My Thoughts on Mr. Martin.

By now, the bone chilling story of Trayvon Martin’s death has been regurgitated to the point of utter exhaustion.  The blogosphere and social media outlets are flooded with tributes and petitions of mindboggling variety, meanwhile, a family in Florida silently mourns the loss the nation’s current posterchild for the vicious cycle of racial violence that stirs below America’s belly.  Somewhere in the midst of things, I sit here with hurt feelings about this young man’s death.

Someone asked me to weigh in on Trayvon Martin’s demise and to them and everyone else I offer this…This is someone’s CHILD…I know it’s a racially charged issue and it’s easy to get caught up in the rage around this young man’s death, but I hurt more for his parents than any of the rest of it. Anyone that knows me or anything about me, know how I feel about my babies. I could never imagine…on any day having do without them…under ANY circumstances…regardless of how they leave, much less to the hands of someone who is clearly rogue in mind and spirit. So for his parents…I can’t imagine and wont try…just thinking about it makes me crazy.

For those who choose to pay tribute, I think that it’s awesome…the hoodies, skittles, Arizona tea…whatever you feel is a adequate tribute to celebrate this young man’s life and cry for justice is great….BUT keep in mind that there is a responsibility in protest. You must be accountable for your actions in ANY forum. The people who protested for civil rights before you didn’t go back to living their lives after they were sprayed, attacked by police and beaten…MLK didn’t stop marching, Malcolm didn’t put the AK down. They sowed seeds of the revolutions that we are a part of and they stood by it to the death. Don’t be the spearheads of a fickle protest…If you aren’t a part of your NAACP’s, neighborhood watches, PTA’s, spending time with our kids and volunteering time to secure the welfare of your children we are part of the problem. If we go back to our regular lives once Mr. Zimmerman is indicted…we lose. That makes it all propaganda.  The issue that I take with it all is that we often allow the media to dictate what battles we choose to fight.  These stories get brought to our attention via whatever news outlet we tune into, meanwhile, the stories of countless others, dont resonate at all.  While we are wearing hoodies for Trayvon, your young girls are being raped, children are being killed by their parents, young men are being  bullied, beaten, and killed by gangs, we lose countless lives to depression and suicides…We have Emmitt Tills already, We have Jena 6 already, We have Sean Bell already…now we add James Craig Anderson and Trayvon to the thousands of innocent lives…hell in our city, we have Wet Willies…We have children getting abducted (Amir Jennings) and we are the biggest threats to ourselves pretty much everywhere. If Trayvon did NOT die we shouldn’t need any additional motivation. We can’t continue to make ourselves susceptible to judgement and exploitation by the people that don’t understand us. So I hope that all who have courage to cry for justice here don’t waver when it gets thick…don’t just protest on Facebook and Twitter among your friends where its safe…The war is going on outside of the known variable…and we cant stop…because that young man fought for his life…and at some point we all will have to fight for something….even your children.

P.S. Geraldo, Faux News, Rush Limbaugh and whoever else had something stupid to say about this incident didn’t matter to me yesterday and don’t today…So if you are wondering how I feel about their statements…Pardon My Back.

 

The Blacker the Berry……. The Robert Glasper Experiment – “Black Radio” review

Let’s go nerd for a second…

The Law of  the Conservation of Mass/Matter/Energy observes that these entities are not created or destroyed…they simply change from one form to the next… For all technicalities sake, the same can be said for music.  I hear the groans of  my friends all the time…”There is no good music out there” or “…its not how it used to be…”  Much to the contrary my friends, I don’t believe the the quality of the music has weaned at all, but rather the shape of it has.  Case in Point: Robert Glasper’s latest entry, Black Radio.

Robert Glasper is a renowned jazz pianist.  His works resonate loudly amongst the current jazz artists and even amongst some of your favorite R&B and Hip-Hop artists.  For his Black Radio, Glasper clearly flexed his muscles, recruiting Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), Lalah Hathaway, Lupe Fiasco, Ledisi, Bilal, Stokely Williams, Erykah Badu, Musiq Soulchild, Chrisette Michele, Meshell Ndegeocello, and newcomers KING.  Glasper and The Experiment’s ambitions with the LP was to create a soundscape for what his interpretation of what the radio SHOULD sound like.  At the end of the day, the output is phenominal and modestly placed as  one of the greater musical projects I’ve heard so far this millenium.

There is not a forced record on this project. Intricately done and stitched together with pin point precision, the album smoothly glides from Erykah Badu’s spunky “Afro Blue” to Lalah’s flawless rendition of Sade’s seminal “Cherish The Day”.  Ledisi adds her polished vocals to “F.T.B”,  a Glasper original from his In My Element album and one of the first records that he did that captured my attention.  Musiq Soulchild and Chrisette Michele are magical on “Ahh Yeah” and Stokely (Mint Condition) takes flight on “Why Do We Try”.  The album is both groundbreaking and comfortably sound, backed by Glasper’s superior key work and The Experiment’s excelsior work providing a soundscape that is lush and dreamy.  Their rendition of  Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is awesome and Yasiin Bey’s vocals on the title cut are as crazy as they are passionate.

In closing, I don’t want you too feed too far into this review.  Ultimately I don’t think I do this any album any justice in saying how great it is.  The proof is in the pudding.  I defy anyone who truly loves music to listen to this album and not be captivated by it.  Robert Glasper is easily one of this generation’s jazz music greats and Black Radio validates his chops.  Earlier this year, I predicted that it would be the album of the year–well it met and exceeded my expectations.  I don’t doubt the possibility that there could be a better album to come out this year, but….Good luck…the bar has been set.  Radio programmers take note.

Walking on Water

Ok…So my favorite story in the Bible goes a lil’ somethin’ like this…

Matthew14:22-23

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

   29 “Come,” he said.

   Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

I feel like this is a moment in transition for a lot of people.  The lives of my peers are more dynamic than ever…parenthood (I see you Hayley and Steve), marriage (Congrats Mike Baker and Mike Brown on your respective and forthcoming nuptuals), our heroes are rising/falling and hell, I’m finally starting my career.  It is in these times that I feel more pressed to be faithful than usual because it is in these times of transition that I feel the way that I’m sure Peter did.  Looking out at that ocean, hearing the comfort in God’s words, but still human and in full admission that we may not be fully confident in ourselves to complete certain journeys.  I’m sure that by now God gets it…our bites aren’t half as good as our barks are.

People dedicate full time jobs to mitigating risk.  Countless company hours are spent designing blueprints for alternatives just in case things go awry.  We have insurance, we budget, we write bucket lists…all to detail the prospects of future plans/successes/shortcomings.   But, with that said I feel like the more we plan, God truly does laugh.  A good bit of us have created a reluctance to simply walk out on the water.  Most of us aren’t even willing to chance the possibilities, but would rather sit on the ship and wait for the storms of life to tear the decks apart.  Either that or wait to be rescued…even if it doesn’t come in time.

“…and the moments I thought I failed…I was  reminded of your nails…” – Smokie Norful  

A lot of us are content with being able to take what life gives you as opposed to going out and striving for what God has for us simply because there is a risk of failure.  We question the possibilities, are skeptical of those that offer the opportunities for greater things, and chide those who fail.  I decided to only share word of my departure from my job with the people at work that I cared for the most and ironically, I walked away from a lot of those conversations after I told them disappointed.  They were happy for me and that is great, but I was more disconcerted by what I heard after… The whole “I want to leave too…but” or “One day I’ll be able to get out of here…” talk.  People were talking to me like I was Peter…about to get off of this boat and about to walk on water…the worst part of that is that they made it seem as if me walking away was doing the impossible, as opposed to it being what God intended.  Frustrated…I just wanted to grab a few folks like, “YOU CAN DO THIS TOO!!!!” The noise became so loud that for a few seconds prior to accepting the job officially, I questioned it…I began to feel as if I was doing something wrong and slowly…I sank.  This feeling, in spite of the fact that I KNOW that God made a way for me to succeed, I stand at the rim of change feeling as if I would perish.  What a sucker.

People often speak of their faith in their blessings. They confess it with their mouths, but rarely do most of us act on it.  We always groan for the opportunity for greatness, but when it comes we act as if it is a dead alien body in the backyard.  Instead of walking on the water as we are instructed, maybe we prefer that God construct a bridge for us to scamper across instead. Not gonna’ happen.  The only way that we come face-to-face with what the promises of what God has in store for us is to traverse the uncertainties of life and walk towards him.  That isn’t always easy.  The rain will make it impossible to see, the winds may cause you to lose your balance, the waves will stir your consistency…but…there is only one way to save yourself.  Sometimes that even means walking out into the current when the water is calm and comfortable.  It is necessary to shake things up to break the monotony of the moment.  That may require a revolutionary stance.  Emptying out your savings to pay off some debt, taking a vacation without planning for it for half of the year, walking away from an eroding relationship, quitting your job to start a new one that pays a little less, or adding to your family are all things may not be without risk but don’t lack reward either.

By this point I feel as if I’m rambling and if you don’t get what I’m trying to say by now maybe it’s not time for you yet.  I start my new job next Monday.  It is not everything I want in a job, but it’s a step in the right direction.  It is my opportunity to walk on the water as instructed and with no apprehension, I plan on not only walking, but running across to embrace the possibilities ahead.  Sinking is not an option…

Death of a Star – The Tragedy of Whitney Houston

I feel horrible about the passing of Whitney Houston. When she married Bobby Brown in the early 90’s, the media pretty much kicked her in the grave then.  Not just “White” media, but urban radio had already turned on her , cast her away as “Pop”, and pretty much predicted prophetically that the “Bad Boy of R&B” would be her unraveling.  In addition to being the benchmark for all of female voices in her wake, Whitney Houston is  also a poster child for how the media leads the sheep out of the pasture and into the clutches of the wolves.

I am guilty…and a pretty good amount of her audience is.  Prior to today, I hadn’t heard a Whitney/Bobby joke I didn’t like or during the time she attempted resurrect her career, the critiques of her voice bellowed louder than my praise of her legacy.  She and Bobby Brown became walking punchlines in our favorite MC’s verses and the butt of jokes galore by our favorite comedians and media figures.  So as one of the most highly decorated and most POWERFUL voices of this and any generation lays cold and my timeline fills up well wishes…I sit here stunned. Not because she is dead, but I feel as if I watched her die… and as with many of our prior heroes, I reveled in her addictions and demons.  The award show rants, television shows and interviews where she was treated like a sideshow, reality television and yes…even the gossip blog….I sat in front of the television/laptop and watched this slow train wreck to its fiery end.

Truth is…over the span of the past few years, we have watched countless heroes fall prey to our greatest foes and do NOTHING to even acknowledge their demons.  Depression and drug addictions are epidemics.  What’s worse is that instead of praising those who bear the Earth heavy burden of entertaining us, we are more likely to either wait with baited anticipation for their downfall or foolishly attribute their success to the occult.

Whitney Houston is another one of my childhood heroes that I will not get to see in concert.  She won’t get to be a Liza Minelli, or a Bette Midler, or a Barbara Streisand, or a Betty White.  I am now relegated to posting songs and alluding to old concert performances; a faux tribute to another iconic figure whose life has been mercifully cut short by God to protect her soul from the cruel grips that trapped her flesh body here.  The jokes aren’t funny anymore and the interviews now seem as if they are in spite.  This one hurts just like losing MJ…because just as we did the most to create a beautiful black star…we also contributed to the clouds and bad weather that eclipsed it.

Rest in Paradise Whitney.  Your voice is now in it’s right place.  May your musical impact resonate with us forever beyond every thing the world has done to you…Job Well Done.

Last Respects to an Architect

Before Terrance J & Rocqsi, Free & AJ, Donnie & Sherri, Carson Daly,  and just about any other variation of televised music  television there was Don Cornelius.  Before we had the dancers in music videos, and flashy DVD concert series’ and reality stages…there was a Soul Train line.  Beyond the catchy tag lines and deep baritone cool, Don Cornelius was an innovator.  He is almost single handedly responsible for bringing Black music to television.  Every Saturday morning, when the Saturday cartoons went off and my parents would get us ready for the day out, I would be transfixed on that animated train dancing across the screen and waiting to hear Don majestically introduce a Kashif, a blossoming Janet Jackson, or a duet between Melba Moore and Janet Jackson.  He created a following in music through not only what people heard, but rather by what they saw.  The frenetic dances and jamming music, a beautiful stage offering set forth with Don as a narrator… Now of course this all started before my time, but it was these moments that defined what music was in the 80’s and very much defined what is missing in music now.

We lost the Don Cornelius earlier this week in what was reported to be a violent suicide this week.  I don’t like to discuss the parameters around the deaths of our heroes, especially not when it comes to suicides.  People seem to be aware of depression and the mental illnesses that lead people down that road to take their lives.  Having lost family members to the same disease, it hurts losing Don this way.  A person that shared such a gift with the world surely deserved a more ceremonious exit.  I like to think that God hears the cries of everyone…including those that feeling as if there is no other way out.  A sad and sudden end to a legacy that is sure to be carried on through syndicated TV and also through the artists’ music that he platformed every week on his show.  There are few black weddings, house parties, jook joints, and even regular clubs that don’t have Soul Train lines.  Here is to you Don…Music will not be the same without you… Love, Peace, and Soul.