Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Current Playlist in My Ride

Here's what I'm listening to as I drive around town, and just outside of town:

Femi Kuti
CDs in rotation:

"Shoki Shoki" - Femi Kuti
"Billie Holiday's Greatest Hits"
"Lewis Taylor" - Lewis Taylor
"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" - Gil Scott Heron
"Here, My Dear" - Marvin Gaye
"Ali and Toumani" - Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate

Ali Farka Toure

"A Love Surreal" - Bilal
"Talk to Me" - Motion Picture Soundtrack ("Talk to Me")
"It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" - Public Enemy
"Fear of a Black Planet" - Public Enemy
"Black Messiah" - D'Angelo
"Suite for Ma Dukes" - Miguel Atwood Ferguson & Carlos Nino

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Way of the Samurai

From the film, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

When it rains and we are met by a sudden shower
Why do we run or try to shelter under trees?
Why do we try so hard not to get wet?
If you resolve yourself to the fact that you will get wet
Then you have no reason to get vexed
Even though you will get the same soaking
This understanding extends to everything.

-- Ghost Dog, translation of text from the Hagakure

Friday, December 12, 2014

Public Enemy: Prophets of Rage Documentary

"This is a journey." "I got so much trouble on my mind." "Refuse to Lose!"

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ferguson Docs: What Michael Brown's Friend Saw

This is important information that I'm sure will come more to the foreground once we hear more about the developments in the Federal Investigation of the killing of Michael Brown, to see if Police Officer Darren Wilson violated Brown's civil rights.

Click on the link below to read about what Michael Brown's friend, Dorian Johnson, saw during the confrontation between Brown and Wilson.

Dorian Johnson, Michael Brown's friend

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fashion and Compassion: Supporting Women in Uganda

Here's my lovely Fashion and Compassion purchase.

Tag description: "The beads on this jewelry were handmade by vulnerable and HIV-positive women in Uganda using small strips of paper. Proceeds are invested into transformational development in AFRICA through out partner, ALARM."

Visit the website and support these courageous women! Fashion and Compassion

Obama on Immigration

My favorite line from President Obama's immigration speech:

"They came to work!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ferguson: Brothas Gonna Work It Out

As we wait to hear the grand jury's decision on whether to indict police officer, Darren Wilson, in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri, let's take a look at how the genius of art reflects and/or foreshadows real life events. All the great artists do it.

As the end of Public Enemy's music video "Brothas Gonna Work it out," tells us, this portrayal is based on an actual incident:

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Amelie's Sweet Potato Salad

Gigi and I visited one of her favorite eating spots last Sunday, Amelie's French Bakery in NoDa, and I tasted some of their delicious sweet potato salad. That's the first time I've ever had it -- anywhere. It was so delicious that I wanted to know the ingredients so I can make that tasty dish at home. 

I emailed the restaurant to ask what were the ingredients they used in the salad. Here's my email to Amelie's:

I ordered some of your sweet potato salad yesterday and thought it was delicious! Could you tell me -- what do you put in it, other than sweet potatoes?

Here's the response from a nice lady named Stephanie:

Hi Alicia, the ingredients are: sweet potatoes, mayo, balsamic vinegar, celery, red onions. Good luck and happy cooking! :) 

My response:

Oh, happy day! Thank you for that. I will make the meal this weekend. :-)  

Look for a picture of my try at Ameilie's-style sweet potato salad.

Here's my picture:

My version of Amelie's sweet potato salad

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Brazilian Music from the Heart: Waters of March

Oh, how I love Brazilian music and this one "Waters of March" is a classic, written by Antônio "Tom" Jobim -- a musical genius. Here he is with singer Elis Regina, who gives a very subltle and sensuous delivery of the tune. This song, like many Brazilian and Latin numbers, includes the word "corazón." See if you can hear it and do you know what it means?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Vote Early in 2014!

Early voting in Charlotte/Mecklenburg County begins Thursday, Oct. 23rd, tomorrow!! Click the link below to see all of the sites where you can vote. There are no location restrictions (in the county) for early voting. Click the link below to see all of the sites where you can vote. Repeat -- there are no restrictions on location -- the site where you cast your vote -- during the Early Voting period. Early Voting Locations in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County. (Locations, Dates, and Open Hours)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Red Sea Heaven

Enjoyed my favorite cuisine tonight -- Ethiopian.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Handwriting On the Wall

Handwriting is an art and anyone who does it is an artist.  

                                                                                                                   -- alicia

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Liberian Doctor Successfully Treating Ebola Patients

Dr. Gobee Logan
by theGriot

Desperate that his patients were dying from Ebola and running out of options, Dr. Gobee Logan from Liberia decided to try an HIV drug. Surprisingly, the treatment seemed to have some success.

The drug Dr. Logan gave his patients is known as lamivudine. He treated 15 Ebola patients with the drug, of which 13 survived. That is just a 7% mortality rate. Compare that to 70% of Ebola victims dying from the disease in West Africa. The idea to try the drug came from his reading of scientific studies and learning that HIV and Ebola have similarities in the way the replicate.

“Ebola is a brainchild of HIV,” he told CNN. “It’s a destructive strain of HIV.”

Dr. Logan’s Ebola center is in Tubmanburg. Four of his patients are already recovering nicely, even able to walk. However, they are still quarantined and have to be separated from the others. The thirteen surviving patients took lamivudine in the first five days since getting sick. The other two patients who died took the medicine between days five and eight.

“My stomach was hurting; I was feeling weak; I was vomiting. They gave me medicine, and I’m feeling fine. We take it, and we can eat, we’re feeling fine in our bodies,” 23-year-old survivor, Elizabeth Kundu, told CNN.

“I’m sure that when [patients] present early, this medicine can help,” Logan said to CNN about his experiment. “I’ve proven it right in my center.”

Dr. Logan knows the side effects or lamivudine are nasty, causing liver and other health issues, but he says the risks have to be taken since Ebola became so disastrous.

He is also aware of the fact that American scientists are going to contradict him and say they need to investigate further to prove the drug’s effectiveness. Such an investigation would require taking a large patient population, splitting them in two groups, and giving one group lamivudine and the other a placebo.

“Our people are dying and you’re taking about studies? It’s a matter of doing all that I can do as a doctor to save some people’s lives,” Logan said.

Logan’s approach was congratulated by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who says it has theoretical merits. As a nucleocide analog, lamivudine and other drugs in the same class are being studied.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Home Is Where the Hatred Is

You never know what music from your listening library your children will also fall in love with. I recently added Gil Scott Heron's collection, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," to my selection of CDs to listen to on the way to work (after dropping Gigi off at school) and on the way home.

She can't seem to get enough of "Home is Where the Hatred Is" (written by Heron and Brian Jackson). She even looked up the Esther Phillips version (which, for some reason, I've heard more than Heron's version.).

Listen to the Esther Phillips version.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014


"In all relationships -- LOVE, respect and COMMUNICATON is key." -- me

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Revelation and Change

"For things to be revealed, we have to be willing to change." -- Aaron Cohen

The Garden of Love

"The garden of love is green without limit and yields many fruit other than sorrow and joy." -- Rumi

Monday, September 29, 2014

In Sync: Dancing with Your Partner

I love this footage I shot at Kevin and Barbara's wedding last weekend. Here's a couple dancing at the shindig who are just 100 percent in sync. Take note couples and soon-to-be couples. This is how you stay in tune with and follow your partner, on and off the dance floor!

Celebrating Kevin and Barbara's wedding

Here we are celebrating Kevin and Barbara's wedding!

Christina and Talisha (Kevin's daughters)
Demetrius, Gabby, and Gigi

Demetrius and his mom, Norma

Gigi, Me, and Kenisha

Monica, Carolyn, and Darren

God Bless Your Union Kevin and Barbara

One of my favorite couples got married last weekend and I was lucky enough to celebrate their lovely union with a host of family and friends. Here they are, Mr. and Mrs. Little (my cousin and my new cousin!). God bless their union with an abundance of love, compassion, and friendship.

Kevin and Barbara Little

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Las Boricuas: They Came

If you love Latin jazz, hip hop, and spoken word, then you're going to love this. Paying homage to las boricuas in history who came and changed the world, is spoken word artist Chilo and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra with the song, "They Came." As Chilo calls out some Puerto Ricans who have rocked this culture, from Rita Moreno and Tito Puente to Big Pun and Basquiat, this high energy, soulful, hip hop, and Latin jazz-infused number shows love for those artists and warms up the blood. Chilo, a licensed history teacher from Long Island who started the spoken word group, El Grito De Poetas, reminds you that "they came" and "they ain't goin' nowhere."

This magnificent band, Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, is nominated for "The Offense Of The Drum" in the Best Latin Jazz Album category this year. "They Came" appears on that album.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Love and Peace in Newark

Newark is about to be filled with love, peace, and happiness thanks to British artist Killy Kilford who is working with The Newark Anti-Violence Campaign and Mayor Ras Baraka to spread good vibes all over the city with street signs.

Messages that say things like: "Love Up Guns Down," "Less Drugs, More Hugs," and "Make God Big Homie" are about to pepper the streets of Newark, starting October 15.

Next stop -- Charlotte. I hope.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Spanking - is it Love?

This excerpt from is very important and includes issues that this culture has been debating for decades:

“Hardin (Adrian Peterson's attorney) said Peterson used a switch because that was the way he was brought up by his parents in Palestine, Texas, and the NFL star agreed.

‘I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen,’ Peterson said. ‘I know that many people disagree with the way I disciplined my child. I also understand after meeting with a psychologist that there are other alternative ways of disciplining a child that may be more appropriate.’

The part I like is: "I also understand after meeting with a psychologist that there are other alternative ways of disciplining a child that may be more appropriate."

Let me just say that I am against corporal punishment (spanking -- at home or at school). But I sympathize with Peterson. So many of us have been beaten or “spanked" as a disciplinary measure. Many times -- excessively. I've seen many instances of this up close that have made me cringe and turn away. I know these issues have caused a great debate. But that's what it's worth -- a great debate.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I Love Him So -- He Beats Me Too

As I listened to one of my favorite singers this morning on the way to work, I was reminded how dysfunctional many of her songs are. The singer, Billie Holiday, often sang of love that hurt, both emotionally and sometimes physically.

Listen to one of her iconic hits, “My Man,” and you’re reminded of how this culture not only romanticizes love, but how it tends to romanticize the pain and torture that goes along with dysfunctional, abusive relationships.

“It cost me a lot, but there's one thing that I've got. It's my man …”

OK, everyone knows that love costs and takes a lot of work. Nothing wrong there.

“Two or three girls has he. That he likes as well as me. But I love him.”

Hmmm….. hold on a minute. Why are you staying with this guy who’s blatantly stepping out on you? And you say, you love him? OK…..

“Oh, my man, I love him so. He'll never know. All my life is just despair. But I don't care. When he takes me in his arms, the world is bright. All right.”

No, no, sister. It’s not alright. If all of your life seems like despair when you’re with this dude, then I don’t think he’s for you. Go on….I’m listening.

“I don't know why I should. He isn't true. He beats me, too. What can I do?”

You don’t know why you should, because you shouldn’t. And did you say he beats you? What you can do is call the freakin’ police!

“What's the difference if I say, ‘I'll go away’ When I know I'll come back in my knees someday. For whatever my man is, I’m his … forevermore.”

My advice to you is that you go far far away from him. I don’t care if he’s sobbing, on his hands and knees, with flowers in his hands — begging you to come back. You don’t have to be his. Just learn how to love yourself. Even if it means being alone, by yourself for a while.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Got to Give it Up: Simply Beautiful

I love Marvin Gaye's music -- from the "What's Goin' On" album, to the music he made before he died. I do like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "You're All I Need," but I'm not so crazy about the other music he made before his prophetic "What's Goin' On" project. Gigi doesn't care much for Marvin's music, except for this one song, "Got to Give it Up." This is a masterpice too, just in a more fun, carefree way. The rhythms and soul of this song have been sampled and copied to death. It's just that good. People can't seem to get enough of it.

Check out Marvin from a Soul Train performance, where he's having such a good time with the song that he abandons trying to lip sync the tune at one point and jumps down with the crowd to dance. What musician can you think of who has had this much fun performing one of their own songs? He loses himself here with the joy and energy of the Soul Train dancers. They are loving it. Imagine, actually dancing with the incomparable Marvin Gaye!

Now Gigi loves just about everything that Al Green sings. Of course, I love him too -- which is where she gets the appreciation of his music. Gigi couldn't get enough of this acoustic performance of "Simply Beautiful" by Al Green on VH1:

Here's the studio version of "Simply Beautiful" -- it's simply gorgeous.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August 2014 Family Reunion in S.C.

Didn't know they had sand in South Carolina outside of the beach areas. But I stepped all in it last weekend in the Park where our family reunion was held in Florence County, South Carolina. Wasn't ready for the sand in my toes.

We had a ball and hung out with all the descendants of Wheeler and Sally McElveen. We respresented the lineage from his daughter Lizzie. We all wore pink, as the other descendants of the couple wore either blue, green, or red. I hear pink was my grandmother Lizzie's favorite color. 

Uncle Mose and Gigi

Cousin Penny and my mom (Mary)
Aunt Sister and Aunt Juanita

Cousin Kenny, Uncle Charles, Dad (Bobby), and Cousin Ronnie

Aunt Betty and Cousin Shawn
(They, along with Uncle Charles, didn't know about the Pink plan)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mint Museum Summer Camp Art Show

Here's Gigi and friends at The Mint Museum Summer Camp Art Show, which is going on until September 14 at the Mint Museum of Art (Randolph) in the Ivey Gallery. Two of her pieces were featured (the trees and her self portraits).

Gigi's art

Gigi's art

Ines, Gigi, and Ines' two daughters

Alicia and Gigi

Monday, August 11, 2014

I Am the Vine

John 15:1-5:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit…Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Patience Y'all

"Patience is the virtue that causes deceit to reveal itself." -- Unknown

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Notes from One Sunday Morning

Here are some notes from a church service I attended several years ago. I'm glad I kept these words -- these messages are invaluable. I hope my notes move you as much as they move me -- still.
  • God is my protector and will fight my battles for me. 
  • God will put people in place to nurture me, love me, soothe and comfort me.
  • Don't work so hard. You don't have to worry.
  • You're not running a race. You can slow down. There's enough time to do all that you need and want to do.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Family Gathering July 2014

Gigi with Granddad
Norma, Carolyn, Will, Mom (Mary), Dorothy, and Claire
Mom (Mary), Will, Dot, and Claire


Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Nina Simone, George Clinton, Fantasia, and More at N.C. Music Hall of Fame

My daughter and I recently took a trip to the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in Kannapolis and received a personal tour of this treasure spot in the birthplace of the King of P-Funk, George Clinton, who was inducted into the Hall in 2009, ten years after Doug Croft and Joe Carroll founded the space. Clinton hasn't actually seen his featured memorabilia in the hall yet -- as it's been difficult to get the funk allstar to grace the place with his presence. 

Veronica Cordle, NC Music Hall of Fame representative, who so graciously gave us the tour, said she hopes to change that soon. "We've been trying to get in touch with him and just haven't had any luck," she told us during our visit. New music industry inductees are honored with a a VIP Red Carpet reception and ceremony each year in October, but Clinton didn't make it when the organization inducted him four years ago. Maybe Cordle could invite Clinton to come to the museum to sign copies of his upcoming book, Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't that Funkin' Kinda Hard on You? That might get his attention.

I was surprised to learn how much musical talent has come out of North Carolina -- including some of my alltime favorites like Nina Simone, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Max Roach, Roberta Flack, Maceo Parker, and so many more. Who knew such splendid treasures could be found in the North Carolina History books?

In October, the N.C. Music Hall of Fame will induct the following musicians who were either born in N.C., or have strong ties to the state: Clay Aiken, Fantasia, Jimmy Capps, The Embers, Littel Eva, Lulu Belle & Scotty, Tab Smith and Link Wray. The celebration will be held on October 16 at the Gem Theatre in Kannapolis. Cordle says she hopes Fantasia will sing during the event. Me too! If she does plan to perform, I may have to attend the festivities myself! The hall is located in the old city jail building in Kannapolis, but the founders plan to move to a portion of the new baseball stadium planned for downtown Kannapolis.

For details about the upcoming Induction ceremony and visiting hours for the N.C. Music Hall of Fame, call 704-934-2320 or send a message to

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bittersweet with MFSB/TSOP

This song gets me everytime. First it makes me want to cry -- then it makes me want to dance. Here's Mother Father Sister Brother (the Sound of Philadelphia) playing "Bittersweet."

Monday, June 23, 2014

Journey on Beauty and Compliments

One should be as cautious when receiving the compliment 'you have a good heart' as one should be when they are told 'you have a nice body'.

Both are nice to hear. Both are flattering. Both have the potential to be coming from someone who seeks to exploit one or the other.

Either way, be aware but not paranoid. A rose is still a rose no matter what its beauty evokes. Bloom regardless.

- journey

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Great Ruby Dee: A True Mother Sister

Here's my tribute to the great Ruby Dee -- the actress who pierced you every time you watched her in a dramatic role -- like Mother Sister in Do The Right Thing, Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun, and Lucinda Purify in Jungle Fever. I posted the article below back when she was nominated for an Oscar Award in 2008 for her role as the mother of drug lord, Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington). 

Rest easy, Ms. Dee. You worked hard during your illustrious career as an actress and you fought hard as a civil rights activist for all of us. We love and appreciate you!
Originally Posted February 23, 2008

I will be highly disappointed if this woman right here doesn't win the Oscar for her role in the film American Gangster. Ruby Dee is nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category along with Cate Blanchett, Saoirse Ronan, Amy Ryan, and Tilda Swinson.
Dee is one of America's finest actors and has paved the way for many of our country's African American artists. The level of excellence that she and her husband Ossie Davis gave to some of Spike Lee's films is phenomenal.

I respect her not only for her great acting abilities, but also for her work as an activist, and her great teaching talents. She taught me and I will never forget the lessons I learned from her.

Check out what I wrote about Ms. Dee in my personal essay titled "Listening to Nina Simone," which first appeared in The Writers Loft magazine called The Trunk:

I took a solo performance class with Ruby Dee at Hunter College in New York City. From her I learned to always have a purpose when performing or creating any type of artistic project. Ms. Dee screamed at me when I was rehearsing a piece for an upcoming show. “Speak the words!” she said. She was telling me to give it all I had. I’ve been trying to do that ever since. And I’ve got nothin’ but love for her husband, the late Ossie Davis, who would lovingly fill in for his wife and teach her class when she had other engagements. His advice about performing and the arts was always as solid as hers.

Also, read a Variety magazine article about Dee here.

Here are two interesting answers that Dee gave to the reporter:

What's your favorite film? A Raisin in the Sun
(This is, of course, one of the film's that Dee herself helped to make golden.)

What do you want in a director? "I'm an actor who appreciates direction. I respect the fact that a director has studied the text and the road map of work before us, the subtleties, interconnections, underpinnings. ... His job is to paint the entire picture and knows all the colors that have to be in it."

Here's this master actress playing one of the best roles she had during her glorious career. She plays the mother of Gator, a strung out crack addict, in Jungle Fever. As always, when she and her husband Ossie worked together, it was always a joy to behold.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

I Admire

"When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older I admire kind people."
                                -- Abraham Joshua Heschel

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The name: Maya Angelou

Listen to her beautiful explanation of how she got the name: Maya Angelou

As well as being a writer, dancer, and singer, this PHENOMENAL LADY was also a director ("Down in the Delta")

R.I.P. Queen Mother Maya Angelou

My heart is sad today after hearing the news that Queen Maya Angelou has passed away. Rest in Peace dear Queen. You helped me grow up as a woman, writer, and mother. I'll never forget you and the gift you gave to me and so many other little girls and women around the world.

Rest in Peace dear Lady
suu re (Yoruba)

Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise

I rise. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pickin' Strawberries

Gigi picked some scrumptious looking juicy strawberries with her friend Michelle Saturday morning at the Hall Family Farm in Charlotte. They are every bit as delicious as they look. We're freezing most of them for our future smoothies.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Playing the Flute: 6th Grade Concert

Comrades in arms
After the concert (Ceilie in the background: "I won't be faded.")
Essential Elements

Sunday, May 18, 2014

J Dilla's Fantastic and Translation

If these two versions of this song don't make you feel something, I don't know what will.

Untitled/Fantastic (Slum Village)

Untitled/Fantastic (Miguel Atwood-Ferguson)

Music to Grow Up To

Who are some of the special musicians your parents introduced you to? Here are artists that my parents listened to when I was growing up:

Nina Simone
Billy Eckstine
Billy Holiday
Sarah Vaughn
Dionne Warwick
Five Blind Boys of Alabama
Five Blind Boys of Mississippi
B.B. King
Muddy Waters
C.L. Franklin
Dinah Washington
Marvin Gaye

What about you? Which artists did your parents play in your house incessantly?

Friday, May 16, 2014


"The only reason you are here on earth is to work on your character." -- Yoruba

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Suite for Ma Dukes: J Dilla Interpreted

My very first impression of “Timeless: Suite for Ma Dukes” was, “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Someone has taken these already original, authentic, and memorable hip hop songs and elevated them to an even higher place.”

Composer Miguel Atwood-Ferguson has transformed these tunes by legendary hip hop producer J Dilla and turned them into something eloquent, grand, and moving – at times, overwhelmingly so. Anytime I get goose pimples and I can feel my blood rushing under my skin – I know the creative piece, whether it’s theater, film, dance, writing, or music is doing its job. It’s making me feel something. In the case of “Suite for Ma Dukes,” it’s making me happy, elated, joyous and inspired.

And who is Ma Dukes? She’s the mother of James Dewitt Yancey, aka, J Dilla, one of the most respected and prolific hip hop producers who has lived. Born in Detroit in 1973, Dilla played the cello and brought his musically trained sensibilities and broad knowledge of many musical genres to his work as a hip hop producer.

In February 2009, Atwood-Ferguson and his orchestra paid tribute to Dilla’s music-making genius by playing adaptations of some of his compositions, in addition to a couple of classical numbers that have inspired Dilla.

Atwood-Ferguson’s interpretations of Dilla’s music in “Suite for Ma Dukes” takes the producerss music and the potential that hip hop has had for decades, and shows us where this thing could go, if the right people get a hold of it.

With his longstanding romance with the violin (he started playing the instrument at age 4), and his degree in Viola Performance from USC, Atwood-Ferguson brings a love of classical styles and hip hop to this recording. Watch his broad sweeps and passionate gestures in the video of his orchestra’s performance of the Slum Village's song “Hoc N Pucky” below.

Atwood-Ferguson’s version of “Hoc N Pucky” goes from playful to elegant, grand, and then the orchestra just turns it into a tremendous blend of competing rhythms that break down into something that’s funky and classy at the same time. This happens with all the Dilla numbers at this concert, with Dilla’s mother, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, present, in addition to many renowned musicians including Bilal, Talib Kweli, Dwele, and others who also performed. Many in the audience were reported to be in tears throughout the show.

"It was a magical night," Atwood-Ferguson was quoted as saying in London’s The Guardian. "In an age when hip-hop music is so frowned upon, an event like this one was just a little indicator that, in fact, it deserves profound respect and is just as valid as any other art form.”

February 7, 1974 – February 10, 2006 James Dewitt Yancey (J Dilla)

Compare Atwood-Ferguson's version of "Hoc N Pucky" to Dilla's group Slum Village's version:

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Making Mistakes

Making mistakes is something everyone does. Learning from them is not.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sterling Decision by Basketball Commissioner

This is how I feel:

As my uncle Charles said, women used to say about a man who had done them wrong – when the man got what he deserved:

"Well, goodie for him." (In other words, "I'm glad to hear it.")

NBA bans Clippers owner Sterling -- for life.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Eye, The Heart

The eye never forgets what the heart has seen. ~ African Proverb

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Juarês De Mira Sings 16 Tons

Here is mi amigo Juarês De Mira de Brazil with a low baritone voice singing 16 Toneladas or Sixteen Tons, a song composed by Noriel Vilela, based on the original song Sixteen Tons by Merle Travis, recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford and The Platters. He made my day with this one.

The Platters singing Sixteen Tons

Monday, March 10, 2014

Feeling Unworthy

When we feel unworthy and lack self-esteem, we are more likely to make choices that are degrading and demeaning. -- Kendall C. Cooper

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Letters from Prison: Ray Jasper's Last Thoughts before Death Row

A Texas prisoner, Ray Jasper, scheduled to be put to death on March 19 in the Lone Star state, has some compelling things to say about the prison experience in a letter he penned and sent to Gawker about three weeks ago. His observations on prison life and how it mirrors slavery is captivating.

Read an except of what Jasper calls what could be his "final statement on earth."

... Under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution all prisoners in America are considered slaves. We look at slavery like its a thing of the past, but you can go to any penitentiary in this nation and you will see slavery ...

If a prisoner refuses to work and be a slave, they will do their time in isolation as a punishment. You have thousands of people with a lot of prison time that have no choice but to make money for the government or live in isolation. The affects of prison isolation literally drive people crazy. Who can be isolated from human contact and not lose their mind? ...

I think prison sentences have gotten way out of hand. People are getting life sentences for aggravated crimes where no violence had occurred. I know a man who was 24 years old and received 160 years in prison for two aggravated robberies where less that $500 was [stolen] and no violence took place. There are guys walking around with 200 year sentences and they're not even 30 years old. Its outrageous. Giving a first time felon a sentence beyond their life span is pure oppression. Multitudes of young people have been thrown away in this generation.

The other side of the coin is there are those in the corporate world making money off prisoners, so the longer they're in prison, the more money is being made. It's not about crime & punishment, it's about crime & profit. Prison is a billion dollar industry. In 1996, there were 122 prisons opened across America. Companies were holding expos in small towns showing how more prisons would boost the economy by providing more jobs.

How can those that invest in prisons make money if people have sentences that will allow them to return to free society? If people were being rehabilitated and sent back into the cities, who would work for these corporations? That would be a bad investment. In order for them to make money, people have to stay in prison and keep working. So the political move is to tell the people they're tough on crime and give people longer sentences....

... You have people like Michael Jordan who invest millions of dollars in the prison system. Any shrewed businessman would if you have no empathy for people locked up and you just want to make some money.

Read the entire letter HERE.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Time to Get it Together

"Jesus said time will heal all wounds,
but we have to live right to get the time."

-- Marvin Gaye, from his song "Time to Get it Together"

Sometimes I am unable to move
I let temptation get me off of my groove
Sometimes I get it
Sometimes it's hard
To stay with it
But right now, get it, gotta get it, get it
Got to stay with it
Makin' up my mind, yeah
Gonna get it together
Gonna love every day every night till I get it

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Daddy Chant: Those Boys Are Much Too Much

There's no need to explain how priceless this is. Every time I see it I laugh and smile. He's doin' the daddy thing.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Black Ivory: You and I

I'm reposting this because it's got that Valentine's Day vibe.

"No spoken words express my love for you."

I was looking for a song and came across this one. This tune is filled with emotion, love, persistence, and a certain kind of innocence. It's certainly very touching. I'm dedicating this song to a beautiful California couple -- Cheryl and Robert. Keep on keepin' on y'all.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tupac Shakur on Reading, Writing, and Arithmatic

Tupac Shakur, at age 18, spouts his views on education in America. It's fascinating stuff. Check it out:

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Soul Train: You Can't Outdo Black People!

You'll be smiling and laughing after watching only a few seconds of this guy's homage to Soul Train. This guy has only posted one video to Youtube, but he hits it out the box on his first try. My favorite line in his whole commentary: "You can't outdo Black people!"

Saturday, February 08, 2014

To Dream of Walnuts

Dreaming of Walnuts? What does it mean. 
To dream of a walnut is very lucky and suggests wisdom, joy, and good fortune will enter the dreamer's life.

This is also a common dream to have after successfully completing a challenging project.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

African Film Festival: Dear Mandela and Mother of George

I've said before that this is one event that I wish I could attend. One day it's going to happen. But for now, here are some clips to whet your appetite and mine -- from The Cascade Festival of African Films in Portland, Oregon, from Friday, Jan. 31 through March 1.

Dear Mandela, directed by Dara Kell and Christopher Rizza
(South Africa, USA)
Screening time and location: Thursday, Feb. 20 2014, 7:00 pm at the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building, Room 104

Mother of George, directed by Andrew Dosunmu (Nigeria, USA)
Screening time and location: Thursday, February 6th 2014, 12:00 pm at the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building, Room 104

Check out the entire schedule of films scheduled to be shown at this cinematic treasure that happens every year in Oregon.

Monday, January 20, 2014

"for black boys....." staged readings January 25, April 2014 in Charlotte

If you're in Charlotte, come out to witness the staged reading of "for black boys who have considered homicide when the streets were too much" written by Keith Antar Mason, directed by Alicia Benjamin, and featuring: Que'Orris Brion, Vincent Freeman, and Arthur Miller.

When and Where:

Saturday, January 25, 2:30 p.m.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library (Main Branch) – Francis Auditorium
310 N. Tryon St., Charlotte, FREE!

April 2014 (date to be announced soon), 7 p.m. – The Arts Factory, Black Box Theater, 1545 W. Trade St.Charlotte, FREE!
Friday, March 28, 7 p.m. (CANCELLED)
LATIBAH Collard Green Museum, 720 Tuckaseegee Rd., Charlotte 

who is my god

who is my mother

who is my father

do you care for me

do you love me

do you love me
                                                                                         (from for black boys.....)

Thank you Josias Kue for the magnificent flyer. You are very talented and we appreciate you! We also owe a big THANK YOU to Jonita Edmonds and Shelley Book of the Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenburg County (Main Branch), and T'Afo Feimster, Founder and Director of the LATIBAH Collard Green Museum.