Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Nguzo Saba: Kwanzaa Principles

Celebrate Kwanzaa! December 26 - January 1 

Kwanzaa is an African-American and Pan-African cultural holiday that is centered around seven principles (called Nguzo Saba in Swahili). They are:
  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves -- stand up.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems, and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Back to the Beat: It's Yours

The XM Satellite radio in the rental car was a pleasant surprise bonus that we enjoyed on our trip back to Charlotte from Delaware (I didn't even realize we had it on the drive up). Backspin, XM's homage to old school hip hop, offered some fun tunes, although I didn't realize so many of the songs aren't kid friendly :-(

But one song that I really appreciated was T La Rock's "It's Yours" -- very creative lyrics, along with a funky beat.

Commentating, illustrating Description giving, adjective expert Analyzer, surmiser, musical mix Giving people of the universe this It's yours

We had some good New York Style Pizza at Giovanni's Place.

Next time I'll have to check out some of that Peace Tea they had at the pizza spot.

And here was another joyous surprise. New Castle County has put stone markers at the entrances of many of the communities, including this one, which sits in front of my old neighborhood -- Rosegate. Sweet!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Poem: Ungenocide (Like Jesus)

Editor's note: This poem was originally published on Cappuccino Soul on April 5, 2007. Ungenocide (Like Jesus)

by Alicia Benjamin

Let’s dream
About a man
In Northern Uganda,
Or somewhere in Iraq, who might
Stretch out his body and
Take the shots to
The heart.

Friday, December 16, 2011

No More Drama: Mary J. Blige

It’s rare to find a performer giving it up the way Mary J. Blige is giving it up here at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards in 2002. This is an example of a performer telling a story with strong intention and deep emotion. Her performance is hard to watch at a certain point – she looks as if she’s about to jump off the stage and hurt somebody. But she brings it back down at the end – giving us a full and spiritual interpretation of “No More Drama,” like only Mary can do it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Afro Latin Jazz Orchesta: 40 Acres and a Burro

The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra has been nominated for a Grammy award in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album category for their recording, "40 Acres and a Burro." (Ha!)

Philadelphia's On Canvas, a radio show produced by WHYY (a public television station), featured an engaging piece about the ALJO and its Artistic Director, Arturo O'Farrill in 2009. On Canvas is a music and performance program recorded live on location at local venues in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. Listen to the band and O'Farrill's lesson on the international phenomenon of Afro Latin Jazz. I was really happy to hear when he gave props to my man, Dizzy Gillespie, for his leadership in the Afro Latin Jazz community:

Friday, December 09, 2011

Every Day a Friday

“I’ve found that most of the time we have what we need to be happy. We just don’t have the right perspective. For instance, you may not be happy with the job you have right now. But if you lost that job and went months without any income, you probably would be very happy to win it back.

You see? You had what you needed to be happy. You just didn’t realize it.”

--  Joel Osteen, “Every Day a Friday.”

Alright Sonny

I knew I was tired when I called my daughter, "Sonny." Although that was one of the names I had in mind for her, if she were a boy.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

You Crack Me Up

Seems like I’ve been laughing a lot more lately. I think that’s a good thing and makes me remember those friends along the way who have allowed and encouraged me to act like my silly self, and who have made me laugh hysterically from time to time.

Here are (in no particular order) those folks who have, at one time or another, served as my laughing partners. Ladies, please forgive me for using your maiden names, but that’s how I remember you :-)

Robin Ellis
Latania Jones
Leon (Baker) Saunders (my brother)
Crystal (Sissy) Saunders (R.I.P., my dear sister)
Wendy Jenkins (my cuz)
Cheryl Noel (my sister)
Tina Traynum
Lynda Jones
Martin (Marty) Lucas (where you at, bruh?)
Annette A. (my sister)
Norma White (R.I.P.)
Shun Lai (Tulips) Yang
Sheryl Dillard
Ejikeme Obineme
Maxine Haskins (my sister)

Thank you all for giving me such joy. And if I haven’t heard from you in a while – PLEASE contact me so that we can laugh it up.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Protecting the Purity of Olive Oil

When you buy “extra-virgin” olive oil, you might think you’re purchasing a concentrated pure form of the ambrosia, but what you’re probably getting, most of the time, is a tainted substitute that could be mixed with anything from canola to peanut oil. How much of the health-enhancing pure “extra-virgin” olive oil are you actually getting when you buy a bottle of the stuff? It seems that not many people, even the sellers of these products, ever really know.

Tom Ashton of NPR’s radio show On Point, last week discussed the modern scandal surrounding the selling of olive oil with Tom Mueller, a writer for The New Yorker and author of “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.” On the show, Mueller and Ashton talked about how manufacturers are diluting “extra-virgin” olive oil to make a substance that’s a much lower quality than the straight oil. Of course the weakened olive oil offers far less health benefits than the purest form of the succulent nectar. What’s the reason for spoiling the extra virginity of fine olive oil? You guessed it – to rake in more profit.

To find out more about this scandal and to learn how you might be able to tell the true “extra-virgin” olive oil from the fake stuff, listen to Tom Ashton’s interview with Mueller and click here to find one company in the U.S. that sells the potent, high-quality olive oil that you remember from the good old days.

What a shame that so many olive oil makers are watering down the quality of the oil, since many health studies have shown the health benefits of consuming the pure juice. Researchers have said that olive oil can help to:

-- reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
-- prevent constipation and help to maintain good digestive health
-- reduce blood pressure
-- prevent diabetes
-- prevent colon cancer
-- moisturize the skin and slow the aging process

“Lately the olive oil industry has been struggling with a wrenching crisis brought on by mass-market price wars and a flood of low quality olive oil — a lot of it falsely labelled extra virgin.” -- Olive Oil Times

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Eartha Kitt Quote: Listen Ladies

Listen Ladies,

Eartha Kitt quote:

"A man has always wanted to lay me down but he never wanted to pick me up." (wow)

-------------------------------------------------------------- (By the way Dad, Eartha is from North, South Carolina, which is in Orangeburg County. I've never heard of that town either.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nkosi Sikele iAfrica: Lord Bless Africa

Here is “Nkosi Sikele iAfrica," performed by my brother Kue Jean from Cameroon, by way of Ottawa, Ontario.

Wikipedia reports that this song was originally composed as a hymn by a Johannesburg Methodist mission school teacher, Enoch Sontonga in 1897, to the tune 'Aberystwyth' by Joseph Parry. The song became a pan-African liberation anthem and later, several African countries adopted “Nkosi Sikele iAfrica,” (which means Lord Bless Africa in Xhosa) as their national anthem.

Thank you for sharing brother Kue Jean. May God continue to bless you and your beautiful family.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Buying and Selling vs. Sowing and Reaping

The world’s economic system operates on the principles of buying and selling. God’s economic system operates on the principles of Sowing and Reaping.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Mary J. Sings "My Life" for the Black Girls

I missed "Black Girls Rock!" on BET last Sunday, but you can best believe I will watch it as the TV station rebroadcasts the show this Saturday at 9 p.m. I did, however, catch Mary J. Blige sing "My Life," my very favorite song by this resilient, talented sister. She broke me down and made me feel like I was one of the black girls in the audience helping her to sing this tune. I also love the song that "My Life" samples -- "Everybody Loves the Sunshine," by Roy Ayers. It doesn't get any better than this -- Sing Mary! And let's here it for the Black Girls!

Friday, November 04, 2011

How Convicted Felons Can Vote in North Carolina

Editor's Note: I originally posted this information three years ago, but now that it's voting time again, I thought I'd send it out there again. Don't let past mistakes stop you from trying to make this a better place. Get out there and vote!

An organization called Democracy North Carolina is serious about getting people registered to vote in this state. I recently saw one of their flyers that explains how ex-felons and other convicts can vote.

The flyer says, "Don't be locked out!" It goes on to say that if you've been convicted of a felony in North Carolina, you only temporarily lose your citizenship rights, including the right to vote. BUT you automatically get those rights back after you serve all parts of your sentence, including probation, parole and restitution. You do not need a special document saying your rights are restored. You just register and vote like any other citizen.

And for those who have been convicted of a misdemeanor, you never lose your citizenship rights. You can register and vote, even if you are still in jail.

For more information on where or how to vote, call toll free 866-522-4723.

Good information! Thanks Democracy North Carolina.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

I Am the Black Gold of the Sun

Rotary Connection's “I Am the Black Gold of the Sun” is one of those songs that grab you from the first few bars and as you continue to listen, you know that it was divinely inspired.

After the tranquil, lush opening interaction between two acoustic guitars, you have to get over the genius of the piano solo and wicked electric guitar playing before you find yourself asking, “What are they saying?”

The very title is a revelation. When they sing, “I Am the Black Gold of the Sun,” they’ve already jumpstarted your brain with poetry that gets your imagination running. I haven’t found the lyrics to this song yet, but I can hear the chorus and the lead singer say things like, “I am the morning sun…smiling on everyone… follower of the One …shadows that light up the day….I am the tall Oak tree…I am the jungle stream…I Am the Black Gold of the Sun."

Listen to the recurring piano, wild guitar solos, and semi-operatic chants by the background singers (who include by the way, Minnie Riperton, before the group knew that her voice was the one that you put out in front on ALL the recordings).

When you listen to “I Am the Black Gold of the Sun,” you’ll want to stand up, put your hands in the air, pump your fists, sing, and rejoice with your whole body.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Dizzy!

Happy Birthday to one of my Favorite artists: Mr. Dizzy Gillespie from Cheraw, South Carolina!!! Check him out with Stevie Wonder on "Do I Do!:

James Berry's Poem for Girls -- Jamaican Style

This poem "Girls Can We Educate We Dads," by Jamaican born James Berry comes from When I Dance, a collection of poems for young people, published in 1991.

Listn the male chauvinist in mi dad- 
a girl walkin night street mus be bad. 
He dohn sey, the worlds a free place 
for a girl to keep her unmolested space. 
Instead he sey -- a girl is a girl.

He sey a girl walkin swingin hips about 
call boys to look and shout. 
He dohn sey, if a girl have style 
she wahn to sey, look 
I okay from top to foot. 
Instead he sey -- a girl is a girl. 

Listn the male chauvinist in mi dad -- 
a girl too laughy-laughy look too glad-glad 
jus like a girl too looky-looky roun 
will get a pretty satan at her side. 
He dohn sey -- a girl full of go 
dohn wahn stifle talent comin on show. 
Instead he sey -- a girl is a girl.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Black Girls' Corner: Know Your Rights

A Charlotte youth empowerment mentoring organization, The Black Girls’ Corner™ (TBGC™), invites girls 10-15 years old to its next session, titled, "Know Your Rights!" on Saturday, October 29 at the Sugaw Creek Recreational Center, 943 W. Sugar Creek Road in Charlotte, from 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Attorney Rhonda Brooks, a Public Defender in Mecklenburg County, and her colleague will tell you what your legal rights are in various circumstances, such as what your daughter(s) should or should not say if stopped in the hall by an administrator or if suspended.

The Founder/Executive Director of The Black Girls' Corner, Vickie Hughes says, "Attorney Brooks is a friend of mine from Thomas M. Cooley Law School and a fellow Spelman Alum." Brooks also holds positions with TBGC, including Board Officer (Secretary) on TBGC's Board of Directors, Workshop Facilitator, and Volunteer Mentor. "She is passionate about helping save our girls! Please come and support our "Sister," Hughes said.

At each TBGC session girls role-play various topics, show off talents, view/discuss media, play games, establish new friendships, and gain cultural exposure. The Mothers (or other caregivers) of the TBGC girls participate in separate or joint group discussions each session and in TBGC’s social outings or community service projects. TBGC’s MISSION is to provide a voice, an outlet, and positive youth development/personal leadership skills development, coupled with group or one-on-one adult mentoring, to young girls in our communities; so that these girls (“Debutantes”) will be empowered to become their best selves and strong, effective leaders around the world.

For more information about The Black Girls Corner, contact Vickie Hughes, J.D., M.A., at,, or 704-999-2958 (cell).

More power to the Black Girls!

Monday, October 17, 2011

LOVE and other Sculptures

Have I ever mentioned my interest in sculpture? I don't know much about it (yet), but I'm determined to learn more about the art form and try some of my own. Here are a few pieces that I admire:

And here's my first attempt at creating a sculpture. I call it "Fountain Bleu (a silly putty creation)": (LOL)
by Alicia

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Parenting is....

Parenting is about love, nurturing, protecting, teaching, Providing for, and SACRIFICE!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Restrictive Voting Laws Could Affect Five Million Americans

Editor's Note (October 21, 2011): Read this article regarding the ugly parallels between Jim Crow and modern vote-suppression laws.

by Colleen CowgillThe Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

new study from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law finds that as many as five million voters will be adversely affected in the 2012 election by new restrictive state voting laws.

The study looks at 19 laws and two executive actions that were enacted during the last year in 14 states, all of which make it more difficult for citizens to vote. In addition, the report considers the effects of at least 42 bills that are still pending, and an estimated 68 more that were introduced but failed to pass. Such laws include: requirements for government-issued ID’s and proof of citizenship; restrictions on voter registration; reduction of early and absentee voting; and restrictions on the rights of citizens with felony convictions to vote.

"This is the most significant cutback in voting rights in decades. More voters may be affected than the margin of victory in two out of the past three presidential elections," said Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center.

Using six indicators, the study estimates that more than five million voters will be impacted in the upcoming 2012 election. The largest proportion of affected voters is the estimated 3.2 million citizens whom do not meet the new photo ID requirements. By the 2012 election, five states will have new laws in effect requiring all voters to present a state-issued photo ID at the polls.

"These voting law changes are radical and completely unnecessary. They especially hurt those who have been historically locked out of our electoral system, like minorities, poor people, and students. Often they seem precisely targeted to exclude certain voters," said Wendy R. Weiser, co-author of the report and director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center.

Those in support of the new laws regard them as necessary to address problems of voter fraud and ballot security. Opponents argue that voter fraud is rare, and such laws severely limit what is a fundamental right of every American – the right to vote.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Alicia's Vegetarian Chili

- MorningStar Farms® Meal Starters Grillers Recipe Crumbles (one bag)
- 1 1/2 large onions, diced or sliced
- 1 green, yellow or orange pepper, diced or sliced
-1 can black or kidney beans (15 or 16 oz. is good)
- 2 (6 oz.) small cans tomato paste (or you can use a 16 oz. can of stewed tomatoes) -- I prefer the tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons of chili powder (or you can buy one of those prepared packets of chili mix)
- 2 dashes of cayenne pepper (less if you know your family doesn't like spicy foods)
- 1 teaspoon of oregano
- 2 dashes of cumin (optional)
- 3 dashes of curry powder (optional)
- 2 teaspoons of brown sugar (you can use the other sugar if you'd like)
- 1 tablespoon of basil seasoning
- Enough salt to suit your taste

Place the diced onions and green pepper in a large pot filled with about 1 cup of water. Boil until the green pepper and onions are tender.

Put the bag of MorningStar Farms crumbles in the pot with the onions and green peppers. Cook until the crumbles are soft. (You may need to add a bit more water to the pot at this point).

Now add the chili powder, along with the other seasonings. Spoon in two cans of tomato paste, adding enough water to liquefy the paste a bit.

Add the black beans or kidney beans. Stir to mix the ingredients well. Cook to a boil. After the chili boils for about three minutes, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 20 minutes.

My daughter and I like to spoon this chili over rice. But of course you can eat it any way you'd like, including with corn chips. I also usually serve corn on the cob with this meal.

Bon appetite!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Jazzanova: DJ Collective from Germany

Jazzanova, a DJ collective from Germany, caught my attention as I was listening to the Acid Jazz radio section of The sounds these guys make seem to be coming from everywhere, with some jazz samples, sultry vocals and funk drum riffs. When I read that they had done some work with poet/spoken word artist Ursula Rucker, I knew they had something unique to offer. As soon as I get Jazzanova’s CD “In Between” in the mail (you better believe I ordered it straight after hearing “L.O.V.E. and You and I”), it will become the new music that I listen to, over and over and over, while driving.

Here’s “L.O.V.E. and You and I”:

"Sirens have nothing on my song, my song is ageless." 
   -- Ursula Rucker

Friday, September 30, 2011

Romare Bearden: Remembering Charlotte

Family (Mother and Child)
Romare Bearden
Editor's Note (Oct. 5, 2011): Central Piedmont Community College will show, "The Dramatic Vision of Romare Bearden and August Wilson: A Celebration of Drama, Art and Jazz," Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7:30 p.m.,  Friday, Oct. 7 at 8 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 8 at 8 p.m. in Pease Auditorium. Admission is free.

Since this Romare Bearden exhibit is literally up the street from me, Gigi and I will probably visit the Melberg Gallery again tomorrow (Our first visit was probably back in 2008, shortly after we moved to Charlotte).

I’ve written before about the genius of Romare Bearden. Of course, he doesn’t need my praises – Bearden’s work is well known all over the world. The City of Charlotte, Bearden’s birthplace, is celebrating him this year, which would have been his 100th birthday. His work will be displayed in museums, schools, parks and other places in Charlotte throughout the year.

The Melberg Gallery exhibit, like many of the other Bearden retrospectives this year in Charlotte, is free. If you’re in town – be sure to check it out. The show titled, “An Artist Remembers His Birthplace,” runs through November 12.

Location: 625 South Sharon Amity Road, Charlotte, NC,
Gallery hours: Monday-Saturday, 10am-6pm, and by appointment
Contact: 704-365-3000,

The Baptism
Romare Bearden
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Romare Bearden’s birth, Jerald Melberg Gallery presents a major exhibition of over forty collages, watercolors and prints featuring the artist’s memories of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Romare Bearden was born in his great-grandfather's house in Charlotte, NC, on the morning of September 2, 1911.

Although at the time this was the rural south, his family was prosperous and well respected. At the age of two, Bearden moved with his parents to New York City where they felt there was more opportunity to pursue their interests in journalism and politics. Bearden's memories of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina were ingrained during summer-long visits until he was 14. These memories were the subject of his art as he wanted to transform his experiences rather than merely describe them. I am trying to explore the particulars of the life that I know best; those things common to all cultures, he once said.

Drawing upon the recollections of his Southern roots for inspiration, he conjured up both his own childhood memories and the shared memories of his ancestors. Bearden absorbed the traditional rituals of the church, the hymns and gospels, sermons and testimonies; as well as the traditional rituals of the family, the music of the kitchen, the wash place and fire circle, which permeated his upbringing.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

At Myrtle Beach in August

Here's Gigi at the Beach last month. Where'd the summer go? (big sigh)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Seek to be Found ...

Today, seek to be found trustworthy through the things you do, the words you speak, the commitments you make, and how you handle the resources entrusted to you.
   -- Inspiration Magazine

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Homeless Guy Post: Second Harvest Food Bank

I had to re-post this from The Homeless Guy's blog, because not only is it funny -- it's sad:

Second Harvest Food Bank 
by Kevin Barvieux, The Homeless Guy

I got a food box from Second Harvest Food Bank this weekend, and to my initial surprise it included a large package of boneless chicken breasts. And then I looked at the expiration date ~ Dec 6th 2010. There is no way in HELL I'm gonna eat that. This is indicative of the kind of disregard people have for the poor and homeless in this country. People think that giving their garbage away is an act of charity. Well, it's not. Thanks Second Harvest!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Joseph Prince Quote

It's painful to be self-occupied.

-- Joseph Prince, the pastor of New Creation Church in Singapore

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Falling Onstage

At work, they'll have a celebration to honor people who had birthdays during the third quarter (July - September), at which they'll read little-known fun or unique facts about people. Here's what I turned in:

I once fell onstage while in a production of a play. The audience gasped. 
I immediately got back up and walked to position. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Homegirl: Mary Ann Shadd

Mary Ann Shadd
Thanks to Ontario writer/director Anthony Sherwood, I now know about a Delaware homegirl who paved the way for African-American female journalists and activists back in the nineteenth century. Sherwood, who produced The Mary Ann Shadd Play in Brampton earlier this year to give students an understanding of the contributions of people of African descent, featured student actors in the production, held in the Peel Region of Brampton. Sherwood said he chose that region because it has a 51 percent minority population.

Sherwood’s Website gives us the following information about Shadd, who accomplished some significant feats, including graduating from the Howard University School of Law in 1833 when she was 60 years old.

Check her out:

Mary Ann Shadd (1823-1893) was born in Wilmington, Delaware of mixed African and European heritage to abolitionist Abraham Doras Shadd and Harriet Parnell. Shadd was an educator, editor, abolitionist, lawyer, social activist and one of the great fighters for women’s rights in North American history. In 1850, Shadd moved from Wilmington, Delaware to Canada to escape the Fugitive Slave Law of the United States. She settled in Windsor, Ontario and started the first integrated school in Canada. At that time, Canada was a segregated society. Shadd believed that separate churches, schools and communities for blacks would ultimately undermine the search for freedom. She campaigned for equality and integration for black people, making speeches and addressing issues of abolition and other reforms. Shadd’s support for racial integration embroiled her in many public disputes with both blacks and whites.

To help fight her critics, in 1853 Shadd started her own newspaper called The Provincial Freeman and thus became the first known black female newspaper publisher and editor in North America. The newspaper continued to be published until 1859 and was a strong proponent for temperance, moral reform, civil rights and black self-help while attacking the racial discrimination blacks faced in North America. It was one of the longest published black newspapers until the Civil War. A colleague of fellow abolitionist and publisher Frederick Douglass, Shadd was instrumental in assisting many runaway slaves to escape to Canada via the
Underground Railroad. Shadd was also a recruiting officer who recruited black soldiers for the Union Army during the Civil War.

A distinguished and gifted educator, Shadd established or taught in schools for blacks in various U.S. and Canadian cities, including: Wilmington, DE; Trenton, NJ; West Chester and Norriston, PA; New York, NY; Windsor, Ontario; Chatham, Ontario; and Detroit, MI. After the Civil War, Shadd moved to Washington, D.C., where she was the principal for various public high schools and wrote regularly for Frederick Douglass’s New National Era and other papers. 

In 1883 at age 60, Shadd graduated from Howard University School of Law and was admitted to the District of Columbia bar, and thus became one of the earliest black female lawyers in North America. Shadd fought for women’s rights all her life, joined the National Woman’s Suffrage Association, fought for such rights with suffrage leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and testified on such issues before the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. She was also the first black woman to cast a vote in a national election in the U.S.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Oliver Goldsmith Quote

People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy.         -- Oliver Goldsmith

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Harlem Slanguage and Zora's Tales

I'm reading Zora Neale Hurston's collection of short stories titled, "Spunk" and I'm captivated by the language. Zora was a master at capturing the black dialect and spirit of the times from the 1930s through the 1950s. Here is a sampling of one piece from the book called, "Glossary of Harlem Slang," also known as Harlem Slanguage. I've listed a few of the terms below for your enjoyment.
I'm also mesmerized by another story in the book titled, "Sweat." It appears to be a very early observation of a tragic relationship that involves some very cruel instances of physical and emotional domestic violence. Zora was way ahead of her time. She was promoting empowerment for women when people didn't even know how to describe such a thing. I'll write more extensively about "Sweat" later.

Oh yeah, I'm also determined to bring back the use of the term, "solid!"
(Slang from the 1930s)

Air out: leave, flee, stroll
Astorperious: haughty, biggity
Bam and down in Bam: down South
Beating up your gums: talking to no purpose
Big boy: stout fellow, in South it means fool
Blowing your top: getting very angry; occasionally used to mean, He's doing fine
Boogie-woogie: type of dancing and rhythm, in South it meant secondary syphilis
Butt sprung: a suit or a skirt out of shape in the rear
Cold: exceeding, well, etc
Cruising: parading down the avenue
Cut: doing something well
Diddy-Wah-Diddy: a far place, a measure of distance
Dig: understand
Draped down: dressed in the height of Harlem fashion
Dumb to the fact: you don't know what you are talking about
First thing smokin’: a train
Function: a small, unventilated dance
Get you to go: to force the opponent to run
Git up off of me: quit talking about me
Go when the wagon comes: You may be acting biggity now, but you'll cool down when enough power gets behind you
Gut-bucket: low dive, type of music
Hauling: fleeing on foot
I'm crackin’ but I'm fackin’: I'm wisecracking, but I'm telling the truth
I shot him lightly and he died politely: I completely outdid him
Jig: Negro, a corrupted shortening of Zigaboo
Jook: a pleasure house, in the class of gut-bucket
Jooking: playing a musical instrument or dancing in the manner of the jooks
Juice: liquor
Jump salty: get angry
Knock yourself out: have a good time
Lightly, slightly, and politely: doing things perfectly
Mammy: a term of insult
Miss Anne: a white woman
Mister Charlie: a white man
My people!: sad and satiric expression in the Negro language
Now you cookin' with gas: now your talking
Peeping through my likkers: carrying on even though drunk
Righteous rags: the components of a Harlem-style suit
Rug-cutter: originally a person frequenting house-rent parties, became a good dancer
Russian: a Southern Negro up north, "Rushed up here"
Solid: perfect
Stomp: low dance
Sugar Hill: northwest sector of Harlem, near Washington Heights, many professionals
Woofing: aimless talk
Your likker told you: misguided behavior
Zigaboo: a Negro

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Black Power Mixtape: a View from Sweden

Angela Davis
“You ask me, whether I approve of violence. I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense at all. Whether I approve of guns. I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Some very good friends of mine were killed by bombs. Bombs that were planted by racists. I remember from the time I was very very small, I remember bombs exploding across the street – our house shaking.” – Angela Davis

The friends that Ms. Davis speaks of are the children (four little girls) who were killed in the 1963 Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham. On September 15, 1963, a white man was seen getting out of a white and turquoise Chevrolet car and placing a box under the steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Soon afterwards, the bomb exploded killing Denise McNair, 11, Addie Mae Collins, 14, Carole Robertson, 14, and Cynthia Wesley, 14. The four girls had been attending Sunday school classes at the church.

I think we could argue that the legacy of the Black Power Movement really hasn’t been properly placed in context. Historically vilified by some, or fetishized by others, its effect and influence on other political movements still isn’t widely acknowledged and celebrated, unlike the earlier Civil Rights Movement. Swedish director Goran Hugo Olsson’s empowering Sundance 2011 entry, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, produced by Danny Glover, attempts to contextualize the movement, at home and abroad, highlight its successes and failures, and note its importance today; it wants to raise awareness and reignite penetrating discussion in the movement, by introducing it to a new global generation, in a format that may be more accessible to them – the concept we call the “mixtape,” hence the title. The story goes… the late 60s/early 70s saw Swedish interest in the US Civil Rights Movement peak; and with a demonstrated combination of commitment and naivete, Swedish filmmakers, armed with 16mm photography and sound equipment, driven partly by what they perceived to be a shared objective with the Black Power Movement (broadly, equal rights for all), traveled across the Atlantic to investigate and explore that specific movement, in order to confirm or nullify its purposefully negative portrayal by the U.S. press.  

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

"Love can do nothing without wisdom, and wisdom nothing without love."
         -- Emanuel Swedenborg

Monday, August 01, 2011

Salsa Great Joe Arroyo Dies at 55

by Jon Pareles
The New York Times

Joe Arroyo, a Colombian songwriter, singer and bandleader whose pan-Caribbean salsa hybrids and historically conscious lyrics made him one of his country’s most respected musicians, died on Tuesday in Baranquilla, his adopted home city in Colombia. He was 55.

The cause was hypertension and fluid in the lungs, his manager, Luis Ojeda, said.

His death drew tributes from Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia; the Colombian pop singer Shakira, who appeared in concert with Mr. Arroyo; and the Colombian rocker Juanes, who often performed the Arroyo hit “La Noche” in concert.

And it was mourned throughout Colombia. Fans thronged his funeral at a cathedral in Baranquilla on Wednesday in an outpouring of grief, and Cartagena, the Caribbean coastal city where Mr. Arroyo was born, declared two days of official mourning, with flags flown at half staff and Mr. Arroyo’s music played in the historic city center. The Latin Recording Academy said it would award Mr. Arroyo a posthumous Prize of Musical Excellence in November.

Mr. Arroyo claimed his own genre in Caribbean music: Joesón. His songs drew their danceable rhythms from traditions within Colombia, including cumbia and porro, and from all around the Caribbean, with elements of Dominican merengue, Jamaican reggae, Martinican zouk, Trinidadian soca, Cuban son montuno and more.

He had a high, fervent tenor voice, and the songs and arrangements he wrote were driven by supercharged horns and percussion. Although there were many love songs and party songs among his dozens of Latin American hits, Mr. Arroyo’s signature song was “Rebelión,” about a 17th-century slave uprising in Cartagena, with its chorus, “No le pegue a la negra” (“Don’t hit the black woman”). He named his band La Verdad — the Truth.

Read the full story here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Love of God and Neighbor

I'll have to thank my father for this bit of wisdom (below), which he gleaned from the works of Emanuel Swedenborg:

There are two kinds of love:

1. Love of God and Neighbor (Good)

2. Love of Self and the World (Evil)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mary J. Blige talks about childhood sexual abuse

by Joe Gracely

New York Daily News

Discussing a painful past with VH1's Behind the Music, Mary J. Blige opened up about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child and revealed it left her feeling worthless and ashamed.

"When I was five years old I was molested and just, you know. I remember feeling, literally right before it happened, I just could not believe that this person was going to do this to me," Blige said of the abuse by a family friend.

"That thing followed me all my life," she confided. "The shame of thinking my molestation was my fault - it led me to believe I wasn't worth anything."

The emotional pain grew and as a teenager Blige turned to men and drugs for escape.

"I ended up becoming my environment," she told Parade magazine in 2007. "It was bigger than me. I had no self-respect. I hated myself. I thought I was ugly. Alcohol, sex, drugs - I'd do whatever it took to feel better."

But opening up to VH1, the singer explains finding love with husband Kendu was the push she needed to finally sober up.

"When I stopped drinking, it was willpower," she said. "It was prayer. It was really hard. But most of all, I cared so much about [Kendu], I didn't want to be just this alcoholic burden on him."

The singer also revealed a deep appreciation for friend and mentor Diddy, who led production of her debut album in 1992.

"If it wasn't for him I probably wouldn't have made it this far in my career, because he pushed me, challenged me to challenge myself," she said.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Breast Milk and Dreams


If you have a dream that your breasts are producing milk -- this is what it means:

Breastfeeding is symbolic of giving or receiving, nurturing, and sustenance. It represents motherly love, as well as physical and emotional support and well being. Old dream interpretation books say that breastfeeding is a symbol of great things to come following an extended period of hard work.


If a woman sees her breasts filling with milk or milk flowing from her breasts in a dream, it is interpreted as prosperity and wealth in abundance coming her way.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Last Poets, Live in Brooklyn

Louis Reyes Rivera reports today in his Great Things Happ’nin’ newsletter that The Last Poets will be kickin’ it this Monday, July 25, 2011, at Brooklyn’s newest live music venue, For My Sweet, with two sets (7 and 9 p.m.), which is located just down the block from the Franklin Avenue station (‘C’ line and Prospect Park Shuttle), at 1103 Fulton Street in Brooklyn.

They’ll be joined by special guest MC Radio Rahim. Food and beverages are available. For more information, contact or 718-857-1427.

Oh, how I wish I could be there!

Listen to The Last Poets perform “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of many, one):

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Let Your Soul Lead Your Body

Stop commodifying the bodies of women and children. Say no to unhealthy male bonding rituals that hurt others.

Purge the desire for self interest from within. Let your soul lead your body and not the other way around.

-- Aaron Cohen

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Giving Freely

From In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers by Mother Teresa

At a seminary in Bangalore, a nun once said to me, “Mother Teresa, you are spoiling the poor people by giving them things free. They are losing their human dignity.”

When everyone was quiet, I said calmly, “No one spoils as much as God himself. See the wonderful gifts God has given us freely. All of you here have no glasses, yet you all can see. If God were to take money for your sight, what would happen? Continually we are breathing and living on oxygen that we do not pay for. What would happen if God were to say, “If you work four hours, you will get sunshine for two hours?” How many of us would survive then?”

Then I also told them, “There are many congregations that spoil the rich; it is good to have one congregation in the name of the poor, to spoil the poor.”

There was profound silence; nobody said a word after that.

When I read this passage by Mother Teresa, I couldn’t help but think of the universal healthcare (the abandoned “public option”) that we don’t have in this country (for the have-nots).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Black Mormons?

The documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons will be televised on July 26 on The Documentary Channel.

This documentary talks about that little-known legacy, and confronts the hard issues which surfaced in the most turbulent years of the Civil Rights Movement, when the Church restricted its priesthood from those of African descent. It discusses how that restriction was lifted and what the lives and challenges of the modern Black Mormon pioneers are. Besides never-released footage shot in 1968 and many rare archival photographs, the documentary includes interviews with renowned scholars, historians, Black Mormons, with Martin Luther King III, and with Dr. Cecil "Chip" Murray, retired pastor of the First AME Church of Los Angeles, which was founded by a former slave of Mormon pioneers.

Click here to watch the trailer for Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Emerson: No End

There is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Poetic Scribbles of Twombly and Basquiat

"Apollo" by Cy Twombly
Editor's Note (August 9, 2011): The Museum of African American Cinema in Harlem will pay tribute to Jean-Michel Basquiat's work with a series of exhibits scheduled to run through January 2012.

I had never paid much attention to Cy Twombly's art until I read in the New York Times this week that he died recently. But immediately after focusing on his work, I realized that Jean-Michel Basquiat must have been heavily inspired by Twombly. I must admit that I laughed with glee when I showed a friend Twombly's scribbles and childlike masterpieces. There's something about his art that brings out the silliness in me. At first I joked about his "art," but then as I viewed more and more of it, I was mesmerized -- sort of like I'm fascinated with Basquiat's art.

Below are some samples of each artist's work. Tell me what you think. Can you see the resemblance?

Cy Twombly, whose spare childlike scribbles and poetic engagement with antiquity left him stubbornly out of step with the movements of postwar American art even as he became one of the era’s most important painters, died in Rome this week on Tuesday. He was 83.



Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Lost: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

I just reported the book The Autobiography of Malcolm X as “lost” at the public library today. But if someone happens to find it and return it to any Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library branch for me, I won’t have to pay the $7.99 fee. The last time I saw the book it was somewhere off Central Avenue. Can somebody ayudame por favor?

Muchas gracias,

Friday, July 01, 2011

What's truly artistic?

I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.

-- Vincent Van Gogh

I can feel Van Gogh on this one.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Joseph Prince: Incline Your Ear and Listen, Listen

This is a partial transcription of a Joseph Prince sermon, held in Singapore on January 2, 2011. Listen to a portion of the sermon below.

When God says something twice…”listen, listen.” Listen with your inside ears and your outside ears. Be fully there. You are in God’s house. It’s not a time to be distracted, it’s a time to be fully there. “Listen, listen.”

“Incline your ear.” You think God is trying to get something across? … It’s the act of humility to incline your ear when God speaks.
Listen diligently, incline your ear – Hear, and your soul shall live.
Faith comes by hearing.

If you are in trouble, listen, listen. Get an iPod and listen. You can listen your way out of that trouble. If you are fearful, you have panic attacks – get the word of God, incline your ears, listen, listen, listen your way out of that panic attack, out of that fear.

Isaiah 55:2-3
New King James Version (NKJV)

Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.

Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—
The sure mercies of David.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Jill Scott: The Magnificent

I'm gonna give a shout out to Philadelphia musicians after watching Jill Scott's music video for her song "Shame," since she is "the magnificent." In the video, Jill elicits the help of some of her homegrown Philly comrades like Black Thought from The Roots and Eve to spice up her project. Director Devin Hampton does a good job of bringing the down-to-earth flavor of Philly to the video. For me, the big girls in red, referred to as The A Group, upstage everybody, including Jill and Eve. The two guys dancing behind Jill are energetically bringin' it old school style, and the idea of having the trumpet and trombone players jump up when they hit their notes is just special. The video was filmed in Philadelphia at the Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center, which is a special place for Jill, since she frequented the place as a child and decided to step in and save the center when it was scheduled to be torn down.

Jill's "Light of the Sun" CD debuts on June 28. I don't buy many CDs these days, but I might have to break down and purchase this one, since both Gigi and I love Ms. Scott's artistry. She's our girl.

Check out "Shame" and one of Gigi's favorite videos right now, "Proceed 2" by The Roots, featuring Roy Ayers. This version of "Proceed" is one of the most brilliant remixes of a song that I've ever heard.

"What if you could just -- just blink yourself away?"

Thursday, June 23, 2011

African Proverb: Peace and Understanding

This one reached me on a deep level and explains so much, without using many words. Oh, the wisdom of Africa.

There can be no peace without understanding.
-- Senegal


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Perfect Birthday Card

This birthday card to Gigi from Auntie T and Family says it all! It's true too. Thanks Auntie.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Gigi Tiene Nueve Años Hoy!

Feliz cumpleaños a ti Gigi! (She's 9 years old y'all!)

"I'm tuckered out from the pajama party."

"Showin' off my birthday earrings, I just
bought at SouthPark mall."

Gigi and Caitlin, after the pajama party.
"I met Shrek last summer in L.A. and I just saw him again in "Shrek the Musical" in Charlotte! Shrek is my boy."