Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Friday, March 30, 2007

Soldier Leaves Journal for Son Before Dying

First Sargeant Charles Monroe King was killed in Baghdad in October, just one month before he was supposed to rejoin his fiancé and infant son. But in anticipation of his death, he started keeping a journal that he wanted to leave as a legacy to his son.

Dana Canedy, the woman who was looking forward to spending her life with the 48-year-old King and their son, wrote a touching New York Times essay about King’s journal and his wishes. King had left for the Middle East before his son was born, and saw him once on leave last August.

In her essay, Canedy, also a Times editor, wrote, “For months before my fiancé, First Sgt. Charles Monroe King, kissed my swollen stomach and said goodbye, he had been preparing for the beginning of the life we had created and for the end of his own.”

The 200-page journal contains touching advice from father to son that could apply to many little boys who will, no doubt, need advice from fathers who won’t be there for many reasons, including being killed while serving duty in Iraq.

King writes these words to his son:

Never be ashamed to cry …

Remember who taught you to speak, to walk and to be a gentleman. These [women] are your first teachers, my little prince. Protect them, embrace them and always treat them like a queen.

Things may not always be easy or pleasant for you, that’s life, but always pay your respects for the way people lived and what they stood for. It’s the honorable thing to do.

Canedy’s essay originally appeared on January 1 this year. She is now writing a book for Crown Publishing Group. Denzel Washington will produce and possibly star in a film "Journal for Jordan," based on the journal. Escape Artists at Columbia Pictures acquired the film rights.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

In Search of Oprah’s House

I’ve heard rumors (from my friend Annette in Franklin, Tenn.) that Oprah Winfrey is building a house in Brentwood, Tenn., just outside Nashville. This would make sense since Oprah’s father, Vernon Winfrey, lives in Nashville. Maybe she wants to have a place to reside while she’s visiting her dad who owns and operates a barbershop called Winfrey’s Barbershop. Mr. Winfrey has also been featured in "Cuttin' Up," Craig Marberry's book about barbershops as community gathering places for black men. Mr. Winfrey is also a character in the play, “Cuttin’ Up,” by Charles Randolph-Wright, which is based on the book. The play has been produced all over the country and is currently running at the Pasadena Playhouse in California through April 15.

Annette and I are trying to figure out how we can get copies of our resumes, writing samples, and evidence of our other talents to the great Oprah. If we only had her address, we could send our resumes to her Tennessee address. Anybody have that information?

I’m regretting not going to auditions for Oprah’s upcoming Reality show called "The Big Give." The Nashville auditions were held about a month ago and I was too overwhelmed at the time with other things to make it. My friend Cheryl in Los Angeles was encouraging me to go, but I just didn’t have the energy. I was hoping that she would go to the L.A. auditions and get in. That way I could have served as her assistant or something. Oh well. In case you don’t know about the show, "The Big Give" will give participants a chance to come up with innovative ways to help other people all across the country.

Oh well. If the show is a success, maybe they’ll bring it back next year. And if they have those Nashville auditions, I promise I’ll go compete Cheryl if you go to the Los Angeles auditions.

Here are some projects I'd create if I had the money that Oprah will hopefull give the contestants on "The Big Give" show:
A free academic summer program for children from 4 to 18 years old.

A free Spanish language program for children and their parents.

A Rites of Passage program for young girls and boys.

A non-profit theater and film organization that would train young people and adults interested in play and film production.

500 Housing Units for the Homeless in Nashville.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Confession Time: I’m a Coffee Fiend

The name of this blog, Cappuccino Soul, points to my love for coffee. Yes, I am a coffee fiend. Cappuccino Soul beat out some other names, including Geechee Girl Soul, which I really like, but as my husband says, I’m not really a Geechee girl. But I do have ancestors from the Gullah/Geechee traditions and the older I get, the more they speak to me.

One of my aunties, who is from the Gullah area in South Carolina (you should hear her speak—-she has the most beautiful accent), used to pull out the percolator every time I’d visit her in Queens. I was living in New York City, but because of my schedule and hers, I didn’t get out to Queens that much. But when I did, Aunt Margaret would place our mugs on the table and get the coffee to percolatin’. We would sit and talk about the family members from Buffalo to South Carolina. The more coffee we drank, the more we’d laugh.

I’ve already told my daughter, who has frequently eyed my cups of black coffee and licked her lips, that coffee is for adults only. I told her that when she turns 18 she can start drinking coffee. She’s already trying to shave off some of those years. She’ll say, “Children don’t drink coffee, but when I’m 16, I can drink coffee too, right mommy?” Then I’ll remind her that I said “18,” not “16.”

Then she says “Okay,” with a sly look on her face.

I haven’t told her yet about the time period during my early teenage years when I would slip and drink a cup of coffee when I arrived home from school. Mom and dad were still at work, so I figured, why not try a cup. My mom had already told me that I wasn’t supposed to drink coffee until I became an adult. But I had to have some of that strong percolated coffee that my mom would make on the stove. By the time I got to it in the afternoon, it had sat long enough to really pack a jolt. It didn’t take me long to realize that the reason I was dancing around, singing, jumping on the sofa, and making nonsensical noises while I was alone in the house, was because the caffeine was making me a little crazy. The high was extraordinary, but the fall was depressing. I guess children can’t handle the effects of coffee like adults. That’s probably why many parents forbid their children from drinking coffee. It’s a drug y'all! After about a week, I stopped sneaking those cups of coffee and waited until I was 24 to become a regular coffee drinker.

I wonder if my daughter senses that coffee is a guilty pleasure for me. Although I’ve heard good and bad research study results about coffee, I try to only think about the good ones—most of the time. If anyone knows of a good reason why I should drink coffee everyday, please feel free to write me a note. I promise I’ll consider what you say.

Legend has it that over a thousand years ago, an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi spotted some of his goats having a funky good time, merrily dancing around a bush with dark green leaves and bright red berries. Kaldi wanted to feel the jolt of joviality that the beans gave to his goats, so he ate some of the berries and did his own version of the goat dance.

I guess I’ll always be searching for that cup of coffee that will inspire me to do my own dance around the berries. Maybe one day I’ll find it.

Some interesting facts about coffee:

Coffee is an 18 billion dollar a year industry.

Over 400 million cups of coffee are consumed in the U.S. each day.

Have you had your cup of café today?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Washington Post Editorial Details Patriot Act Abuse Claim

As I was reading Editor & Publisher today, I was shaken by the first story that I read. The journal includes an article about today’s Washington Post editorial, written by an anonymous writer, regarding a national security letter that the writer received while serving as the president of an Internet access firm. In the piece, the Internet consultant expresses discontent with the Patriot Act provision that gives the FBI expanded power to issue “national security letters.”

Here is some of what the writer said:

Three years ago, I received a national security letter (NSL) in my capacity as the president of a small Internet access and consulting business. The letter ordered me to provide sensitive information about one of my clients. There was no indication that a judge had reviewed or approved the letter, and it turned out that none had. The letter came with a gag provision that prohibited me from telling anyone, including my client, that the FBI was seeking this information. Based on the context of the demand -- a context that the FBI still won't let me discuss publicly -- I suspected that the FBI was abusing its power and that the letter sought information to which the FBI was not entitled …

Living under the gag order has been stressful and surreal. Under the threat of criminal prosecution, I must hide all aspects of my involvement in the case -- including the mere fact that I received an NSL -- from my colleagues, my family and my friends. When I meet with my attorneys I cannot tell my girlfriend where I am going or where I have been. I hide any papers related to the case in a place where she will not look. When clients and friends ask me whether I am the one challenging the constitutionality of the NSL statute, I have no choice but to look them in the eye and lie.

I resent being conscripted as a secret informer for the government and being made to mislead those who are close to me, especially because I have doubts about the legitimacy of the underlying investigation.

The anonymous writer also said that if he had not been under a gag order, he would have voiced his concerns about the Patriot Act. He also said he would have contacted Congress to disucss his experiences with the FBI and “to advocate changes in the law.”

Read the entire, disturbing, piece in today’s Washington Post.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Gullah Bible: Echoes of the African Voices

Yesterday my 4-year-old daughter and I were at a church service, and about an hour into the program, she got a little fidgety. She was really interested in the Bibles that were in the pew and wanted me to read one of them. So I opened one up to the beginning and started reading, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the ...

Then she didn't want to hear anymore of the story. I was thinking that if I had a copy of the Gullah Bible called "De Nyew Testament," then I might be able to hold her attention a little longer.

I would probably have started with John 7:24:

Oona mus dohn jedge jes wa oona da see. Mus jedge how ting da fa true. Den some de people dey een Jerusalem beena aks say, "Dis de man wa de Jew leada dem da try fa kill, ainty? Bot see yah, e da taak yah weh ebrybody yeh um, an dey ain say nottin ginst um! Ya spose de Jew leada dem know fa true dat Jedus, e de Messiah? Bot wen de Messiah come, nobody ain gwine know weh e come fom, an we all know weh dis man come fom.

I bet that would have held her attention!

The Gullah Bible was completed in 2005 by The Sea Island Translation Team in cooperation with Wycliffe Bible Translators. The American Bible Society served as the publishing house for the book, which took its translators more than 25 years to complete.

Here's some information from the preface of the book:

Gullah, also known as Geechee or as Sea Island Creole, is a language traditionally spoken along the coastal area of South Carolina and Georgia. While in the past Gullah was mistakenly characterized as poor English, today it is recognized as a distinct language. It is an English creole, born several hundred years ago out of a contact language situation where Africans were taken from various nations and language groups to grow rice in the marshy lowcountry area along the Southeastern coast of the American colony.

If you ever visit certain parts of South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida--especially the Sea Islands and the Charleston area--you'll hear echoes of the African voices today.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Sunshowers: Some of Gigi’s Favorite Songs

I was asking my Auntie Carolyn in the D.C. area to start feeding me some news about the latest goings on in “Chocolate City.” Then I told her how much our daughter (nicknamed Gigi) loves the song “Chocolate City” by Parliament.

Gigi also really gets into the songs discussed below. Some are, of course, favorites of ours, so it follows that she would love them too—she certainly hears them enough around the house.

“Sunshower” by Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band

Sunshower, just a sign of the power of loving you, oh, baby
Sunshower, got me by the hour, wanting you, oh, baby

When my eyes went out to you,
I made up mind,
That every little thing I do,
Be designed to glorify you.

Ooh, my whole life through,
I've been walking in the rain
Until that day I chanced on you
And the sun came pouring down, too …

“Sunshower” is one of my favorite songs that Gigi has been hearing since she was in the womb. I think she loves the following song because it borrows from the original “Sunshower.”

“Sunshowers” by M.I.A. (Maya Arulpragasam)

"From the Congo to Colombo!
"Can’t stereotype my thing yo / I salt and pepper my mango"…

Sunshowers that fall on my troubles
Are over you, My baby
And Some Showers I'll be aiming at you
Cause I'm watching you, My baby ...

She can’t sit down to this one from a CD called African Playground (from Putumayo World Music):

"Battú" by Angelique Kidjo. (She sings in Yoruba, but here are some of the words in English):

We may have no money
We may have no food
But we know our pride.
You can go play with your money
Enjoy it with other people
We couldn’t care less!

Gigi and I both have to move whenever we hear “The Ave.,” an instrumental trip hop number by a group called Holland Tunnel Project from their CD, What Hip Hop Left Behind.

She loves “Um Canto de Afoxe Para O Bloco do lle (Ile Aye)”, a festive Brazilian song that uses children to sing the danceable chorus. The words are in Portuguese, but here’s the English Translation:

"Ile Aye" by Caetano Veloso and Moreno Veloso

You are so beautiful to see
What beautiful beauty to behold

Your beauty is transformed into you
What a happy way to live ...

Listen to a sample of Ile Aye here (Number 4).

Not only does she love the show, but she also loves the theme song to the Nick Jr. show, The Backyardigans:

Your backyard friends, the Backyardigans!
Together in the backyard again,
In the place where we belong,
Where we'll prob'ly sing a song,
And we'll maybe dance along.

We've got the whole wide world in our yard to explore.
We always find things we've never seen before.
That's why every day we're back for more
With your friends, the Backyardigans.

And if you could only here her sing "A Change Is Gonna Come," you wouldn't believe the adult-like passion she puts into it. She means it when she sings this song.

"A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cook

I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I've been runnin’ ever since
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes it will …

Of course you can't keep Gigi in her seat when she hears Jill Scott’s “Golden.”

I'm taking my freedom,
Pulling it off the shelf,
Putting it on my chain,
Wear it around my neck,
I'm taking my freedom,
Putting it in my car,
Wherever I choose to go,
It will take me far,

I'm livin' my life like it's golden
Livin' my life like it's golden …

And finally, my husband wouldn't be right if Gigi didn't know all the words to, "It's a Family Affair" by Sly and the Family Stone.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

It's Like a Jungle Sometimes

In celebration of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this week, here are the lyrics to their 1982 homage to the homies in the “hoods” around the world. This song is a masterpiece that will probably, and unfortunately, be relevant one hundred years from now. Rap along or cry a little as you remember what is was like back on your block.

The Message
(E. Fletcher, S. Robinson, C. Chase, M.Glover/Sugar Hill Records)

It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under
It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under

Broken glass everywhere
People pissin' on the stairs, you know they just don't care
I can't take the smell, can't take the noise
Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice
Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat
I tried to get away but I couldn't get far
'cuz a man with a tow truck repossessed my car

Don't push me 'cuz I'm close to the edge
I'm trying not to lose my head
Uh huh ha ha ha ha ha
It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under

Standin' on the front stoop hangin' out the window
Watchin' all the cars go by, roarin' as the breezes blow
Crazy lady, livin' in a bag
Eatin' outta garbage pails, used to be a fag hag
Said she'll dance the tango, skip the light fandango
A Zircon princess seemed to lost her senses
Down at the peep show watchin' all the creeps
So she can tell her stories to the girls back home
She went to the city and got social security
She had to get a pimp, she couldn't make it on her own

Don't push me 'cuz I'm close to the edge
I'm trying not to lose my head
Uh huh ha ha ha ha ha

It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under
It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under

My brother's doin' bad, stole my mother's TV
Says she watches too much, it's just not healthy
”All My Children” in the daytime, “Dallas” at night
Can't even see the game or the Sugar Ray fight
The bill collectors, they ring my phone
and scare my wife when I'm not home
Got a bum education, double-digit inflation
Can't take the train to the job, there's a strike at the station
Neon King Kong standin' on my back
Can't stop to turn around, broke my sacroiliac
A mid-range migraine, cancered membrane
Sometimes I think I'm goin' insane
I swear I might hijack a plane!

Don't push me 'cuz I'm close to the edge
I'm trying not to lose my head
It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under
It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under

My son said, Daddy, I don't wanna go to school
'cuz the teacher's a jerk, he must think I'm a fool
And all the kids smoke reefer, I think it'd be cheaper
if I just got a job, learned to be a street sweeper
Or dance to the beat, shuffle my feet
Wear a shirt and tie and run with the creeps
'cuz it's all about money, ain't a damn thing funny
You got to have a con in this land of milk and honey
They pushed that girl in front of the train
Took her to the doctor, sewed her arm on again
Stabbed that man right in his heart
Gave him a transplant for a brand new start
I can't walk through the park 'cuz it's crazy after dark
Keep my hand on my gun 'cuz they got me on the run
I feel like a outlaw, broke my last glass jaw
Hear them say “You want some more?”
Livin' on a see-saw

Don't push me 'cuz I'm close to the edge
I'm trying not to lose my head
Say what?

It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under
It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under

A child is born with no state of mind
Blind to the ways of mankind
God is smilin' on you but he's frownin' too
Because only God knows what you'll go through
You'll grow in the ghetto livin' second-rate
And your eyes will sing a song called deep hate
The places you play and where you stay
Looks like one great big alleyway
You'll admire all the number-book takers
Thugs, pimps and pushers and the big money-makers
Drivin' big cars, spendin' twenties and tens
And you'll wanna grow up to be just like them, huh
Smugglers, scramblers, burglars, gamblers
Pickpocket peddlers, even panhandlers
You say I'm cool, huh, I'm no fool
But then you wind up droppin' outta high school
Now you're unemployed, all non-void
Walkin' round like you're Pretty Boy Floyd
Turned stick-up kid, but look what you done did
Got sent up for a eight-year bid
Now your manhood is took and you're a Maytag
Spend the next two years as a undercover fag
Bein' used and abused to serve like hell
'til one day, you was found hung dead in the cell
It was plain to see that your life was lost
You was cold and your body swung back and forth
But now your eyes sing the sad, sad song
Of how you lived so fast and died so young so...

Don't push me 'cuz I'm close to the edge
I'm trying not to lose my head
Uh huh huh huh huh

It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under
Huh, uh huh huh huh huh
It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under
Huh, uh huh huh huh huh

The accomplishments of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were celebrated at the induction ceremony earlier this week, along with R.E.M., The Ronettes, Patti Smith, and Van Halen.

“Grandmaster, come faster
Than any known cell to the bone
Fullgrown he's a one of a kind
And Flash is gonna rock your mind (rah!)”

Friday, March 09, 2007

More Trouble in Rosegate

More ill winds have fallen upon my old neighborhood in Delaware—Rosegate, located on the Wilmington-New Castle line. My mom said she stopped yesterday, just as she was headed out the door to go to the bank, when she saw police vans, officers on motorcycles and horses overtake the community.

For the second time in two months, police raided Rosegate, shut down access to the community to its residents and arrested at least 11 people yesterday, The News Journal reported. Authorities said this raid was part of a continuing effort to crack down on a “sophisticated around-the-clock drug trade,” according to the paper.

“The cavalry, consisting of about 28 marked and undercover vehicles, rolled north on Del. 9 from the Delaware Memorial Bridge about 12:05 p.m., blocking off Revis Avenue and Rose Lane, before targeting six residences linked to drug sales.”

I’m so chagrined to learn that the old neighborhood is sliding farther and farther down into the drug-infested psyche of this country. Remember, your neighborhood could be next.

I know Wikipedia has had problems with people disputing the accuracy of some of its entries, but this paragraph about crime in the Wilmington area I find to be true:
Given Wilmington's central location between Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York City, the city saw a massive rise in drug sales in the early 1990s. Dealers found that Wilmington's poorly patrolled streets and underfunded police force (at one time only eight police cars monitored the city at night) made the city a relatively easy location in which to operate …

To counter this crime wave, Wilmington became the first city in the U.S. to have its entire downtown area under surveillance: some $800,000 worth of video cameras (some bought with public money, some by downtown businesses) have the exteriors of all buildings in view, and the technicians who monitor them dispatch the city's police to the scene of any crime or suspicious activity they see, while it is still happening. Recently, the City has expanded the surveillance program into some of the more crime-ridden neighborhoods.

I should say that I personally know many success stories that have come out of Rosegate. My best friend, who lived just four homes down from mine in Rosegate, earned her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from Meharry Medical College in Nashville. (Rest in peace, Crissy. You made us proud.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

‘‘Loving Your Hair is Loving Yourself”

Although India Arie sang, “I am not my hair, I am not my skin, I am not your expectations,” some people still judge African-American women by how they wear their hair. Whether they wear it in a natural style or processed, black women can be stereotyped simply because they wear locks or hair permed ultra straight.

West Philly hair stylist Yvette Smalls, director of the 40-minute documentary Hair Stories, asks the question, “What’s wrong with the hair you've got?” in her film. Several subjects featuring Erykah Badu, Sonia Sanchez, Dr. Jackie Copeland-Carson, and others talk about what it means to have African inspired hair. Smalls' film will be shown on Tuesday, March 20 at 7 p.m., Robin’s Bookstore, 108 South 13th Street in Philadelphia. (This is one of those events I’d love to attend, but can’t.) Smalls will also lead an open discussion about the myth of the “good hair” vs. “bad hair.” (Aren’t you sick of hearing those terms?)

"Loving your hair is loving yourself," says Copeland-Carson in the film.

Also in Hair Stories, Badu recalls when girls with unstraightened hair were called “pickaninny" and "nappy nigger." Sanchez talks about coming home one day with an afro—her family kept asking her,“What happened to your hair?”

This film is sure to inspire and enlighten, I’m sure. If you’re in Philly, check it out and let me know how it affected you.

Check out this interview with Badu on her participation in the film.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

March to Remember the Living and Dead in Iraq

“Young people, and especially young women, have always played a major role in the struggle for social justice and in opposition to war. It is our duty to help make this new anti-war movement a powerful and effective force. That's why we are mobilizing young people from Washington Heights in New York City to march on the Pentagon on March 17th.” --Claudia de la Cruz, Director, Dominican Women’s Youth Development Center

Don’t throw out those old shoes you’ve got cluttering your house and closets. Put them to good use by taking them to the Nashville Peace and Justice Center where they’ll be used in a march to commemorate the 4th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Join others in the Nashville Anti-War Rally and March at 2 p.m., Saturday, March 17, at the Owen Bradley Park, Division and 16th (near the Musica Roundabout).

Volunteers will label the shoes with the names of Tennesseans, friends, and family members who have served in Iraq, especially those killed or wounded. Also, volunteers will label shoes with the names of Iraqi men, women, and children who have been killed since the invasion. Participants will carry shoes and organization banners as they walk to the Federal Building at Broadway and 9th at 3:30 p.m. Take your shoes to the Nashville Peace and Justice Center, 1016 18th Avenue South. After the march, the shoes will be donated to Goodwill.

If you’re really adventurous, you can join the March on the Pentagon, also on Saturday, March 17. Buses will leave Friday night, March 16 from the Nashville Peace and Justice Center and return Sunday morning. Requested donation is $100, but a sliding scale fee is available for people who don’t have the funds. A few scholarships are available too. Contact Jane Hussain at or 650-8868 for more information about the scholarships and the march.

Looking for additional “progressive” things to do? Check out the Middle Tennessee Progressives Calendar. It’s full of scheduled events such as the Fathers in Prison Support Group Meetings and meetings for Mobilizing the Mamas (I may have to check that one out myself).