Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Yoruba Proverb: For the Children

"Make a bed for the children of other people in the place where your own children sleep."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Civic Duty: Registering People to Vote

Crystal and Sarah
My Voter Registration Cohorts
As you can well imagine, workers for the Obama campaign have swarmed the city of Charlotte, getting ready for the Democratic National Committee convention scheduled to be held here in early September.

I got in on the action last Saturday as a volunteer for Organizing for America, a community organizing project of the Democratic National Committee. Throughout that day and for several weeks to come, volunteers will help register people to vote, as I did, throughout the city.

As a first-time volunteer, I didn’t know what to expect and just showed up ready to sign folks up so they could exercise their right to vote – no matter what party they’re affiliated with.

I met some field organizers in the Habitat for Humanity parking lot on Wendover and was sent to a major retail store in East Charlotte to ask people, who weren’t already registered to vote, to do so. My cohorts, Crystal and Sarah and I, drove to the establishment, stood outside in front of the place and went to work. What we found was that most of the people were already registered. And some weren’t eligible because of their citizenship status and other reasons.

The first woman I registered to vote, Jaimie, had recently moved to Charlotte from Ashville, so yes indeed, she needed to get on the roster. She filled out the registration form, but wouldn’t allow me to take her photo (darnit). She was a really nice lady who said she moved to Charlotte because after four years of working at a job in Ashville, she was not given a raise. She came to Charlotte for a better opportunity. Her mate (boyfriend or husband – I didn’t ask) declined to vote as he was an ex-felon and thought he was ineligible. I tried to explain to him 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.

But he wasn’t convinced and walked to his car while Jaimie signed up. I also met a nice gentleman from my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware who was with his two adult sons. Of course, he was already registered in Delaware and couldn’t register again, but I did find out that he used to teach at my alma mater – William Penn High School!

We were at this retail store for only an hour when we realized we were being monitored from the security room of the store. Yes, that’s right – we were being WATCHED! So, as you might guess, the manager of the store sauntered out to Crystal and politely told her that we didn’t have permission to be there and had to leave. “Really?” Crystal asked. “Wow, OK, we didn’t know.” And so we left.

When we got back to the Habitat for Humanity parking lot, Crystal and Sarah joined another volunteer and walked over to some nearby retail stores to register more people, but I had to go and pick up Gigi. So that was my first experience registering people to vote. I’m sure I’ll try it again before the summer is over.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Chuck Brown Took Us to the Go Go

Y’all didn’t think I was gonna let Chuck Brown’s passing go without a tribute, did ya? I might have been raised in Delaware, but look to the right and check out where I was born. Anyway, Go Go has had its admirers all up and down the East Coast and eventually, the world.

I’ve always known that Go Go has influenced music outside the D.C. area, even though it is an indigenous Chocolate City creation. But after listening to tributes paid to Brown on various radio stations, I’m even more convinced.

What I didn’t realize is how heavily some groups have used the Go Go sound —think, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Salt & Pepper, Kurtis Blow, BeyoncĂ©, Jill Scott, and on and on.

Here's the way Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times describes Go Go: “Featuring remarkable Afro-Cuban polyrhythms via pounding congas and rototoms, punctuated bursts of brass and Brown shouting out call-and-response phrases alongside grooves that extended many songs to over eight minutes long — and, more importantly, almost two or three times that in a live setting.”

Yes, Brown knew how to get a party started and keep it going all night long. There’s no other music that makes me want to get up and dance as much as Go Go. I’m sure it's my love of Latin and African music that draws me to Go Go, since by Chuck’s own admission, he uses the Latin and African percussion sounds as a foundation for his invention.

After doing several stints in prison for robbery, Brown started working as a professional musician in the early 1960s with Jerry Butler and The Earls of Rhythm. In 1965, he joined the group Los Latinos, a band that played Top 40 music with a Latin flavor.

Brown, born Charles Louis Brown in Gaston, N.C., on Aug. 22, 1936, was raised in poverty by his mother, Lyla Louise Brown, a housekeeper. He never knew his father. Brown remembers: “We’d go to somebody’s house and [my mother] would say, ‘Please feed my child. Don’t worry about me. Just feed my child.’”

He may have been born poor, but he lived a rich, music-filled life that made the world of music a whole lot spicier. Thank you Godfather – and may you rest in peace.

Check out this precious clip from Brown’s interview at the National Visionary Leadership Project, an organization co-founded by Camille O. Cosby and Renee Poussaint.

Here’s “Bustin' Loose" -- Chuck's most popular hit:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Poem: Space

by Alicia Benjamin

No time to
Birth what I yearn,
Say what I taste,
Devour what I'm hungry for.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Jimmy Scott: ...Like a Motherless Child

You never know what your children will remember from their early years. I was surprised yesterday when Gigi was drawn to a Jimmy Scott video on Youtube that I was playing. “That’s so sad,” she said, and “he’s so old.”

“Yes, he is,” I told her, “but he’s really singing this song.”

The song was, “Slave to Love.” It’s the very song and performance that introduced me to Jimmy Scott in the late 90s. If you don’t know Scott’s music, you’re missing something powerful. He sings so effortlessly, with such conviction and feeling. It’s hard not to cry as you listen to him croon such songs as “Holding Back the Years,” “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” and of course, “Slave to Love.”

When the song ended, Gigi asked me what the singer’s name was. When I told her she screamed, “Jimmy Scott! Jimmy Scott?! Oh, my God.” Then she ran to the closet where we keep our CD collection to find one of his recordings, Bravo Profiles a Master: Jimmy Scott. I used to play Scott’s music to Gigi when she was an infant until she was about four, at bedtime to help her go to sleep.

“I remember Jimmy Scott. He’s a GREAT singer! I can’t believe that’s him...Wow." At least she knows great singing when she hears it.

Scott, who has Kallmann’s syndrome, was only 4’ 11” until he was 37 — he then grew to be 5’7”. The disease prevented him from reaching puberty and left him with a contralto range that causes many to mistake his voice for that of a female. Lionel Hampton gave Scott the nickname “Little Jimmy Scott” because of his small build. Scott, born on July 17, 1925 in Cleveland, is now 86 years old.

In my opinion, he's one of the great ones.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Meditation: Spiritual Account

This is telling: I have a folder labeled “Spiritual” in my email account. It was empty, but I’m purposefully putting some information in there now, like this for instance:

Meditation is simply placing one’s mind on a chosen object. Through familiarization with this process, numerous benefits manifest and the mind becomes more peaceful as a result.

I’ll give updates on my progress — I promise.