Monday, September 12, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Oh, how I long for days when the living was easy and the cost of living was generally how you were raised, and where grits and grocery were appreciated more! It didn’t take me all of three scores to bring me to realization that I truly miss those old times...times when (dis)obedience was the sum of the parts that determined the consequences of right and wrong. You will probably remember too, how certain things will always be etched in your mind, and you may remember how you used to do things, how things were packaged and delivered to the social fabric that allowed ties to bind, as you’d find yourself comparing then to now. The old adage that ‘time waits for no man’ shouldn’t be understated, and can be best attributed to how we look at change and what is affected by it. Look no further than what you see around you, whether you venture outside of your power structure or stay within the boundaries of your inner being, the way things used to be is no more! Believe that! Nowadays communities far and wide are hard-pressed to maintain and find nostalgic value that once identified pride and privilege just to be associated with a sense of belonging. Seemingly, gone are the days when morals and ethics were instilled as part of familial mindset, complete with the discipline needed to augment right from wrong and applicable procedures to train up that child right. I can surely attest to those lost valuables while penning my upcoming book, ‘Righteous Apples and Other Spiritual Gems’ recalling what should be part of remembering when the simple things in life really meant something. It’s the precious homilies that I allude to in it that always brings me back to know how much I miss simplicity and quality living standards as I search for that village that raised me.
Many cities across the nation begat the origins of Black life near and around railroad tracks adjoining the spic and span of downtown locales, where whole generations jockeyed for position, and staked out livelihoods that colored canvases using hues that are exemplified earlier in this essay. Know that the generation you’re living in as you read this essay is nothing like what you experienced if you’re a Baby Boomer like me. A baby boomer is a person who was born during the demographic Post-World War II baby boom era, and the term itself is sometimes used in a cultural context. However, I’m using it here to illustrate differences and drawing parallel to changes that occurred back in the day as opposed to what’s happening now. In general though, baby boomers are usually associated with a rejection or redefinition of traditional values. So much so that many people have disputed the extent of that rejection, noting the widespread continuity of values with older and younger generations are varied and are allowing changes to truly broaden new sensibilities and other acquired habits to institutionalize a way of life. My, how times have changed! And it is that specific quality of life that I harken back to that has me reminiscing and longing for this generation to snap out of it.
Where is that village that raised me? Can I borrow the chinaberry bush switch that I had to clear the leaves off of so that my whipping would be complete...or perhaps turn back the hands of time, snatch some of what Big Mama preached, and give it to today’s youngsters? What is it that has parenting taking a back seat to taking control of their households? Back in the day there was a strong sense of togetherness in our society. The streets weren’t mean and malicious ready to swallow you up with every wrong turn you took. There were no hard-scale robberies, and petty theft were no more ‘grand‘ than taking money out of our mama’s pocketbook (which surely made you stand front and center with that chinaberry switch!). We looked out for each other and respected the elderly. You didn’t dare let Miss Sally (who always sat on the porch with good vantage points and saw EVERYTHING) catch you doing anything out of the way. If word got back to mama and daddy you HAD to confess, even if it wasn’t the way it actually happened ‘lest you ran the risk of calling Miss Sally a liar. Along with that, it would be unforgivable for someone of any age to walk in front of someone’s house, and if they were sitting out front (like Miss Sally always did), and you not wave and ask how they were doing. Moreover, you did not pass anyone on the street without speaking, especially if it was an elder...and if you were addressed by them you were expected to respond by saying ‘yes ma’am and no sir’ . Every responsible adult had the right, and were expected to chastise you and you knew when you got home you had another one coming! Everybody helped everybody, no one went hungry and we weren’t poor by any stretch of the imagination.
My heart is heavy and my mind hurts just observing what I see in today’s society. You have babies raising babies where girls are getting pregnant at such early ages. There are no more ‘Big Mama’s. They are all in the clubs, quite a bit of them in the 35-40 age range. There seems to be more one-parent households where the fathers have all but disappeared. Mothers are raising boys in matriarchal families and girls are not being taught the ways of men by their daddies. Social mores have eradicated with the softening and graying of gender awareness. It is the bi-curious nature that have homosexual tendencies running rampart, complete with androgynous personas with females especially wanting to be, and adhering to male dominances. I remember being taught to respect females and the attributes of chivalry. I felt for my sister and the sisters of my friends if and when they got out of line wanting to be more than what was taught that a respectable girl should embody. I know for a fact that girls back then were much harder to get than the ones I see in this generation! Church took on a life of its own. There was no such thing as you not going to church...not only did you go, but you were expected to be an active part of it, not like today where you see young folk leaving it in droves. Teens and young adults are not staying put to differ between being religious as opposed to embracing spirituality to perfect that quality of living I spoke of earlier. We had a few pimps, mind you...and prostitution wasn’t hidden, but today the new-fangled pimps are bold beyond measure -- you have them ascending pulpits! They’re continually leading God’s people astray with false prophetic views, albeit while proving that church is big business worthy of having a megachurch mentality.
Yes, I’m in search of that village that raised me. I want prayer and discipline back in the public school systems; I pray that every Black man change their selfish ways searching their souls and be accountable for loving their wives, embracing their children and bolstering their communities. I need for more women to stop taking the flak that men come up with just to get what they want...in other words ladies, close the candy shop and let them earn the goodies like my father and his father before him did. There are several other things that I’d like to see the village of today incorporate into their lives: I want our communities to stop being disenfranchised and exploited by people of other persuasions that don’t respect us. I want us to form more meaningful coalitions, love each other more, and learn how to better play the 21-century game of social responsibility and be ‘game changers’. That of advancing to the next level of personal and professional success, unleashing the greatness that lies within. Meanwhile, I will continue to search for my ‘village’ and teach those willing to listen!
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Incarceration is no joke, and often it has become status quo for wrong doers to be meted out punishment for their misdeeds. But what about the children who are faced with growing up without parents who will not be their for them? Is it conceivable too, to say that there’s problematic issues with the fact that at least 3 million children (an counting!) who have one or both parents in prison? They face, and are dealing with challenges and hardships through their own voices, and by way of the caregivers, grandparents, teachers, school counselors and social workers who are raising and interacting with them daily. Their stories and thoughts are unique. Authors Howard Zehr and Lorraine Stutzman-Amstutz decided it wasn’t robbery to give voice, visibility and vitality to these oft-forgotten children in their superb book, ‘What Will Happen To Me?’ Not least of which shouldn’t be understated are the importance also of the portraits supplied by Mr. Zehr as adjunct photographer bolstering the impact of the visual effects to the subject matter therein.
What Will Happen To Me are the effects of how unfortunate circumstances and the unforgiving policies in the judiciary system can have adverse ramifications on families that are suffering the consequences. Sobering words and heartfelt lamentations abound from what has been showcased in this book. The authors were erudite in capturing not only the essence of what research methodology is supposed to be when exposing accumulative data, but also quite proficient in suggesting relative topical issues and strategies that may be beneficial to both the children and others associated with this malady. I loved this book...so much so that it has heightened my awareness to want to be an advocate for the cause. The accolades I attribute are many, but first and foremost, it’s the voices of the children that are ever so vociferous and prevalent from the mouths of babes. Points to ponder proliferate throughout the whole book, evident in the detailed information and layout presentation. My support for the subject at hand is heart-felt as I hope when reading it, would have a bearing on the consciousness of what we should be doing to stem the tide and possible do what is needed to offer applicable means to augment aid.
The book is sectioned in various increments relative to cause, effect that forces you to be mindful of applicable measures for solutions. Part one deals with various statements from children interviewed juxtaposed with full-color poignancy. If a picture is akin to a 1,000 words then you will be mesmerized with expressions that can’t be ignored. The faces of the children with their stories are powerful! The message is the hope for change, and the need for the public to embrace their plight. Part two offers a look into what the caregivers are going through and information given for them which includes 10 questions that are obvious prompts that offer extensions to mindsets of children who are victimized by the circumstances surrounding incarcerated parents. These questions are typical of the breath and depth of what should be apropos for levels of commitment to rectify consequences relative to experiences associated with ill-treatments from schoolmates, familial attachments, adults who are ambivalent to their plight, and from those who are concerned but mired in the bureaucratic malaise that often accompany the judiciary system. Part three covers the topic as it pertains preventive measures and a sense of jurisprudence where t communities can, and should be working to restore corrective initiatives to help than hinder.
I like the fact that the authors believe that restorative justice and suggestive input are needed for strong support to garner more resources for challenge and change. I rate this book 5 stars out of five and recommend it for anyone who is serious about making a difference in the lives of children and families so affected. No matter what your thoughts are on this subject, the stories therein are large and compelling...and not only should they be heard, but greater effort should be indicative of the right kind of support and resources that can prevent other children from being victims aiding and abetting a system that is stifling the growth of the next generation. Buy this book where books are sold.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Strange it is when first meeting someone, never dreaming that one day it would manifest into something much more than a pleasant surprise. Such is the case with circumstances surrounding up and coming singer, LaVeda Davis. I was first introduced to La Veda’s mother in the mid 80’s, who was a colleague of one of my brothers working at an area vocational tech school in Miami. I vividly remember she telling me that her daughter was destined for stardom because she has an incredible voice. It was years later that I actually got a chance to witness and hear this unique talent, now all grown up still the chartreuse that she was labeled. La Veda, born in Miami, FL, realized her love of music at the age of 7 which subsequently blossomed into a creative spirit enhancing writing poetry and and putting music to her words. As it was, singing was a natural progressive move! Exposed to Leontyne Price by her father, she developed this hunger to sing opera first, then on to jazz and rhythm and blues. Featured in TRACE magazine's 1998's ‘Women in Music’ issue along with Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, Erykah Badu, and Janet Jackson, claiming the number nine (#9) spot. Honing her craft and not being confined to only singing, La Veda uses spoken word to help develop her songwriting skills and craft. No stranger to travel for exposure, she took part in the Double Talk 3, a Hip-Hop & Rap/Poetry festival in Amsterdam, featuring Antonia Reed aka Bahamadia, a Philadelphia-born hip hop artist. La Veda has performed in major music cities, such as Washington D.C., New York City, Amsterdam, Paris and her native Miami; and has recorded with many national and international music personalities and producers for a healthy mix, including,Tricky, Hada Guldris, N'Dinga Gaba, Kimani WIlson, Charles Dockins, A.D. Cruze, Dwayne Jensen, CJ Burken, Undah Dub, Steve Paradise, Trevor Goodchilde, Kenny "The Human Orchestra" Muhammad, Nitewerx, The Vision and Element of Titanz Entertainment, Cudda Brown, Dwayne Bastiany, Richard Joseph, Nicholas Walker, Barrington Williams, LineNoise, 418, Daniel Pinks, Kavayah Wright, DJ Booman, DJ Timmy, Joan Pau Buil...as well and Dana Byrd, who has been featured as a collaborative lead vocalist on several of her previous recordings.
Opting to don only her first name for recognition, La Veda’s luxuriant voice, her deft, hummable hooks, and her individualistic lyrics are deliciously hard to forget. Her first solo album, “Sticky/Foreplay,” just released on Harlem Station Recordings, has the authoritative grooves you’d expect from someone who’s collaborated with many of the aforementioned artists among other luminaries— any music aficionado wouldn’t have a problem tuning in to an incredible voice to set any mood. Can good music create a mood for a melange to know that a singer has arrived? Sticky/Foreplay, answers that very question. It exudes with sexual innuendo with all the trimmings of an expected climax! Fully rounded with 18 tracks, this album straddles various musical genres, from Urban Soul fused with Jazz to R&B with Europeanesque undertones. The songs on this set tend to be monotonous in style, where perhaps inclusion of different cadences would’ve given it more of an eclectic mix for those looking for a rise in temperature. Despite it being thematic, her stylistic renderings are smooth and simmering as the vocals are expertly segued with the type of fresh tracks and drum/bass sequences that flavors this album, and defines its distinctive and unmistakeable melodic flavor.
In my opinion, the tunes that touched me more were the ones that lives up to the title of the album -- ‘Second Skin’, ‘Round And Round’, ‘I Love You’, and the sensuous ‘Strip Down’. I asked La Veda to share insight on influences that have shaped her sound, only because I needed to know where did the ambiance come from to record this unique mix, and she responded by saying, “My father exposed me early on to some of the most extraordinary artists, such as Johnny Hartman, Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson, Brooke Benton, John Coltrane, Shirley Bassey, Phyllis Hyman, Barry White, War, Santana, Barbara Streisand, Sade, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Nat King Cole, Earth, Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye...there is an elegance in the way they told their stories, how they phrased their notes and how their voices and music left an profound mark on me.” This is the perfect idiom to set the stage for sensuality to accentuate whispers to scream. Great job La Veda, you have truly arrived and your introduction here is complete. Buy this CD and know that foreplay will be needed to really set you flowing!
Thursday, January 20, 2011
The Romer Reviewʼs Superlative Movers & Shakers and Other Memorable Books of 2010