Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Friday, May 29, 2009

Heaven Lies at the Foot of Mother

Something pulled me to the Final Call today. Perhaps it was a need to read a different perspective than that presented by the mainstream press (New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, etc.) And I'm also stimulated, educated, and provoked to really think when I hear or see the words of Minister Louis Farrakhan. I don't know what the condition of his health is these days, but I certainly pray that he's doing well. He's given us so much to think about, ponder, and debate in his lifetime. You can't deny that he has a passionate love for his people.

While reading the Final Call online, I came across this article by Farrakhan about the "Proper View of the Woman." Check out how his view (that of a Muslim minister) differs from this Baptist minister's view of a woman's role in the church.

While speaking at this Baptist preacher's church several years ago, Farrakhan said:

I mentioned that Paul said that the woman should be quiet in the church. This has been taken to mean that in church life, she should have nothing to say. In some religious orders in Christianity, she is forbidden to come up on the rostrum, or to sit in the place where the pastor sits. I said, “I disagree with Paul. He was a great Apostle, but, he certainly is not Jesus. And nowhere in the Gospels concerning the Words and Acts of Jesus do we find justification for the Words of the Apostle.”

I said to my Christian family, “If Mary, the Mother of Jesus, entered the church, would you tell her that she could not come and stand on the rostrum and speak to us—a woman so exalted and revered by Allah (God)?” Then, I turned and said to the Pastor, “Would you tell your mother that she could not come up here? The pastor quickly said to me, “She could not come up here.”

I was shocked. It was then that I realized even more so why there must be reform in our thinking concerning the female....

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Maria....errr Sonia Sotomayor: Nuyorican on the Bench

Well, well, well. President Barack Obama has gone and done it now. He has nominated a Nuyorican, federal appellate judge Sonia Sotomayor, to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Some Republicans and Conservatives seem to be almost afraid of this lady. I wonder why?

Is it because:

-- She came up in a housing project in the Bronx?
-- She's a woman?
-- She seems to have lots of compassion?
-- Her family comes from Puerto Rico?
-- She's really intelligent?
-- She knows the law?

And why, oh why did Mike Huckabee call this woman by the wrong name when he released a statement about her? Here's what Huckabee said:

The appointment of Maria Sotomayor for the Supreme Court is the clearest indication yet that President Obama's campaign promises to be a centrist and think in a bipartisan way were mere rhetoric.

What kind of a slip was this? Did Huckabee all of a sudden confuse Ms. Sotomayor with the Maria from West Side Story? Does Huckabee think all Latina women should be referred to as Maria, much like the way some people used to refer to black women as "mammy?" What's that all about?

In Huckabee's statement about Sotomayor's nomination he implied that judges should apply the law without "personal emotion." But what human being could make decisions about the highly crucial and sometimes traumatic decisions that Supreme Court judges hand down, without using their own lens of experience and personal beliefs?

What woman who has had an abortion wouldn't be affected by that decision if writing a Supreme Court decision regarding abortions? What man who has been discriminated against in countless employment situations wouldn't use that experience when voting on an Affirmative Action case? We all use all of our experiences in life decisions everyday. Don't we? Or am I missing something here? Are there people out there who robotically talk, take action, and make decisions without "personal emotion?"

I like what wrote about Sotomayor's commitment to community:

Judge Sotomayor is deeply committed to her family, to her co-workers, and to her community. Judge Sotomayor is a doting aunt to her brother Juan's three children and an attentive godmother to five more. She still speaks to her mother, who now lives in Florida, every day. At the courthouse, Judge Sotomayor helped found the collegiality committee to foster stronger personal relationships among members of the court. Seizing an opportunity to lead others on the path to success, she recruited judges to join her in inviting young women to the courthouse on Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and mentors young students from troubled neighborhoods Her favorite project, however, is the Development School for Youth program, which sponsors workshops for inner city high school students. Every semester, approximately 70 students attend 16 weekly workshops that are designed to teach them how to function in a work setting. The workshop leaders include investment bankers, corporate executives and Judge Sotomayor, who conducts a workshop on the law for 25 to 35 students. She uses as her vehicle the trial of Goldilocks and recruits six lawyers to help her. The students play various roles, including the parts of the prosecutor, the defense attorney, Goldilocks and the jurors, and in the process they get to experience openings, closings, direct and cross-examinations. In addition to the workshop experience, each student is offered a summer job by one of the corporate sponsors. The experience is rewarding for the lawyers and exciting for the students, commented Judge Sotomayor, as "it opens up possibilities that the students never dreamed of before." [Federal Bar Council News, Sept./Oct./Nov. 2005, p.20] This is one of many ways that Judge Sotomayor gives back to her community and inspires young people to achieve their dreams.

I'm excited about the perspective that this Latina woman, who was raised in a housing project in the Bronx by a single mother, will bring to the Supreme Court. I hope she flies through the confirmation hearings and sits on the bench by August. Let's all strap on our seatbelts for an exhilarating ride!

Bring it on Sonia!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Next Time: Use the Force

The Jamiroquai song, "Use the Force," is the song I think I'll be singing next on stage -- somewhere, sometime.

Jamiroquai is one of my favorite bands. Their music if filled with energy, creativity, and great passion. I admire the way the lead singer Jay Kay throws his body and voice into the songs. It's obvious he's having a lot of fun on stage. The band's musicians are inspiring too. Whether it's the horn section, vibrant drumming, exciting guitar rifts or the Australian didgeridoo -- this band jams with fire and purpose.

The group's CDs are among the few that I play repeatedly as I'm driving in the car. Also, my daughter never tires of their songs, and she's already a serious music critic. If my car-riding music isn't to her liking (if she thinks it's boring, it conjures up bad images, or she doesn't like someone's voice), she won't hesitate to let me know. She'll say, "Mommy, please turn that off!" But she's never requested that I stop any of Jamiroquai's music. She calls all of their music, "Our favorite songs." Maybe the fact that I repeatedly listened to "Return of the Space Cowboy" CD when I was pregnant has something to do with it.

Here's Jamiroquai performing the live version of "Use the Force," at the Free Jazz concert in Brazil, 1997. Of course I wouldn't have that long introduction and I won't be dancing as much as Jay Kay.

Use the Force
by Jay Kay, Toby Smith, Derrick McKenzie, Sola Akingbola

I must believe
I can do anything
I can heal anyone
I must believe

I am the wind (yeah)
I am the sea
I am the wind
I am the sea
I am the sun
I can be anyone

Oh, this world is mine
For all of time
I can turn any stone
Call any place my home
I can do anything

I know I'm gonna get myself together (yeah)
Use the Force
I know I'm gonna work it out
Use the force
I know I'm gonna get myself ahead
Use the Force
Use the Force

I can go eagle high
Circling in the sky
Learn to live my life
I don't need no strife

I must believe
I'm a rocketman
I'm a superstar
I can be anyone
I can step beyond
All of my boundaries
It won't be hard for me
To feel what there must be

I know I'm gonna get myself together (yeah)
Use the Force
I know I'm gonna work it out
Use the force
I know I'm gonna get myself ahead
Use the Force
Use the Force
I can do it
I can do anything
Anything Anything

Monday, May 18, 2009

Breakthrough: Singin' Like Etta James

Believe it or not, I sang with a live band last night and brought down the house!

I still can't believe it. I was one of ten people who took the Breakthrough Performance Workshop with Mick and Tess Pulver this past weekend and I did, indeed, breakthrough.

In their literature about the class the Pulvers write, "In this time of change, why not seize this opportunity to move beyond limitation and fear and open up to your limitless creative power." Well, honey, I gave it up last night. I opened my mouth, danced, threw up my arms and belted out Etta James' "I Just Wanna Make Love to You," with all the passion of Ms. Etta. Mick and Tess picked this song for me to sing and I have to tell you, I was a bit shocked. When I told them that this was not a song that I would have picked out for myself because it was so powerful, they just laughed and told me that I could do it. And do it, I did!

I have to admit, I've not paid much attention to Etta James' music. I typically don't listen to music from that era, but I've been missing something by not playing this lady's music. She's got passion, fire, and the element that I dug up from its buried place in me -- power! Believe me when I say, I'm going to go somewhere today to pick up some of her music.

Mick and Tess are on their way to California today. They're leaving Charlotte for a while and going back Santa Ana to continue their workshop in L.A. and other parts of California. All of us who know them will miss them dearly, especially all of us Breakthrough Performance graduates who gained so much strength, insight, and knowledge about ourselves, our intentions, and our dreams from them. God bless you Mick and Tess! I know I'll be seeing you again.

Here's Etta James singing this powerful, sexy song that has inspired me to go on and sing, dream, and DO!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Ernie Barnes: After the Dance

"We don't see each other. We are blind to each other's humanity."
-- Ernie Barnes

My friend Lisa sent me the New York Times article today about the passing of the great and prolific artist Ernie Barnes, a son of North Carolina. Of course I had heard about the death of this artistic genius on NPR, but hadn't read any articles or stories yet because I guess I didn't want to accept it.

When I see the "Sugar Shack" painting (shown above), of course I think of Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" recording, since the work was featured on the cover of that astounding piece of music (my favorite of Marvin Gaye's work). And we all know that "Sugar Shack" was featured in the opening credits of the sitcom "Good Times." (Barnes' work would also periodically pop up on "Good Times," as it was used to represent the artistry of J.J., a character on the show who was not only a clown but a supposed gifted artist.)

"A model of energy and vitality, the [Sugar Shack] reveals a vigorous fusion of music and dance, underscoring the dynamism of the entire hall," Paul Von Blum wrote in his 1996 essay, Advancing the Figurative Tradition.

"The frenetic activity encourages a release of the accumulated tensions of the week or month. Signs informing patrons of a live Marvin Gaye appearance and other events indicate a well-established locale to escape the pressures of daily life," Blum wrote.

You can't tell me that Barnes has not influenced a host of American artists. If you look at the movement, style, colors, and emotion of his work, you can see the echoes of his art in countless African-American painters.

Barnes, who began drawing as a child, seemed to have turned to art as therapy from feelings of isolation. Growing up in Durham, N.C. he was overweight and shy. One of his junior high school teachers found him drawing in a notebook as he hid away from harassing bullies. He was encouraged to lift weights and eventually turned to sports as an escape. Barnes went on to play professional football as an offensive lineman in the old American Football League. He played in the 1960s for the New York Titans, the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos. But art won out over football, and Barnes permanently left the football fields for the canvasses that he so magically brought to life.

Here's an excerpt from the New York Times, April 30:

“One day on the playing field I looked up and the sun was breaking through the clouds, hitting the unmuddied areas on the uniforms, and I said, ‘That’s beautiful!’ ” he wrote on a Web site devoted to his work, “I knew then that it was all over being a player. I was more interested in art. So I traded my cleats for canvas, my bruises for brushes, and put all the violence and power I’d felt on the field into my paintings.”

Although I'm very saddened by his death, I know Barnes' work will continue to inspire and influence budding artists for years to come.

Barnes said he paints his subjects with their eyes slightly closed because he believes, "We don't see each other." He said, "We are blind to each other's humanity." Although I love Barnes' work -- some of it is so moving and striking that it makes me stop and take in an extra breath -- I hope he's not totally right about us not recognizing the humanity in humans. I hope there are times when we can, indeed, really see each other.

Here's to Ernest Eugene "Ernie" Barnes, Jr. who was born on July 15, 1938, and died April 27, 2009. May he rest in peace.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Breakthrough Performance: Be Ever Wonderful

"I want to sing like birds sing. Not worrying who hears or what they think."
-- Rumi

In a couple of weeks I'm going to participate in something called Breakthrough Performance workshop which is a unique singing project that allows participants to channel the power of the voice to make transformative changes in their lives. The workshop is supposed to break through the peformers' fears, inhibitions and all around trepidation about singing in public.

I can't wait. I love to sing and can imagine myself singing on stage, but don't have the confidence to do so. Here's my chance! At the end of the two days, all of the participants will sing a song (selected by the Workshop moderators), accompanied by a live band, in front of an audience. The songs are supposed to be both vocally and emotionally challenging for the singers.

In the beginning of the workhshop, we'll sing one song that we know, to show where we are in terms of singing. I've selected Earth, Wind, & Fire's "Be Ever Wonderful." I love this song. The words are uplifting, the music is sumptuous, and the way Maurice White sings the song just makes you want to jump up and shout the words yourself. I'll be listening to, humming, and singing this song until the group meets in two weeks. I'll let you know what song they pick for me to sing at the final show and I'll let you know how it goes. Pray for me!

Be Ever Wonderful
(by Maurice White & Larry Dunn)

Be ever wonderful, stay as you are
Time is right, for you tonight
Find your place among the broad daylight,
Stay as you are
And be ever wonderful, stay as you are
Gonna find a few, who will always walk with you
Oh baby - many people claim, but their views the same

What I wanna do, and what Id like to tell you
May not be, as you see,
As you live today, what I wanna say
Is be ever wonderful in your own sweet way

Be ever wonderful, stay as you are
Time is right, in your life tonight
Find your place among the broad daylight
And be ever wonderful, stay as you are
Stay as you are, wont you stay in your own sweet way
Dont let the world change your mind