Remembering Odetta, the Voice of the Civil Rights Movement

Singer and civil rights activist, Odetta, transitioned on December 2, 2008. A classically-trained singer born in Birmingham, AL on December 31, 1930, it was folk music that would establish her as an icon.

From the Tavis Smiley Show:


Called one of the great treasures of American music, musical activist Odetta has influenced such artists as Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Joan Baez. Since her '54 debut album, she's toured the world telling stories of America's southern experience in her songs. The Birmingham (AL) native sang at the March on Washington in '63, marched with Dr. King in Selma and protested against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. In '03, the Library of Congress honored the Grammy-nominated artist with its rare "Living Legend Award."

Odetta tavis smiley show 

Click here to listen to her interview and read the transcript from the Tavis Smiley Show of January 25, 2008.


Related Links:

Odetta, Voice of Civil Rights Movement, Dies at 77

Folk legend Odetta, 75, reflects on a pioneer's life





© 2008, on the black hand side,

Vote for this blog for Best Pop Culture Blog and Best Blog About Stuff in the 2009 Bloggers Choice Awards.


Remembering Shakir Stewart

Def Jam Records VP, Shakir Stewart, died from an apparent self-inflicted wound. His body was found in his Atlanta home. Stewart replaced Jay-Z at Def Jam just this past June. He was a native of Oakland, CA and a 1996 graduate of Morehouse College. Ashe'


© 2008, on the black hand side,

Vote for this blog for Best Pop Culture Blog and Best Blog About Stuff in the 2009 Bloggers Choice Awards.




Body of Boy is Julian King

The body of the young boy found in the white SUV was Julian King; he was shot multiple times. This brings the number of dead to three as a result of the multiple slayings that started on Friday.

There are no words to describe the pain that Jennifer Hudson and the rest of the Hudson family are experiencing. Ms. Hudson's brother-in-law is in custody and held for parole violations. He and his girlfriend gave conflicting information regarding his whereabouts.

To lose loved ones in such a tragic manner is more than devastating. The person or persons involved must be brought to justice. I pray for the Hudson family's strength during this situation. I also pray for the mercy and uplift for the souls of Darnell Donerson, Jason Hudson and Julian King. Ashe'.   


© 2008, on the black hand side,

Vote for this blog for Best Pop Culture Blog and Best Blog About Stuff in the 2009 Bloggers Choice Awards.





Marching Band Formations: How do they do that?

If you attended or had the opportunity to visit an HBCU (Historically-Black College and University), you know that this time of the year, football season, is a particularly exciting and important part of the college experience. While football games are an important part of game day, it is half-time that truly rules for HBCUs.

The movie Drumline captured much of the black college band experience but there's nothing like being there.

Here is video of the Florida A&M University Marching 100. Band director Dr. Julian White explains the conceptualization and execution of the intricate formations by the 420 plus member band.

As you may know, perennially, there is much trash-talking about which school has the best marching band. I think that FAMU, my alma mater, is the best. You know, often imitated, never duplicated. Give your school's marching band a shout out if you think your school's band is the best.

Related Link:


© 2008, on the black hand side,

Vote for this blog for Best Pop Culture Blog and Best Blog About Stuff in the 2008 Bloggers Choice Awards.


Mongo Santamaria, Latin Jazz and other musical things

Ramon "Mongo" Sanatamaria was one of the greatest percussionists of our time. I met him through a mutual friend during the mid-1980's and at the time did not know what a legend he was in jazz, especially Latin jazz. You may already know his sound from jazz classics such as Watermelon Man and Afro Blue.

As a child, there was always music in my home. My mother taught dance: modern; jazz and African, so there was music. While there were different types of music my Dad preferred jazz. So, without really knowing who the people were, I loved looking at the album covers of and listening to Sarah Vaughn, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Lionel Hampton and other well-known musicians.

Although I recall hearing various rhythms as a child, Santamaria was my introduction to Latin jazz. I think I am naturally drawn to the beat of the drums but whatever the reason, I came to enjoy the works of other Afro-Cuban artists such as Celia Cruz, La Lupe and Candido Camero.

Mr. Santamaria was kind, humble and unassuming during the few times I was in his company. I was amazed by his passion and energy when he played congas. He transitioned from this world on February 1, 20003 at Baptist Hospital in Miami. You'll find his biography in many places throughout the internet but I find the bio by Richard Ginnell most extensive and well-written.

Here's a video of Santamaria with Ray Barretto.

Spreading the Love: "We're a Winner" by The Impressions

Here's a video that was sent to me by ndpthepoetress. It's been a minute since I've thought of it let alone heard. It is uplifting and I'm just spreading the love. Enjoy.

It seens as though TGrundy started this music flow on my blog and it hasn't stopped. The Impressions were a great group. I'll share more of their work in later posts.

Thanks, ndpthepoetress.

Summer Music Meme: Seven Songs/Sing Along

TGrundy from RIBS: Rhythms In Black Satin, has challenged me with this latest meme on music. Here's how it works:

Tagged by: Black Cat - Janet Jackson the "PodFather" (a.k.a. EJFlavors) 

"List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're not any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying now, shaping your spring summer. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they're listening to."

Here's my Seven Songs/Sing Along

  1. This is one of my favorite songs of all time and definitely my favorite Janet Jackson song Janet went metal and I love it! I especially listen to this when I have housework to do.

  2. I love the vibe of this song. The beat is mellow and it's sensuous without being raunchy.

  3. This is my long distance driving and I'm kinda bored song. I guess I've been in a mellow mood lately.

  4. I don't know why I've been singing this song lately; but I have.

  5. What can I say? I love Celia Cruz.

  6. And I love me some Nina too. I think I heard the song on the radio and just started playing my Nina Simone CD over and over and over again. Perhaps it was all this Barack Obama excitement.

  7. I've been dancing to this song since I watched the movie "Evan Almighty' acouple of weeks ago. The beat is infectious. I wonder what happened to the folks from C+C Music Factory?

    OK, those are my seven songs. It was hard to write this post without dancing too much. I'm not gonna tag anyone; I'm having too much fun dancing.

Sometimes I Wish I Was White

"Sometimes I feel, I wish I was white so I could feel just how it feels to be treated right. I'm not ashamed of me. Just one time, I want to see how it feels to be treated equally."

Those are the powerful words from the controversial song by Allen Watty. Please listen and share your feelings on this song.

Watty has also written: Hurricane Song; The Snitching Song; Racial profiling Song; and The "N" Word Song. Check out his work at His songs can be downloaded for free.


I Love Chuck D

There's nothing like an school rapper. I'm talking back in the day before the bling. Apparently rap legend Chuck D laid it down old school style in a recent forum on the state of hip hop. Be sure to read the entire article before you start trippin' off his choice of words. Peace and I'm out.

Chuck's Still Fighting

You gotta love Chuck D, a true original and a genuine badass. Even when he's wrong, you nod your head and throw up a fist. Chuck took part in a hip-hop summit at the University of South Florida last night: "Perspectives of Hip Hop in Today's Society," a rather wonky title for a decidedly hot-button event. I'm not that crazy about the story I filed on deadline -- it's pretty stiff -- but I've provided it below nonetheless. There's definitely more to be said about hip-hop perpetuating the very stereotypes it claims it hates.

Anyway, at the very least, I can clarify here what Chuck D said about Viacom media mogul Sumner Redstone, puppetmaster of MTV and BET: "I wanna whup that cracker's ass!" Again, god bless Chuck D.
Continue reading…]

Before Madonna and Grace Jones there was...Josephine Baker


Josephine Baker sashayed onto a Paris stage during the 1920s with a comic, yet sensual appeal that took Europe by storm. Famous for barely-there dresses and no-holds-barred dance routines, her exotic beauty generated nicknames "Black Venus," "Black Pearl" and "Creole Goddess." Admirers bestowed a plethora of gifts, including diamonds and cars, and she received approximately 1,500 marriage proposals. She maintained energetic performances and a celebrity status for 50 years until her death in 1975. Unfortunately, racism prevented her talents from being wholly accepted in the United States until 1973.

Humble beginnings

She was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 3, 1906 to washerwoman Carrie McDonald and vaudeville drummer Eddie Carson. Eddie abandoned them shortly afterward, and Carrie married a kind but perpetually unemployed man named Arthur Martin. Their family eventually grew to include a son and two more daughters.

Josephine grew up cleaning houses and babysitting for wealthy white families who reminded her "be sure not to kiss the baby." She got a job waitressing at The Old Chauffeur's Club when she was 13 years old. While waiting tables she met and had a brief marriage to Willie Wells. While it was unusual for a woman during her era, Josephine never depended on a man for financial support. Therefore, she never hesitated to leave when a relationship soured. She was married and divorced three more times, to American Willie Baker in 1921 (whose last name she chose to keep), Frenchman Jean Lion in 1937 (from whom she attained French citizenship) and French orchestra leader Jo Bouillon in 1947 (who helped to raise her 12 adopted children).

Josephine toured the United States with The Jones Family Band and The Dixie Steppers in 1919, performing various comical skits. When the troupes split, she tried to advance as a chorus girl for The Dixie Steppers in Sissle and Blake's production Shuffle Along. She was rejected because she was "too skinny and too dark." Undeterred, she learned the chorus line's routines while working as a dresser. Thus, Josephine was the obvious replacement when a dancer left. Onstage she rolled her eyes and purposely acted clumsy. The audience loved her comedic touch, and Josephine was a box office draw for the rest of the show's run.

Parisian sensation

She enjoyed moderate success at The Plantation Club in New York after Shuffle Along. However, when Josephine traveled to Paris for a new venture, La Revue Nègre, it proved to be a turning point in her career. Amongst a compilation of acts, Josephine and dance partner Joe Alex captivated the audience with the Danse Sauvage. Everything about the routine was new and exotic, and Josephine, boldly dressed in nothing but a feather skirt, worked the audience into frenzy with her uninhibited movements. She was an overnight sensation.

Josephine's immense popularity afforded her a comfortable salary, which she spent mostly on clothes, jewelry and pets. She loved animals, and at one time she owned a leopard (Chiquita), a chimpanzee (Ethel), a pig (Albert), a snake (Kiki), a goat, a parrot, parakeets, fish, three cats and seven dogs.

Her career thrived in the integrated Paris society; when La Revue Nègre closed, Josephine starred in La Folie du Jour at the Follies-Bergère Theater. Her jaw-dropping performance, including a costume of 16 bananas strung into a skirt, cemented her celebrity status. Josephine rivaled Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford as the most photographed woman in the world, and by 1927 she earned more than any entertainer in Europe. She starred in two movies in the early 1930s, Zou-Zou and Princess Tam-Tam, and moved her family from St. Louis to Les Milandes, her estate in Castelnaud-Fayrac, France.

A 1936 return to the United States to star in the Ziegfield Follies proved disastrous, despite the fact that she was a major celebrity in Europe. American audiences rejected the idea of a black woman with so much sophistication and power, newspaper reviews were equally cruel (The New York Times called her a "Negro wench"), and Josephine returned to Europe heartbroken.

Righting wrongs

Josephine served France during World War II in several ways. She performed for the troops, and was an honorable correspondent for the French Resistance (undercover work included smuggling secret messages written on her music sheets) and a sub-lieutenant in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. She was later awarded the Medal of the Resistance with Rosette and named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French government for hard work and dedication.

Josephine visited the United States during the 50s and 60s with renewed vigor to fight racism. When New York's popular Stork Club refused her service, she engaged a head-on media battle with pro-segregation columnist Walter Winchell. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) named May 20 Josephine Baker Day in honor of her efforts.

It was also during this time that she began adopting children, forming a family she often referred to as "The Rainbow Tribe." Josephine wanted her to prove that "children of different ethnicities and religions could still be brothers." She often took the children with her cross-country, and when they were at Les Milandes tours were arranged so visitors could walk the grounds and see how natural and happy the children in "The Rainbow Tribe" were.

Josephine continued to travel to the United States, and during her visits she developed a close friendship with American artist Robert Brady. Now divorced from her fourth husband Jo Bouillon, she was looking for companionship on a more platonic level. Brady felt the same, and on a trip to Acapulco, Mexico in September 1973 they went to an empty church and exchanged marriage vows. Though no clergy was present, and they were never legally joined, it was an important personal bond that she and Brady maintained the rest of her life. Josephine told very few people about the pseudo marriage, fearing the press would ridicule it.

Sad farewells

Josephine agreed to perform at New York's Carnegie Hall that same year. Due to previous experience, she was nervous about how the audience and critics would receive her. This time, however, cultural and racial growth was evident. Josephine received a standing ovation before the concert even began. The enthusiastic welcome was so touching that she wept onstage.

On April 8, 1975 Josephine premiered at the Bobino Theater in Paris. Celebrities such as Princess Grace of Monaco and Sophia Loren were in attendance to see 68-year-old Josephine perform a medley of routines from her 50 year career. The reviews were among her best ever. Days later, however, Josephine slipped into a coma. She died from a cerebral hemorrhage at 5 a.m. on April 12.

More than 20,000 people crowded the streets of Paris to watch the funeral procession on its way to the Church of the Madeleine. The French government honored her with a 21-gun salute, making Josephine Baker the first American woman buried in France with military honors. Her gravesite is in the Cimetiére de Monaco, Monaco.

Josephine Baker has continued to intrigue and inspire people throughout the world. In 1991, HBO released The Josephine Baker Story. The movie won two Emmys, for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries (Lynn Whitfield) and Outstanding Art Direction. The movie also picked up one of three Golden Globe nominations.

Source: The Official Josephine Baker Website