about Mabel Mercer via the website, The Mabel Mercer Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving the legacy of Mabel Mercer, as well as supporting the art of popular song and cabaret.   Ms. Mercer was born in 1900 in Staffordshire, England, and at 14 left her convent school to go with her aunt on tour of the vaudeville and music hall circuit in Britain and Europe.  After the tour, her career in song soon flourished.  She was held in the highest regard in Paris, and throughout much of Europe, and later in New York, where she held court in esteemed hotels like the St. Regis and the Carlyle.  Frank Sinatra was even known to have said that everything he knew about song phrasing he learned from Mabel.

Mabel Mercer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House from President Reagan in 1983.  She passed away a year later on April 20, 1984.

So, without further ado, here is Mabel Mercer singing Once In A Blue Moon.





www.youtube.com, Mabel Mercer, Once In A Blue Moon, posted by MariaLauraIrene


Photo Credit:  www.en.wikipedia.org

Building Bridges With Da’African Village: Dance, Drumming and Friendship on Martha’s Vineyard

8 Aug

Serigne "Mara" Diakate, CEO of Da'African Village, myself, my friend, Sheryl Piland

Serigne “Mara” Diakhate, CEO of Da’African Village, myself, my friend, Sheryl Piland, who brought Les Enfants Du Soleil to Martha’s Vineyard

I caught her by surprise, as she set up to sell tickets for A Touch Of Senegal On The Vineyard, outside of the historic Union Chapel on Martha’s Vineyard.  Her, is my old high-school friend, Sheryl Piland– who now lives in LA, and who when I think of her, I can’t help but remember how the year we graduated high school, Sheryl entered and won the Miss Black Teen USA contest, and got to be crowned by, and dance with Michael Jackson on stage, on television! I was thrilled, and proud of her, like many people from our hometowns of Waterbury and Prospect, Connecticut were, but I was jealous, too. You all know how much I loved MJ, and I wanted to be the one up there dancing with him. But I wasn’t black and beautiful like Sheryl, or as confident. I always admired Sheryl for her deep intelligence, and how, even at seventeen, she seemed so self-assured. In my eyes, Sheryl was someone who knew what she wanted, what she stood for, and yet was generous and giving to her friends.

And, so as I rounded the corner of the beautiful chapel, Sheryl spotted me, did a double take, and [Read more...]

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.




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


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


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

by Stacia L. Brown



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






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