Youth Voices: 17 Year-Old Tyler Ivester Nails Unconscious Bias

19 Jun

Tyler Ivester

Tyler Ivester

I’ve known Tyler Ivester’s dad, Kevin, since we went to the same elementary school, and then on to high school together in Waterbury, Connecticut.  Wilby High, in the late 1970’s had a student body that was 40% black, about 10% Hispanic, and 50% white. Kevin and I shared a few classes together over the years, and when we’d see each other dashing through the hallways in between class, it never failed that Kevin would shout out, “hey white girl!”, and I’d return back with, “hey, black boy!” and if we were running up three sets of stairs together to get to English class, we’d repeat our greetings over and over until we reached our destination.  It was our thing, our casual term of endearment for one another. [Read more…]

Black Like Rachel Dolezal

12 Jun

I heard about Rachel Dolezal this morning via Facebook and all I could muster was, “Wow.”

I scrolled down my Newsfeed and [Read more…]

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Rest In Peace Louis Johnson of The Brothers Johnson

24 May

The Brothers Johnson

The Brothers Johnson, Louis (L), George (R)

I loved, loved, loved The Brothers Johnson, and used to dance to their albums all the time in high school.  I am not musically inclined, and never played any instruments, but I still say if I could learn how to play one instrument it would be the base because I’d get to bang out all those funky beats.

Louis Johnson, aka “Thunder Thumbs”, of The Brothers Johnson played those funky beats alongside his brother, guitarist, George “Lightning Licks” during the 70’s and early 80’s, before parting ways to work on separate projects.  Louis was always in high demand to work on other artist’s albums, including George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Michael McDonald, Steve Arrington, and was the bassist on Michael Jackson’s, Billie Jean.  He is also said to be the originator of the slap bass method of playing the instrument where one  ‘slaps’ the strings with the right thumb and ‘pops’ with the right hand fingers, giving a percussive characteristic to a note’s sound.

Sadly, Louis Johnson passed away on May 21st, 2015 at the age of 60.

I have to play two songs of The Brothers Johnson because while the first is I think my favorite, it doesn’t show the fierce funk that Louis was capable of.  So, here is Strawberry Letter 23, followed by Get The Funk Out Ma Face.

Rest In Peace, Thunder Thumbs.

Strawberry Letter 23

Get The Funk Out Ma Face




Photo credit:

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds – R.I.P. B.B. King – The Thrill Is Gone

17 May

B.B. King

B.B. King

I can’t claim to be a blues aficionado, but everyone knows B.B. King is one of the greatest blues guitarists and singers of all time.

With all the outpouring of love on social media on Friday at the news of his passing, it’s clear that a big hole is left in the hearts of those who loved B.B., his performances, his connection to his famous guitar, “Lucille,” and his catalog of hits.

Here is the poem I put together on Facebook from my friends’ Status Updates that day, and following, King’s hit, The Thrill Is Gone, because clearly, with his passing, it is. And, as an added bonus, I’m including  a song of B.B.’s that was my friend, and real estate broker/owner extraordinaire, Nelson Taylor’s favorite.

Nelson shared after B.B.’s passing: “I grew up listening to the blues. My father was a rhythm and base player and early in his life played with Steve Miller, Bozz Scaggs and Mike Nesmith. He loved the blues and together we listened to 45s on our jukebox and 8 tracks in the van on weekend hunting trips.  My father and I have rarely seen eye to eye–and in fact I no longer speak with him. But music is one place where we’ve always been kindred. We loved, still love, BB King and saw him live more than a few times. I could never learn playing music from my father and he gave it up long ago. The passing of BB King is a loss for sure. The end of something greater than the life and the music. But I feel so lucky that he lived.”



crazy about
that lucille
consummate musician
the b was a bad…
I attended about
10 of his concerts.
a true legend.
legends don’t die.
they transform…
“my only ambition
is to be one of the
great blues singers
and be recognized.
if frank sinatra can
be tops in his field,
nat king cole in his,
bach and beethoven
and those guys in theirs,
why can’t I be
known for it in blues?”
-bb king told the
new york times magazine
in 1968
thank you, bb, for
giving lucille
her voice
and sharing
your music
for so many years
r.i.p. you were
the true king
the thrill is gone

Contributors:  David Hayes, Hakim Mutlaq, Scott MacKay, Chris Tera, The New York Times (B.B. King quote), Gathering Of The Vibes, Patrick Camp, Ellen Koenig


B.B. King, The Thrill Is Gone



Nelson’s pick:  B.B. King, Sweet Little Angel

SOURCE:, The Thrill Is Gone, B.B. King, Live at Montreux, 1993, posted by Eagle Rock,  and Sweet Little Angel, B.B. King, posted by design flaw

Photo Credit:  Zac Taylor TV



On Being A Brat And Taking A Break From Writing About Race–Easy For a White Girl To Do

15 May

Writer's Block

no such thing as writer’s block.

I’ve been a brat. Not writing. Just ignoring this blog as if it wasn’t my responsibility to keep up with it, thinking, that’s okay, I’ll get back on track

I don’t have any excuses as to why I’m not writing either.  Well, I did recently learn that [Read more…]

WJSS Weekend Sounds – Happy Mother’s Day w/Loving You by Minnie Riperton

10 May

Minnie Riperton

Minnie Riperton

I wanted to choose a song that reflected a mother’s love for her child, and Loving You by Minnie Riperton came to mind.  While Riperton’s angelic voice is singing about an amazingly beautiful “grown-up” kind of love, her chanting of her baby daughter’s name, Maya, (for famed actress and comedienne, Maya Rudolph), at the end of the song made me feel that, like no other, incredible bond, between mother and child.

According to music lore, the song’s melody was created as a [Read more…]

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Parliament – Flash Light

3 May

me and friend Tony Rinaldi at Wilby High Prom, Waterbury, CT, 1979

me and friend Tony Rinaldi at Wilby High Prom, Waterbury, CT, 1979

Maybe it’s because I pulled out my old high school yearbook the other day and found my junior year prom picture, and remembered what I was dancing to back then, and maybe, because like another time when we were all reeling from the Michael Brown, and then the Eric Garner non-indictments, I pulled up Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk, for my weekend pick. I felt like sometimes, in the darkest of times, we all need to just take a breath, and, in the words of the B-52’s, “dance this mess around,” before we can keep moving forward in the quest for true justice and equality for all.



I’m going back again to the funk well and pulling up a classic Parliament single: Flash Light.  So, take a breather and dance, and then get back to fighting the good fight.  Happy Sunday, Funkateers!






SOURCE:, Flashlight by Parliament, Uploaded by TheOldSchoolMusic, 12/18/09

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds On A Monday Because (There’s No Such Thing As) Writer’s Block

20 Apr

Percy Sledge

Percy Sledge

Two major artists passed away recently: soul singer, Percy Sledge and 80’s r & b singer, Johnny Kemp.

Percy Sledge, who was born in 1940 in Leighton, Alabama, was a hospital orderly when he started singing at local clubs and frat parties at universities.  His epic love ballad, When A Man Loves A Woman, was a tune Sledge said he hummed to himself for years–he said even when he was younger and working the cotton fields–before penning the lyrics during his early singing days.  The song is said to be about his girlfriend at the time leaving him for a modeling career after Sledge was laid off from a construction job.

It was at a frat party performance that he was casually offered the opportunity to record his love ballad at Norala Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama in 1966.  The song was of course a huge hit, and Sledge continued to have a career with follow-up hits like Warm and Tender Love and Tear Me Up, and to tour extensively in Europe and South Africa up until his death last week.

Listen to When A Man Loves A Woman and try not to feel anything.  You can’t, right?


Jonny-KempI was shocked to hear of Johnny Kemp’s untimely death several days ago in Jamaica.  Kemp, who is originally from the Bahamas, moved to the States in 1979 with his band, Kinky Fox.  His breakout hit, and definitely his most memorable, was Just Got Paid, which hit #1 on the Billboard Top 100 Chart in 1988.

Just Got Paid came out during my New York City clubbing days, and it was the feel-good dance anthem of the day.  When I revisited the song’s video this past weekend, I realized I loved it then and still do because it totally captures the essence of late-eighties NYC energy, and no matter where you lived, you saw yourself as part of that energy–that feeling of “yeah, I just got paid, it’s Friday, it’s the weekend, and I’m putting on my coolest, sexiest, clubwear–my biggest, dangliest earrings, highest heels that I can still dance in, my black spandex skirt–and grabbing my wallet, and heading out the door to dance, dance, dance.

It is sad that Kemp, 55 this year, mysteriously passed away en route to perform on a cruise ship in Jamaica with Teddy Riley who produced the famous hit.  But, Kemp’s classic hit, and his energetic performance won’t be forgotten.





Photo credit, Percy Sledge:

Photo credit, Johnny Kemp:

To Race Together Or Not, That Is The Question..Or Is Knowing Who You Are Talking To The First Question?

20 Mar

race-together-baristaOh boy. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about the new Starbucks #RaceTogether campaign where the printed hashtag written on a coffee cup by your friendly barista aims to spark a conversation on race.

While I’ve seen a few supporters of the initiative on my Facebook feed and on twitter, some just friends, some more famous, like Common and Van Jones, the overwhelming majority of feedback by both black and white people has been [Read more…]

Aw’ C’mon: Or How My Wanting to Cross Color Lines Wasn’t Always Taking Black People’s Concerns Into Consideration

10 Mar

white woman yelling black manAs I read Debby Irving’s Waking Up White, (review here) her account of “waking up” to how her own white privilege, and the greater societal systems created to give white people advantage over people of color, shaped her perceptions of race and the way she interacted across color lines, I couldn’t help but take a look at myself, and the actions and inactions I have made, or not made over the years. [Read more…]