Monday, November 28, 2016

"What Now?" Part 1: Let's Go Shopping!

"There are people who have money and people who are rich." -- Coco Chanel

In this post-election Christmas season of non-stop shopping, Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales and endless pop culture distractions, there are simple effective ways to use your money to make your voice heard politically. Because buying things -- whether you're shopping for a blouse at Lord & Taylor or eating a hamburger at McDonalds -- is a political act.

If you are anti alt-right, anti-white supremacy, anti white nationalism, anti-hate or anti-Trump, here are a few suggestions on how to put your money where your politics are.

1.  #GrabYourWallet

This campaign, initiated by Shannon Coulter and Sue Atencio, has a pretty straightforward missive: If you'd like to hit the Trumps where it hurts them the most, boycott the retailers that carry their merchandise.  Their comprehensive list includes contact information to retailers, so you can call and/or email the reasons why you won't be shopping there.  Because if people won't buy, they won't sell.

Frankly, if I see something I really like at Nordstrom's, I can usually go online and find it someplace else at a fraction of the cost. This ain't the 80s. We have the internet. So there's that.

2.  Donate to anti-hate groups in a hateful person's name.

Are you related to any Trump supporters who vote Republican no matter who's on the ticket? Do you know any bigots? Is your co-worker a racist?  Take a tip from John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight and donate to an anti-hate group in their name.  What a wonderful Christmas present for that uncle that hates gay people or that white supremacist cousin you grew up with that just joined the Klan.

Here's John Oliver's short list:

Planned Parenthood
Center for Reproductive Rights
National Resources Defense Council
International Refugee Assistance Project
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
The Trevor Project
Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

3.   RageDonate

I love this one.  It takes quotes from Trump and matches it with the appropriate charity in a revolving, ever spinning, never-ending roulette of hate speech. With one click, you give $10 and your rage subsides -- until he makes another inflammatory racist remark.

BONUS: Buycott

This is an app that let's you vote with your wallet by scanning barcodes while you shop. With one swipe, you can trace a product's corporate family tree and make a more informed consumer decision. And yes, it's free.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Supermoon Whitelash

Waiting for the supermoon was enough of a minor distraction to pull me out of my post-election doldrums. Then I saw this.

Former Reaganite and Trump anger translator Jeffrey Lord says Democrats started the Klu Klux Klan.  Understanding the truth behind this statement requires much more nuance than a hamfisted shill for Donald Trump is capable of, at least on camera. I followed the breadcrumbs to where this line originated. As usual, I expected nothing and I was completely disappointed.

When Bishop E.W. Jackson -- lawyer, staunch Republican, conservative political pundit, former radio talk show host and ex-marine, amongst other things -- was a nominee for lieutenant governor in Virginia in 2012, he released a video through his organization S.T.A.N.D. (Staying True to America's National Destiny) to push an agenda called Exodus Now

His goal? To convince black people to leave the Democratic party. What motivated all this? The Democrat's support of gay marriage at the 2012 convention.

Bishop Jackson says that Black people should leave the Democratic party because Democrats are the ones who started the KKK. In the wake of this claim, Virginia State Senator Stephen Martin repeated it -- adding that Democrats also created Planned Parenthood. When Senator Martin realized that there is no evidence to support his claim regarding Planned Parenthood (or the Klan), he said he misspoke. By then, the misinformation was out there, parading itself as the truth, and the alt-right was off to the races, embracing this statement as a call to action.

During the most recent election cycle, the ads imploring an ethnic mass exodus from the Democratic party have been nonstop -- from Republicans who declare themselves "the party of Lincoln", no less.  Now, making a statement like "The Democratic party started the Klan!" is the gigantic turdbomb of epic proportions that any neo-con can use to dead-end a political discussion. And no one wants to dismantle it. 

A simple fact check and a brief history lesson proves that this statement is not entirely true.  

Political parties evolve over time.  In the 19th century, they simply didn't exist as we know them today. Instead of identifying everything and everyone as Republican or Democrat, it's much more helpful to see where the shift in white supremacy takes place, and take it from there. Why? Because each party is made up of people who think a certain way and that's what shapes the party's beliefs and defines its platform -- not the name of the party itself.  Over time, the white supremacists, racists and bigots have shifted from one party to another.   That's the American way. 
As a Southerner and an African-American woman that's two generations removed from slavery, the question I ask constantly is this: Which one of you are white supremacists and what party are you affiliated with now? Political parties are not stagnant, fixed, immovable. As white supremacists change directions and affiliations, the parties are redefined. What was liberal is now conservative, and vice versa. 

Yes -- during the 19th century, Democrats were much more racist than Republicans.  Were Klan members Democrats? In all likelihood, yes -- but the Democratic party didn't start the KKK.  Then the Civil Rights Movement happened, polarizing Southern Christians against the Democratic party. When African-Americans gained the right to vote and became Democrats, those white supremacist Southern Christian became Republicans. In this regard, Republicans weren't a force for civil rights. For the Dixie-crats who joined their ranks, they were a refuge from it.  Those KKK Democrats are Republicans now -- and celebrating their win in The White House.

For days after the election, I fielded phone calls and texts and DMs and IMs from friends near and far, offering support, asylum and solid advice.  I got a text from my German sibling in Berlin that made me very happy.  I've chatted with lots of musicians who say they're not working or associating with anyone who voted for Trump.  One friend couldn't stop crying.  Another didn't know what to do about her Republican relatives.  Because Thanksgiving.

No one wants to spend the holidays with parents who voted for a bigoted, racist white supremacist.  No one wants to buy Christmas presents for anyone who put the alt-right in The White House.  No one wants to spend any quality time with someone who refuses to acknowledge that by campaigning on hate and fear, Trump created this climate of
violence and open hostility against people of color, women, the disabled and LGBTQs.  This is what we're left with: everyone getting bullied, even children (it's become a disturbing trend); women getting groped when they least expect it; African-American college students, harassed; and yes, murder.

Like a monkey gleefully flinging it's own excrement, way too many white people are spewing all kinds of racial epithets in every direction and smearing their ignorance all over everything with a fervor that is nothing short of stultifying. A friend in his 50s told me that he didn't recognize his high school friends anymore. He couldn't believe the things they were saying. When I hung up the phone, I remembered that his ex-wife was Jewish. His daughters -- both in college -- were at risk. One of them was in a march somewhere on the west coast and some guy hit her in the head with a rock.

He felt helpless, scared.  "How do you know who the good guys are?" he asked me.  Welcome to my black world, I must have said. Or something like that. And then I laughed.

"But she's my Mom," a gay friend whispered tearfully.

"Does she know who Mike Pence is? Does she realize what she's done?" I said flatly. 

"Yeah," he said weakly.  "She keeps going on about how Trump is going to bring morality back..." And then his voice trailed off.  He's a musical theater performer. His husband is a musician. They've got Obamacare.  They've got a great life. And it's over.

The moon hasn't been this close to the earth since 1948 -- when African-Americans were at the mercy of home-grown terrorism by the Klan (all over the country, not just the South) and the federal government did nothing to stop them.  There'll be other supermoons that will make you press pause and look up and wax poetic, but it won't be this close again until 2034 -- and God only knows what this country will be like when that happens.  We won't be where we were in 1948 -- but where are we going? 

Hopefully, you did something momentous on Sunday night.  (If you didn't, tonight is your night.) MPB and I had a mutton chop at Keen's and ate like it's 1889. Then we went for a walk in the moonlight and this depression rose and floated away from me like smoke. By the time I got home, something had shifted. 

As this new reality sets in and the climate of hate refuses to go away, it'll be interesting to see and hear what your favorite artist has to say about any of this in 2017.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

...that Clinton/Trump double standard, though...

Just when I think, no one is saying it so I'll say it -- somebody says it. Beautifully.  Kudos to this guy for summing up this election cycle so succinctly.

Michelle Bachman says God "raised up" Trump to be the Republican nominee, and I think she's right. Because of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton will be our next president -- and because of the Republican senators and congressmen who care more about the GOP than jobs or healthcare reform or anything else that concerns the rest of us, the Democrats will probably take the Senate and the House. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Happy *Rape, Murder, Pillage, Enslave* Indigenous People's Day!

The need to celebrate Columbus Day seems to hinge somewhat precariously on your (emotional/physical/spiritual) proximity to Italian-American culture. Not surprisingly, San Francisco has the oldest Columbus Day celebration and New York City has the biggest.  Once I read what he actually did -- from his own journals, no less! -- I had no more of an urge to celebrate Columbus' life or "accomplishments" than Adolph Hitler. 

If you think that Columbus deserves a holiday, then so does Stalin. So does Atilla the Hun.  Can you imagine? A parade and a paid day off to celebrate Hitler?

Here's some must read stuff. 

  • 7 Myths and Atrocities of Christopher Columbus That Will Make You Cringe
    Here's the one that freaked me out: After several voyages and raping and pillaging, Columbus and his men grew increasingly depraved. When he was replaced as governor of Hispaniola and recalled back to Spain in 1500, he wrote in a casual tone of how he provided sex slaves to his men, some of whom were small children as young as 9, for a high price. Death and Taxes called Columbus “the pimp of the New World.”

  • How badly did Christopher Columbus mistreat the indigenous people he encountered in The New World?
    Here's yet another great reason why Columbus shouldn't be celebrated: Widespread rapes of both women and girls.

    Spanish accounts describe how they preferred raping the 10 year olds because they were "tighter."

    Women and girls to rape were handed out as rewards to soldiers for a job well done. Columbus also ordered the rape of females in front of family members, daughters in front of the father for example, to break resistance and spread trauma.

    Columbus in his own accounts described how he personally raped a "cannibal girl." In his accounts, he convinced himself the girl enjoyed being raped.

  • You Are Still Being Lied To: Howard Zinn's "Columbus and Western Civilization"
    Here's an exerpt: In the standard accounts of Columbus what is emphasized again and again is his religious feeling, his desire to convert the natives to Christianity, his reverence for the Bible. Yes, he was concerned about God. But more about Gold. Just one additional letter. His was a limited alphabet. Yes, all over the island of Hispaniola, where he, his brothers, his men, spent most of their time, he erected crosses. But also, all over the island, they built gallows—340 of them by the year 1500. Crosses and gallows—that deadly historic juxtaposition. 

Here's the good news: there are 16 states and counting!) that don't celebrate Columbus Day unofficially. The states Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Vermont and South Dakota do not celebrate it at all. Iowa and Nebraska proclaim the day but don't celebrate it as an official holiday (paid day off, post office closed).

Eventually, this holiday will be phased out, state by state -- and just as it took years to create a national holiday for Martin Luther King Jr, it will be way too easy to look back and see who will remain forever on on the wrong side of history. 

Sunday, October 09, 2016

New York Comic Con 2016!

Here's a few shots from this year's comic con, wherein my niece Fatso comes along to goof off and take pictures of me, pretending to be Darth Vader.


Monday, October 03, 2016

My Fall Bucket List: The NYC Edition

This list is a mere slice of the fun I'll be having this fall.
  1.  New York Comic Con! It's like prom for nerds, so it's only appropriate that I take my niece Fatso, a black STEM girl of epic proportions that looks like a sub-Saharan African supermodel.  (There's got to be a really funny joke in there somewhere.)  We go every year, just about. Together, we will meander our way through the Javits and take a lot of pictures.  As usual, my blackness will be my costume.

  2. Diane Arbus: In The Beginning at The Met/Breuer  Her images are so iconic at this point that a lot of contemporary photography echoes her work -- when they're not flat out imitating it.  Here's my chance to see some of her earliest photographs. 

    And yes, I saw her mammoth retrospective at The Met some years ago.  For a long time afterwards -- too long, really -- I daydreamed about those children frozen in stiff black and white portraits with their blurry twisted faces, like a visual stammer that bounced against an audible one somewhere in the recesses of time and memory and randomness, and I wondered whatever happened to them, and that made me wonder what could have been.

  3. Luke Cage, Birth of a Nation and Insecure. Enough said.
  4. The Pumpkin Flotilla at the Central Park Conservancy Who knows? I might make one this year.
  5. Seedless ThomCord grapes are better than candy. Wild caught salmon skin is better than bacon.
  6.  Juice Press is turning me into a vegan.

  7.  Steely Dan's Beacon Theater Residency in October -- they've got 10 dates, and most of them are themed (October 16th is Aja!)
  8. Manhattan Vintage  This annual pilgrimage must be taken with BFFs who love vintage as much as I do, so we can all flip out over the cool stuff we find, whether we can afford it or not.  Lately, I'm a little giddier than usual because I ca fit into more and more of the incredibly dope old cool stuff in my closet.
  9. Byron Lars Beauty Mark Tackles Size & Inclusion in Fashion  I didn't miss Byron Lars' runway show during Fashion Week in September (I took Fatso but she didn't like it) and I 'm not going to miss this, either -- it's a panel discussion that includes: Liz Black (Journalist-Refinery 29) Michaela Angela Davis (Cultural Critic-CNN & Creator MADFree), Byron Lars (Byron Lars Beauty Mark), Allison McGevna (Editorial Director - Hello Beautiful) and Lynne Ronin (CEO-Nation Design).

  10. ETHEL (and friends) at The Met It'll be nice to lose myself in their take on classical music with MPB -- and since Fatso plays the cello, I'll probably take her, too.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Day 18: Queen Esther & The Hot Five at the Kennedy Center!

On Saturday June 18th, the quintet and I performed a set of 1920s vaudeville blues on Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, then returned later that night to play 1930s swing music for Jason and Alicia Hall Moran's Forever Gershwin after party.

Our little road trip turned out to be a pretty fun adventure.  We got to see Forever Gershwin, which included selections from Porgy and Bess, and later we noshed on sushi with that indefatigable showstopper Norm Lewis as well as the conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra, whose enthusiasm while gliding the orchestra and the 168 person chorale through It Ain't Necessarily So was nothing short of contagious.  I must say, it took the top of my head clean off to hear that many people scatting simultaneously.  Thrilling, inspiring gut-wrenchingly brilliant stuff. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

I miss singing in a chorale.  More on that some other time.

I had to post this video to give you an idea of what I saw and heard. So lush! I don't know if I could ever get sick of this song...! 

I'd say this newest addition worked out just fine, wouldn't you?  I'm just relieved that it fits. There's nothing quite like buying something you can't try on before that point of purchase.

To see our entire set of vaudeville blues, click here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Day 14: YAY! A Guitar Lesson!

This is guitarist Jim McLaughlin. Thankfully, he can play anything.  I'm going to make him sing a LOT. With this, we are off to the races -- trading guitar lessons for voice lessons.

The good news is that I'm farther along than I think I am with the guitar, which is kind of a relief. It's not nearly enough, of course -- so I'm still way frustrated. I can't think about any of that, though, or I'll quit. I have to do stuff to make it fun and take my mind off of how far off the mark I think I am.  Stuff like writing songs and working up new ideas and practicing while I channel surf. Mindless, meditative stuff.  Stuff that will distract me, keep some other part of me bouncing around.

The good news with James is that he can actually sing and he's got an ear so he can sing harmony. (Sweet victory!) The rest of 2016 will be colorful and interesting...!

Here's the latest fingerpicking pattern.

I don't care how long it takes me to learn how to play guitar. I don't care if I figure it out by the time I'm 90 years old.  I'll be an old lady and I will be bringing the heat and I won't care at all.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Day 9: Another 1930s frock...!

Because I sing a wide variety of (mostly!) American jazz from the turn of the century through the 50s (amongst other things), I'm always in dire need of formal vintage clothing. Although usually I can shop in my closet for a crisp modern look that can accommodate the 1940s and the 1950s, I'm flummoxed when it comes to The Gilded Age. I'm not flatchested enough to pull off an androgynous look, so I get away with as much as I can by finding inspiration in bias cut gowns and cocktail dresses from the 1930s. Here's my latest gown: an elegant, curve-hugging bias cut satin number that simply slips over my head, like a t-shirt.

I know it looks pink but it's really peach.  And I'm a Georgia peach. So there's that.

Walking around my apartment with all that luscious fabric billowing behind me made me feel as though I were floating on a cloud.  Plenty of room for the ladies -- not constricting at all.  Maybe I'll try it out when I perform at the next Jazz Age Lawn Party in August.

Thank God I can write this off. Happy birthday to me!

Now I'm off to search for accessories...

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Day 7: Buddrick von Boy Goes to the Vet

Our sweet little 5 month old brindle terrier mix puppy -- Buddy the Furboy! -- caught a cold and went to the vet for a complete examination. Before that, he spent the morning at Camp Canine, getting a complete assessment to make sure his temperament is a-ok for overnight stays.  So this is him, completely knocked out in the back of a cab, heading home.

If you want a dog or cat, I highly suggest you rescue one from your local shelter.  Our Buddy was rescued from a 3 day kill shelter in Camden, SC by ARF -- Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons.

I'm starting to think he knows how lucky he is.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Day 6: Mouth Wide Open - Literary Open Mic, 6/8!

Looking forward to reading some fresh new flash fiction at this event on Wednesday at Jimmy's No. 43. I'm grateful that the organizers are kind enough to include me. This feels good, all this writing I'm doing -- not just songs, either. I'm revisiting essays and short stories I wrote and sifting through them all over again and that's bringing forth a slew of new ideas. They spin out of me in this effortless way and I pick them up, like seashells on a beach. I've never had writer's block, thank God.  I was and still very much am a procrastinator, which is probably why I love a deadline. Quite often, that's the thing that gets it done.

I love words. Writing came so easily to me when I was a kid, I took it for granted. The rest of my life has been running me over for so long and in every direction imaginable, that I never thought I could lean on writing, that it could be as promising or as fulfilling as performance.

Having a chill downtown literary moment will be the calm before a very busy weekend of Black Americana at Jalopy on Friday night with my beautiful band The Blue Crowns and of course singing my heart out at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Saturday. I have to go back on Sunday to dance -- and of course try to win the pie contest..!

Maybe I'll read Chicken Lips...!

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Day 2: I'm a Featured Playwright at Playwrights Playground, 6/6!

Because I'm determined to create work that I want to see, I'm a 2016 Playwright in Residence at Liberation Theater Company, working on a ton of new ideas.  A scene from my latest full length play currently in utero -- a serio-comic romp about white fragility -- will be read at the Classical Theater of Harlem's Playwright's Playground Cold Reading Series on Monday, June 6th at the Dwyer Cultural Center.

For more information and/or to reserve your spot, click here.

And now, back to rewrite purgatory.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Day 1: Beauty Treats!

There's nothing like beauty treats to make everything sublime and luxurious. I started this month's birthday shenanigans with a Curlbox loaded with summer beauty products from Shea Moisture. Everything in the box -- lotion, soap, you name it -- is coconut & hibiscus, so I smell kind of fantastic. It's hard to be in a foul mood when I'm gliding around smelling like coconut cream pie.

This is me, after having wiped away half of Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Mud Mask. (Yes, it's amazing.)

The world of beauty products is a many splendored thing, and maintenance and upkeep is a constant.  I'm always doing minor level research on some new product or experimenting with scents to figure out what works for me. Good habits are hard to break, thankfully -- and rules that seemed strange for a black girl to live by, like always always ALWAYS wearing sunscreen, have paid off for me like crazy. 

I have other rules, too. Like no alcohol. No smoking. And most of the time, eating clean is still my default option.  I wish I could fall in love with a physical activity that didn't cost me an arm and a leg.  I still love boxing.  I still have my handwraps and my boxing gloves. No workout has ever worn me out so thoroughly, given me results so quickly or made me feel as confident.

Oh, wow. That's my first birthday wish! 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter -- from John Wayne!

I've been in Los Angeles all week -- taking meetings, writing songs and catching up with friends -- and I'm feeling nostalgic for old Hollywood, so it's only appropriate that I post this one: Marion Robert Morrison, otherwise known as John Wayne, all dressed up as the Easter Bunny. God only knows when or where this picture was taken. Probably on some variety TV show from the 60s, like Laugh In. My favorite John Wayne quote: Life is tough but it's tougher when you're stupid. (Ha.)

Have a wonderful, joyous -- and safe! -- Easter, folks. God bless us, everyone.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Träumerei über Deutschland

This snapshot is what happened when I couldn't keep up with Jorg and MPB as we wandered through the oldest part of Bremen.  Berlin was way too much fun. More details later.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

America was never great.

"I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. 

Never was there a clearer case of "stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in." I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity. He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me. He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollution. The warm defender of the sacredness of the family relation is the same that scatters whole families — sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers — leaving the hut vacant, and the hearth desolate. 

We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against adultery. We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! all for the glory of God and the good of souls! The slave auctioneer's bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time. 

The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other — devils dressed in angels' robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise." — Frederick Douglass, Life of An American Slave, 1845

America was never great.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

A World Without Black History...

This timely informative nugget is brought to you by MTV Decoded, hosted by the irrepressible Franchesca Ramsey -- and as usual, the hate spewed in the comments section is even more entertaining than the actual video.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Real Harriet Tubman

 "I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves." -- Harriet Tubman

I LOVE Drunk History.  This episode describes The Combahee River Raid that freed more than 700 slaves, thanks to Harriet Tubman's brilliant strategies.  This show used to be a guilty pleasure but when they're telling the history that's usually ignored -- that is, when the drunk people are giving a more nuanced interpretation of what happened than what's usually taught in schools -- it should give everyone reason to pause, and tune in.  This should be required viewing for high school students. Whatever it takes to reach one and teach one, I'm all for it.

In a perfect world, there would be no Black History Month because if you tell the whole story, everyone is in it.  The problem is that, like Ben Affleck not facing his slave owning ancestry on PBS' Finding Your Roots by forcing the producers to erase it, Americans can't handle the ugly truth of how this country came to be. Instead, they tell their sanitized version, something they're comfortable with -- and ignore what actually happened.  Because white fragility.

You're not supposed to erase history or reimagine it because it makes you uncomfortable.

Until everyone can own their history -- Texas textbooks, anyone? -- Black History Month will be mandatory, for all of us.

If it's one name that gets thrown up in the air whenever it's time to teach black history, it's Harriet Tubman.  The sanitized version of her story is nothing in comparison to what actually happened. Context is everything -- especially when its historical. 

Here's a few fun facts that offer a glimpse of the real Harriet Tubman.
  • Her first name is Araminta. Everybody called her Minty.
  • Click here to read about how white people rented her out as a house slave from the age of five (her first job: winding yarn!) and how, amongst other things, she had to sleep on the kitchen floor at night and share leftover food with the dogs.
  • Minty was only five feet tall.
  • When she was an adolescent, Minty was inadvertently hit in the head by a 2 pound weight by her white master for not helping him restrain a runaway slave. It took her years to recover. This caused epileptic seizures, severe headaches and narcoleptic episodes that she endured for the rest of her life.

    In Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero, Kate Clifford Larson writes:

    Bleeding and unconscious, she was returned to her owner's house and laid on the seat of a loom, where she remained without medical care for two days.  She was sent back into the fields, "with blood and sweat rolling down my face until I couldn't see." Her boss said she was "not worth a sixpence" and returned her to her owner Brodess, who tried unsuccessfully to sell her.  She began having seizures and would seemingly fall unconscious, although she claimed to be aware of her surroundings while appearing to be asleep. These episodes were alarming to her family, who were unable to wake her when she fell asleep suddenly and without warning.

  • Minty says that knock on the head made her hallucinate and gave her visions from God. 
  • Of course, she couldn't read or write.  The Slave Codes forbade it. Teaching black slaves -- as well as mulattoes, Native Americans and indentured servants, by the way  -- was punishable by severe fines, multiple lashes and more for the teacher, and much worse than that for the student.
  • A part of the reason why her master didn't pursue her or her family when they escaped to the North could have been because legally, they were free.  In their former master's will, her parents were manumitted at the age of 45 and so were their children. Their present owners simply didn't tell them and kept them working as slaves.
  • Minty's first husband, John Tubman, was a free man.  The mother's slave status determined whether any offspring would be slaves, which may be why they never had children.  She changed her name to Harriet when they got married, probably in preparation for her escape. 

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Start over, every single day...

I'm goal oriented and I work to keep my priorities in order so my only real New Year's resolution is the one I tell myself everyday --  don't give up.  Still and all, that monthly assessment is in order. Here's what shook loose, off the cuff.
  1. I have to physically wear myself out everyday or I'll go nuts.   It can't be any one thing, with the exception of boxing, which makes me very happy.  ClassPass could be the answer to my prayers.
  2. I've made a lot of progress physically but I hit a wall after Thanksgiving. To climb over it, I'm going to combine RealAge and the Eat Clean Program as a birthday present to myself.
  3. If I don't practice guitar every single day for a few hours, I'll forget everything I've learned in a matter of minutes. At least, that's the way it feels, so far.  I can't even talk about my banjo.  I'm getting a grip on all this by taking voice/piano/theory lessons with Nancy Marano, starting at the end of the month.
There are some habits I'm glad I never picked up, like smoking cigarettes (or anything else), recreational drugs or drinking copious amounts of alcohol.  There are other habits I'm glad I started way early, like slathering my entire body with sunscreen and moisturizer everyday. Monthly spa visits and a gym membership didn't hurt, either. Now it's time to surrender the rest of whatever it is that I'm holding onto for dear life -- but for the moment, I'll start with processed sugar, salt and corn, soy and wheat gluten.

Starting today, I've got 21 days to eat clean. Let the games begin. 

Monday, January 04, 2016

The NewSong Contest at Lincoln Center is 3 days away!!!

Lefty guitarist Ronny Drayton will accompany me on this one. For more details via Facebook, click here

WHAT: 2015 NewSong Music Showcase & Competition Finals at Lincoln Center
WHEN: January 7th, 2016 at 7:30pm EST

FREE SHOW! Seating is on a first come, first-served basis.

For over 14 years, the NewSong Music Contest has recognized truly exceptional emerging performers and songwriters from around the world. Entering the contest is a gateway to all of our programs, which include NewSong Recordings, our boutique record label and 'NewSong Presents,' our live music concert series that take place across the country.

After very carefully reviewing music submissions from all over the world, we have selected ten finalists to showcase and compete in the live performance finals at the David Rubenstein Atrium at New York City's prestigious Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. All ten finalists will perform songs for our panel of judges and a packed house... One music act will be crowned the winner.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Public Service Announcement of the Day: VOTE!

On November 6 of this year, 34 Senate seats and 435 House seats -- a total of 469 seats! -- are up for election.  For details, click here.

To register to vote online (it takes two minutes!) click here.

Friday, January 01, 2016

That Last Selfie of 2015...!

Happy New Year!

This is the last selfie of 2015 -- I'm wearing Byron Lars, thank God -- and fittingly, I'm in the infamous Hampden-Booth library at at The Players Club on New Year's Eve, finishing up with soundcheck.  I always wanted to be a librarian. I'm constantly doing research.  And I love books.

May 2016 be "the" year, for all of us.  God bless us, everyone.