Monday, August 31, 2009

I Can feel the Music!

Growing up, music was always playing in my house. Even at night when we went to bed, the radio played because a quiet house always seemed eery. Magic 102 has been around a long time and I still remember some of the DJ's (Captain Jack - Don't Do It Like That Baby!) was his hook, Zoe Bonet did the quiet storm at night, and Uncle Funky held it down in the morning. I've always been a fan of good R & B songs, especially those with good lyrics and an infectious rhythm. Remember this: Love and Happiness...Something that'll make you do right....Will Make you do wrong. Then you'd hear that gospel-inspired moan followed by the five foot stomps and the bluesy guitar. Listen to it and I dare you to remain still.
I grew up in the 80's and 90's when rap and hip hop first emerged on the scene. I'm not really a fan of the genre. I've never been one who memorized rap lines, phrases or hooks, but I can tell you all the lyrics to Stevie Wonder's songs. I have 60 of his songs on my ipod. Stevie will always have a special place in my heart. When I was two, my dad purchased the "Songs In the Key of Life" album and played it daily. Daddy's favorites were, "I wish": Looking back on when I was a little nappy headed boy...He liked, "Isn't she Lovely," he always dedicated that one to me. But the one song that always stood out and is my favorite one on the album to this day, "Pastime Paradise." The cellos, the violins, percussions, the voices of the choir, blend them all together and it was a masterpiece of a sound, an audible musical canvass beautiful from the time it opens with the simple, steady beat of a hand held wood block and climaxes with a thrash of a tam tam drum. The lyrics are haunting: Been spending spend most their lives living in a pastime paradise.
I finally got the chance to meet him after one of his concerts. Just for me, he played and sang another one of my favorite songs that he didn't include in the concert and believe me I was on cloud nine the rest of the week.
When it comes to music I don't just limit myself to R&B. My dad had an extensive jazz collection and at a young age I was able to appreciate Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, and the Jazz Crusaders. My mom loved gospel so it played all day on Sundays. To this day, she still tunes in every Sunday morning to the local station that plays gospel from 6 am to 10 am.
If I had to make a list of my favorite artists I would definitely put Stevie Wonder at the top, followed by Prince. I finally got the chance to see him and the Revolution perform live in New Orleans and I must say for a 50 year-old man he was very energetic. He's also on my list of people I want to meet before I die. He obviously strikes me as someone who is extremely deep and I can only imagine what a conversation with him is like. I wouldn't be surprised if he wrote everything down on paper and passed it over to you. He's just weird like that. Imagine us:
Me: Hi
Him: (writing on a piece of paper) How R U?
Jill Scott is another one of my favorites, I have a pretty extensive collection of her songs, too. I've seen her perform live, the sister is baaad. Her poetry comes alive. Anthony Hamilton is another one of my favorites but I haven't seen him perform in person. I rented a performance of his via netflix and was blown away by it. Next time he's in town, I'll be there front row and center.
There are others on my list: Anita Baker, Erykah Badu, Chaka Khan (whom I met, she's a sweetie) and Maze (seen them many times). I wished I could've gotten the opportunity to see the Jacksons perform, maybe one day I can catch a Janet concert. In the meantime, I'm gonna sit and chill and let the shuffle button play on my itunes. Check out my list of artists: Sly and the Family Stone, Booker T and the MG's, Alicia Keyes, Yolanda Adams, Zapp, Heatwave, Whitney Houston, R. Kelly, the Isley Brothers....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

When You've Been Blessed You Progress...NOT...

All my life I've seen this particular person deal with issues and win! She used prayer and meditation as her secret weapons. But as the saying goes, time brings about a change. Assuming it's a change for the better. When you've been blessed you progress not regress. This particular person has regressed. She's moved a devil back into her house. I mean literally. She's moved a real-life lying, scheisty, alcholic, devil BACK into HER house.

This devil came into her life just like it came into the lives other women through carpentry work. This devil has the same M.O. if you are a single woman and you need major repairs to your home this devil will fix it up as good as new. The work usually ends sometimes late into the night and instead of this devil packing it's materials and heading crashes on the couch. Eventually the devil ends up in your bed. Next thing you know it's moved into your house. Next thing you know it becomes a stick of gum on the bottom of your shoe.

This devil is toxic. The two previous women who moved this devil into their homes suddenly became ill with cancer. One of them died. The other one forced him out at gun point. (Her health improved tremendously afterwards). This devil lived with this particular person for nearly five years. She claimed this devil as a roommate. He paid the bills whenever he got money from his jobs. He took care of the dogs, cleaned the house. He even went to church on occasion to earn his keep. Then the horns emerged.

One day I got a call from this particular person I could tell by her voice she was stressing out. "Come help me get his stuff out of my house." Without hesitation I drove myself and my 11 month-old daughter through a monstrous thunderstorm to help this person. In a matter of minutes we had all the devil's things packed on the front porch. This particular person who had depended on the devil to keep her bills paid and current was on the verge of getting her lights and water turned off. I paid her outstanding bills and put a little extra into her account. Soon after putting him out her health improved. She would get a thousand dollars here and a thousand there from her friends to help her out with the bills. I believed God showed her that she didn't need the devil, all she had to do was trust in Him and he'd take care of her. She read the bible, she knew this to be true.

Two weeks ago my daughter and I go to visit this particular person with the intention of spending the weekend to celebrate the good news of her being healed from cancer. We were spending the night and going to church with her the following day. All of a sudden, I hear keys unlocking the door and in comes the devil. I couldn't mask the shock expression on my face. I asked him, "Have you moved back in?" He snapped, "I never moved out!" I looked at this particular person, seething, fuming, "Is that true?" I asked. She glared at me and told me to mind my own business. I said, "When you called me to help you get his things out you involved me in your business. Why in the hell did you waste my time?" She said on the verge of tears that her bills started mounting up and that the devil gave her money.

Wow, was all I could say, I guess the money I was giving her wasn't sufficient. I was hurt but more than that I was angry. The devil had a reputation in the town for being a notorious liar and a con-artist. He would tell people he'd do jobs for them, take their money and never show up for the work site. He was even on probation for it. Worst than that he was drinking. That night when he walked in, the house reeked like a distillery. I packed my things, grabbed my daughter and I left. I refused to be in the same house with him.

Two days later I vented my frustrations to this particular person and told her how disappointed I was in her. "God has been good to you, he's given you a new lease on life and you insult Him." She knew the bible, at least I thought she knew the part where, "God will supply all your needs according to His riches..." Her faith had definitely turned into fear. I'm still upset but she's made up her mind, she's going to keep the devil in her home. I told her, "When you get tired of him and believe me you will, don't call me." And that was the end of our conversation.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Imagine a Not-So-Typical Black Community

Imagine a black neighborhood where all of the businesses are black owned. That used to be the case some years ago. I'm writing this because in every black neighborhood in America you're guaranteed to find three things: A nail shop, a liquor store, and a check cashing place. Nine times out of ten, the nail shops are owned by Vietnamese or Koreans. The Liquor stores are owned by Pakistanis or someone of Middle Eastern origins and the check cashing places are owned by someone other than a black person. The majority of black owned businesses in black neighborhoods are beauty shops, barber shops and fried food joints.

There is an old abandoned building that used to be Kroger just sitting in my neighborhood wasting away. In my dream world, I'm wishing I could turn it into a farmer's market. I would have free range chicken eggs, home grown fruits and vegetables, good quality meats like the kind you get from your grandparents' farm - I would have a cafe set up where my people could nosh on tufu spaghetti with unprocessed tomato sauce, they could drink real peanut butter and banana smoothies. The people who worked there would have pleasant attitudes and some of them would even show up early for work.

Imagine a black community where there are quality schools. Where prayer and bible study are requirements. Self-Respect 101 would be a requirement and Love and Respect for thy neighborhood will be an everlasting motto.

My point is this...At some point when do you come to the realization that you are your greatest asset. That God, your community, and your health are essential to your survival.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Family Reunion Fun

What do you get when you mix hickory smoked barbecue and country, salt-of-the earth, people? A recipe that is my family reunion. Every August since 2004 my family gets together and celebrate with a little church, a little history, and a whole lot of food. We sooo look forward to laughing and joking, playing exciting games, throwing down on my grandma's hickory smoked barbecue ribs, chicken and brisket. Later in the evening, my uncle and my cousins entertain us with live music.
The Merchant, Peterson, and English family reunions originally started with my Great Grandmother, Irene Peterson Merchant. Her birthday was August 2, and she wanted to celebrate her birthday with her family and her husband's family back in the late 70's. My great grandparents lived on a farm in Huntsville, Texas. The best family reunions took place right there in the backyard underneath a shady, huge oak tree. The reunions would last from noon until midnight sometimes.
"Mama" as we often called my Great grandmother, baked homemade pineapple cakes, German chocolate cakes, and made the best red kool-aid in the world. She called it "polly-pop," and it was loaded with pineapple juice. Come to think of it, "Mama" cooked all the food for the reunions that had as many as a hundred and fifty present. Sadly, "Mama" passed away in January, 1986. The 1986 reunion wasn't quite the same. The one following it in 1987 occurred right there in my great Aunts living-room, it was that small.
It wasn't until early 2004 that the grandkids got together and reignited the flame that "Mama" started nearly 30 years earlier. We added more activities and every year we pay tribute to our loved ones who have passed on. We celebrate by having church and then we end the evening with the live band throwing down on everything from Archie Bell and Drell's, "Tighten Up," to the "Cupid Shuffle." My husband loves the band, he usually gets a front seat to video the action with his camera.
I really hope we can continue the tradition so our children and their children can come together. It is always a really good thing.