“… my thoughts raced back …” Continue reading
When I was a kid there was an album that my Father would always play on the record player that I resigned myself to being lost to the ages, I wasn’t any older than 4 years old, so it is safe to say that I hadn’t mastered the art of connecting a name to a song. But even at the tender age of 4, I knew what I liked.
I would often sing and bob my head in concert with it, because the infectious beat compelled me to obey… “Baa, Baa, Ba, De Da, Baa, Ba, Ba, De Da!” The chorus of the song never left me and I would often catch myself humming it throughout the years out of the blue, as it always brought a sense of comfort, simplicity and innocence that my childhood would often conjure.
Years later I would query my Father on the identity of the artist and the song, but he would meet my gaze with a puzzled look much to my dismay. Strangely enough it took over 30 years before I was able to rediscover that enduring refrain and the song in its entirety…
It came about innocently enough, during the confines of a late night writing marathon that I was endeavoring in a couple of weeks ago. I opened Spotify on a whim and let the Urban Knights, one of my favorite smooth jazz bands play on random. The rhythmic motion of my fingers gliding across the keypad came to a rapid stop as I heard that familiar musical refrain, my hippocampus was suddenly ablaze with memories, that up to a couple of minutes ago, were tucked away indiscriminately in my 1970 something file… “Baa, Baa, Ba, De Da, Baa, Ba, Ba, De Da!” I shuddered slightly as I was cognizant of the hair standing on the back of my neck, as if I was in the presence of a ghost…
I pushed back from the desk; letting me and the chair roll backwards a couple of feet, before I came to an abrupt stop. I tilted my head to the side and slowly mouthed the words, as if I was in a trance…
Once the initial surprise wore off, I made my way back to the computer and minimized the window so that I could ascertain the creator of the song that had been on the tip of my tongue for a large portion of my life…
The song was “Brazilica” the 5th track on Ramsey Lewis’s 1976 album Salongo.
All these years, I had a sneaking suspicion that it was Ramsey Lewis… The man, the legend…
I felt a grin spreading across my face as the memories came rushing back with concussive force as the child in me remembers staring at the album cover of the man with the curiously painted face wondering what it was all about.
Over 3 decades later and I find that I’m still trying to figure it out.
I’ve come to the tentative conclusion.
When I listen to music it consistently provides me with a sense of empowerment, while on other occasions it serves as a conduit that pulls me through time (I’ve touched on this before) , leaving me suspended in a daze of sorts with the overriding feeling that is pure and unfettered.
Music is timeless… How powerful is that?
Nowadays it seems that madness is the norm, rather than the exception.
My Grandmother had a saying that she relayed to my Dad when he was a child and in turn he relayed it to me and my siblings.
“It starts at home and spreads abroad.”
This was often the opening to one of his many lectures, driven home with the authority of the Almighty Belt …
I didn’t appreciate the power of these words until I was much older.
My Dad was more apt to bellow his lectures rather than saying it in a conversational tone. I believe it was his contention that he had to project his voice for effect.
Often, I felt as if his words were being embedded in my bone marrow with the resounding thud of each syllable.
He was always reading something and he would weave the material into whatever narrative that fit the situation.
His discourse often left me puzzled, because at 5 years old I had the faintest idea of what “recalcitrant” meant, but I nodded as if I understood. I learned early on that if I looked as I didn’t understand what my Dad was saying, he would make me look it up in the dictionary along with a demand that the words be used in a sentence to ensure that I comprehended it for next time.
For some reason my older brothers did not have to endure the literary punishments that my Dad meted out to me.
Like clockwork, I would trudge off into the corner to harness the words bouncing around in my head before left for work, which was always promptly at 9:15pm.
One exercise that I particularly hated was writing “I will be intelligent” 100 times on college ruled paper.
It had to be properly spaced and legible or he would make me start over; often my tears dotted the paper because my fingers would be sore from trying to mimic the shape of the words as I saw it in the books.
I was convinced that my Daddy was the meanest man in Chicago, but I kept those blasphemous thoughts in the darkest recesses of my mind because I didn’t have any words for that.
I hated going into the corner of the living room with the World Book Encyclopedias and the Childcraft books with a passion, but had I known that words would save my life and ultimately fill me with purpose would I have been more appreciative?
He often told me and my brothers “You’ve got to set an example for each other” this mandate was mainly directed at them in lieu of my being the youngest son.
In retrospect it was very insightful of my Dad, because I was always watching my brothers, always recording what I bore witness and storing it into my mental database.
And it is that mandates are a scary thing. Because a mandate is a authoritative order or command and often we shirk away from commands because of the intimidation factor that they pose.
But can it be said that it is just as intimidating to give an mandate as it is to be issued one?
Perhaps this is the conundrum that society finds itself in …
Fathers and mandates seem to be in short supply with the bellow and the belt being a relic of a bygone era.
As a grown man, I can look back with clarity on years that have elapsed and for the life of me, I am at a loss as to what thought process was running through my head as a child.
Many people reflect back on their respective childhoods with recollections of the difficulties that they burdened their parents with, I’m no different in that respect but I am inclined to think that the Lord was truly looking out for me in the blessing that he provided in the guise of my Mother.
As I reflect on the person that my Momma is on her birthday, I am hard pressed on what I did to deserve to be the child of such a blatantly unselfish person. More often than not when I was growing up, I took the litany of sacrifices that she made on the behalf of me and my siblings for granted.
To say that I was a bad kid; would be the understatement of the century, but through it all she never gave in to the chorus of those who would brand me as an irredeemable wild child to be thrown on the proverbial trash heap. Despite all of the conferences with the teachers, principals and the countless disciplinary issues that I dropped at her feet, she was unflinching in relaying the belief that she harbored in me.
My Momma always provided me with unconditional love; the means to pick myself up; fight the good fight and to believe in myself despite the obstacles arrayed in my path. It was her stubborn belief that eventually rubbed off on me, that enabled me to push back the veil of anger, disillusionment and indifference to take the steps toward justifying the faith that she held in me.
Her actions speak to something stronger than simple love, as what I was shown was nothing short of unconditional love, a force that can vanquish anything in its path.
I wish you the Happiest of Birthday’s with the realization that words cannot do justice for what you have unselfishly given me, I love you unconditionally!
I have always been entranced by the narrative of history ever since my father mandated that reading the family collection of World Book encyclopedias was to be my sole form of entertainment.
Initially, I equated it with cruel and unusual punishment before I realized the power that came with the comprehension and respect of history.
The gravity of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington was not lost on me, in lieu of professional considerations that kept me from being a participant in the commemoration of one the most pivotal events in American History.
I had to settle with listening to the recap of the day that was piloting my car through traffic during my commute home. The emotion that was generated by the speakers of today, however genuine in their disbursement pales in comparison to what was delivered by Dr. King and the others that spoke to the quarter million people gathered in the Capitol on that August afternoon a half century ago.
Upon arriving home and making my rounds of the news headlines I noticed the hashtag #advancingthedream. And I found myself thinking…
What is it that I am doing to advance the dream? What value am I contributing to the honor of Dr. King and the other Americans who stood in the face of institutional indifference of their humanity to demand that they be acknowledged and respected for who they were.
As I pondered this question, for a split second I considered that my answer would be a unequivocal NOTHING; but just as quickly as that thought began to enter my head it left, as I found myself consumed with the host of life lessons that were imparted to me by my parents and my maternal Grandmother in particular.
Although my Grandmother did not speak during the March on Washington, I view her in the same vein as Dr. King and the other giants of the movement.
When she speaks, I find myself hanging on each syllable as everything that rolls from her lips holds a nugget of wisdom that has served her well in her 90+ years on this planet and I realize that this is the person that I most want to be like.
My Grandmother and her siblings like many African-Americans during The Great Migration of the early 20th century left intolerable conditions in the South to migrate to the “Promised Land” of the North where opportunities were more plentiful.
Whenever I ask about the conditions that led to her departure from her native Alabama, it always amazes me how magnanimous she is in reflecting on the situations that led her to make Chicago her home. Her astute observation that “You can’t fault folks that don’t know enough to come in from out of the rain” is a metaphor that has powered me throughout my life in retrospect.
Not harboring anger at hatred and/or stupidity, but instead feeling pity for those that are burdened with it and succeding in spite of it not because it…
It is by honoring our parents, grandparents and those who came before us that we can best “Advance the Dream”.
It is about justifying the sacrifices that they made for us in spite of the obstacles that were erected in their path. It is our mandate, our duty to the world we live in, to leave it in a better place than we found it, by giving more than we take from the world.