Friday, July 31, 2009

Overlooked not Unheard:OSF First Date Songs

One of its greatest and most talented singer/songwriters is seldom mentioned in conversations concerning the historic heyday of Motown Music. Brenda Holloway, whom describes as:
taking some time out, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, during the late 60's to remind Black women that regardless of whatever is happening in the streets, whatever laws are going to be changed, it is in fact the Black Woman (and NOT the government), who is going to set the Black man free.

One reason for her underexposure may be because she commuted between Los Angeles (her place of birth and residence). It eventually became burdensome, yet she did avoid the hard partying of some of her company colleagues. She retired from music at age 22 and eventually wed a minister after lax promotion by Motown and disdain for the party life. You can find her discography at Soully Oldies.

I remember slow dancing to this sultry and sexy Brenda Holloway cut mingled with pain and anguish at a 1960s party as a young teen. One of my first.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Next? Or Not!

I have been getting spiritually re-energized at the 15th annual Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry. The theme this week is not only appropriate and insightful, but also timely: Charting a Course for the Next Generation.

Also timely is a new report which shows that human reproductive health is rapidly spiraling downward in correlation with a 30% increase in the number of chemicals approved for commercial use since 1979.

For women, this has resulted in increased fertility problems, miscarriages, preterm births, birth defects and children with learning and behavioral disorders. For men, there is an increase in male genital defects and declining sperm counts.

Exposure to these chemicals are believed to come through consumer products such as contaminated food, household products and cosmetics, or those used for industrial activities such as metals, pesticides, plasticizers, and other substances. When exposure is combined with inadequate health care and poor nutrition the consequences are devastating particularly minorities who are affected disproportionately.

This contemporary generation of youth has, like our urban areas and inner cities, also been abandoned. Many youth grow or grew up feeling hungry, hated, abandoned, unloved as well as un-parented and uneducated while bearing a constant barrage of put-downs and condemnation of their culture by the generations that preceded them.

While yells or shrieks of rebuke and disdain concerning our youth have been loud and constant, African American cries for environmental justice, which is directly related to youth issues, have yet to reach the legal or legislative decibel level needed to address its tragic consequences.

Who will fight this silent killer and toxic destroyer of our future? Who will give voice to the ecological or economic justice concerns of our young, the poor and people of color? The African American pulpit? Our traditional Civil Rights organizations?

They will if they are to remain viable and relevant 21st century institutions. If not, the rocks or brownfields will cry out!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ask Me! The Diva of Divas: Old School Friday

Real beauty NEVER FADES.Nowhere is this more in evidence among female entertainers than in Nancy Wilson aka "Sweet Nancy, The Baby" and the "Fancy Miss Nancy."

Born in 1937, she has blessed us with seventy-plus magnificent albums, and received three Grammy Awards to date. Although she prefers the title of song stylist, she excels artistically as a singer of blues, jazz, cabaret and pop. She has also been described as a "consummate actress" and "the complete entertainer."

There are two things about Nancy that are striking to me. Her unfading inner beauty matches her remarkable physical attractiveness. But additionally, her internal and external elegance, grace, and symmetry remain as fine and lovely today as when she began her career many years ago.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Bad Choices: OSF Going On Your Own

The desire for independence and the casting off of restraints or constraints can end up with promise (as in Abraham's looking for a better country) or disappointment as in the case of the prodigal who had to return home.

Philippé Wynne (born in Detroit and raised in Cincinnati)began his singing career as a gospel singer. He switched to R&B, singing with Bootsy Collins's Pacesetters in 1968 and with James Brown's J.B.'s shortly thereafter. Wynne then starred as the lead singer in the popular R&B group The Spinners, joining them in the early 1970's replacing his cousin, G.C. Cameron.

After a number of top-selling albums and singles with the Spinners, Wynne then launched a solo career, but it was not nearly as successful. He then garnered a measure of success again as he joined George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic around 1979. He performed with them on several recordings, and was a featured vocalist on the Funkadelic single "(Not Just) Knee Deep", as well as continuing his solo career which produced the album Wynne Jammin' in 1980, though he never regained the super stardom he had enjoyed with the Spinners.

This song by The Spinners epitomizes bad choices that not only artists make, but all of us make in life:

How Could I Let You Get Away, When I Knew I'd Need Somebody Soon?

With Gene Dunlap:(One of my all-time faves!)
Something Inside My Head

The Solo:
Can't It Wait Til Tomorrow?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Dust It Off!

There is a scene in the Color Purple movie when Sophia lands a devastating punch after being slapped and called a big fat heifer by her estranged husband Harpo's new belle. The band members immediately pack up their instruments, close up their cases and state "Time to go," recognizing the need to leave before all hell breaks loose.

William Shakespeare, in Julius Caesar, Act IV, Scene 3 puts the thought like this:

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

It is part of the wisdom of life to know when to catch the flowing tide and not to waste hope and effort on what cannot - at least at the time - be done. There is a time to hold onto and a time to let go; a time to work for reconciliation and a time to shake the dust off one's feet.

When the timing of the tide of opportunity comes very, very early in a new context or relationship it often catches many people off guard and leaves them in a state of perplexity.

Although many were aware of the conflict and controversy at Riverside Church in Manhattan, the sudden resignation of Senior Pastor, Rev. Brad Braxton, PhD. after a mere nine months in the pulpit leaves many in the religious community in a state of stunning amazement.

Dr. Braxton, like his predecessors, continued Riverside's long and storied fight for social justice but found himself in a fierce and relentless battle with a portion of the congregation and the public over his compensation which exceeded $600,000 a year, including a $250,000 salary and a housing allowance. Braxton was exceptionally credentialed and experts on American churches indicated this pay package was well above average among pastors nationwide, but within the range of packages for senior pastors in New York and similar major churches in other big cities.So while the controversy appears to be over pastoral compensation the real argument, and which lies unspoken and beneath the surface is the issue of Black Leadership.

Dr. James Forbes, the previous pastor was also African American but internal fighting for this progressive, pacifist, and iconic 2,700 member well-to-do church built by John D. Rockefeller, has been going on for over a decade. The racial mix has gone from 60/40% white to 60/40% black as an older white generation becomes younger and African American as well as less politicized. These racial and generational changes are bound to spark intense conflict.

The Perils of Black Leadership are legion but the following small sample may provide an indication of the need to evaluate whether to cut ties and move on, shake the dust off of our feet and go in a different direction:

1. The struggle or gap between the leader's vision, leadership or persona and the expectations of the congregants.

Leaders, Pastors in particular, will always be challenged directly or indirectly to live up or down to the congregation's perception of what a pastor should be, look like, and attempt to accomplish. A lot of people prefer leaders that they can shape and mold instead of those who are able to reshape the congregation and congregants. Sometimes this challenge arises out of a struggle to control the leader to maximize one's own personal agenda and is played out by sniping, misreading or mis-characterization of the leader's motives, maligning of his/her family, or other types of subtle and not-so-subtle abuse or control mechanisms.

The leader has to decide to what extent his/her leadership will be determined by these expectations and what level of respect or disrespect he/she can live with. It may be time to shake dust.

2. Trying to minister with the constraint of worry about ordinary personal financial needs being met.

These needs can vary greatly, especially living in a large urban center with a high cost of living. When the institution is not willing or unable to compensate on a level with comparable peers for a given locale and the leader's attention is divided between shepherding and one's own survival, it may be time to shake dust.

3. Trying to make a drastic change of course while the institution itself is changing

A wise man once said "It's unwise to move with a small majority." It's impossible to effectively fight external battles while consuming energy and resources on simultaneous internal wars. Without a mandate, it may be time to shake the dust.

4. The institution of slavery systematically taught slaves and whites that no slave was capable of leading whites or another slave. Therefore black leaders are often rejected by their own as well as majority persons.

Therefore one must know that A leader isn't always the one at the head of the table. A leader is always thinking ahead of any situation. The leader is the one that makes the most sense in crucial situations. Look for leadership where it is most in evidence, not in positions of authority. Anthony Samad

Just Dust it Off!