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King Kendrick and the Night ‘Sankofa’ Happened at the Grammy Awards

In 1993, Haile Gerima directed the groundbreaking movie Sankofa, a film about the Trans-KL faceAtlantic Slave Trade and how its lessons helped to evolve a Black model, Mona, from her superficial understanding of life and back to her African roots. Named for a term in the Ghanaian Akan language, Sankofa means to go back and look toward the past, for wisdom and hope, in order to be able to make progress in the future.  It means to be grounded in one’s African roots and African past—it reminds us to return to the source.

On the 58th Annual Grammy stage that aired Monday February 15th, 2016 Hip-Hop artist Kendrick Lamar embodied the very meaning of Sankofa in his stage performance and medley of songs from his five-time Grammy awarded album and seminal work, To Pimp a Butterfly.

He was amazing!

image1Dressed in all blue and in chain-gang formation, Lamar was chained and shackled with an all-Black male ensemble and surrounded by jail cages from which a saxophone wailed. With the chains on his hands and wrapped around the microphone, Kendrick Lamar declared:

“I’m African-American. I’m African. I’m black as the moon. “

Not long after this declaration, the Sankofa transformation began under a strobe of black lights illuminating the white patterns all over Lamar’s clothing and the neon colorful spirits standing and dancing along with him.image3

He proceeded to give us what we needed and we were reminded that every race starts from the Blacks.  African drumming further encouraged the Sankofa process to take place as beautifully adorned and spirited women dancers circled Kendrick Lamar amidst the bonfire backdrop, symbolically giving birth to a Kendrick Lamar Renaissance. This was just as much our rites of passage as it was his. He became King Kendrick. The ancestors orchestrated his coronation and we watched it happen thinking were watching a Grammy performance.


image4In a climatic testimony with only a spotlight and a microphone, Kendrick Lamar reminded us that freedom isn’t free and that it requires a kind of transformation in the mind that means seeing Compton in Africa and acknowledging the African in each of us.

Rise On, Ms. Maya Angelou!

”I want to write so well that a person is 30 or 40 pages in a book of mine before she realizes she’s reading.” Dr. Maya Angelou

maya-angelouToday, Wednesday, May, 28th 2014, many people awoke to the news of the passing of the incomparable and impassioned author, poet, and educator, Dr. Maya Angelou at the age of 86.   

Her family’s statement read:

“Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”

While most of us woke up glad that we had made it to “hump day” and some of us even wondered if we could make it through “hump day”, Dr. Angelou made it through more than hump days over the course of her life–she traversed mountainous obstacles while ascending to the apex of life, triumphantly.  

From the ugliness of rape at 7 years old, to the peculiarity of being mute for 6 long years, and the social degradation of being a teen mother and madame in a brothel in later, barely adult years, Dr. Angelou managed to use words to evoke actions and ideas and feelings and places of beauty and strength and hope and courage and love.  

I don’t find that I will have words as carefully crafted to describe this colossal wordsmith, but I would like to honor her life and the body of work she cultivated out of her sheer love of humanity.  

Born on April 4th, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Angelou walked among other giants in the human experience and the attainment of human rights: El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mrs. Rosa Parks, Mr. Harry Belafonte, and the recently departed, Madiba, Mr. Nelson Mandela. 

When President Obama was elected, Dr. Angelou predicted that 30 or 40 years down the road, his presidency would not be so significant because other marginalized groups would hold the post, stating that Americans were “about to grow up in this country.” Furthermore, President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton acknowledged her contributions to our world by awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2011), the Presidential Medal of Art (2000), and having her recite her poem, On the Pulse of Morningat the presidential inauguration in 1995, respectively.

Media mogul, Ms. Oprah Winfrey has referred to Dr. Angelou as her mentor, and from what the world witnesses from Ms. Winfrey, she has clearly been steered to greatness in her service to others due to Dr. Angleou’s grooming of her “heart full of grace’ and “a soul generated by love.” 

Today the world mourns the loss of such a towering, powerful, and compassionate woman. And, we offer hearty laughs and big smiles as we rejoice at a life well lived.  

Rise on, Dr. Angelou!


Still I Rise

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 tear drops,
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 backyard.

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.

Stevie Wonder: The Cosmic Delight

“Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us.” ~Neil deGrasse Tyson

According to CNN, “the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards attracted 28.5 million viewers to CBS.”

At one time, in various places on Earth, the atomic energy of that many people was directed to a variety of flat screen televisions to view some our favorite artists’ finest moments as they collected golden gramophone baubles in recognition of making quality and / or well-liked music.

CNN speculated that perhaps everybody had watched to see a besotted Beyonce or the vintage Beatles or maybe even both. Once I had learned the stevie daft punk Master Blaster, Mr. Stevie Wonder would be joining Daft Punk featuring the super talented Pharrell Williams and the legendarily funky Nile Rodgers, I knew I would be happy.  I felt like I had gotten lucky to be able to see Stevie Wonder in his usual rare form join one of today’s hippest groups perform their song, but to also witness the performance of one of the best songs ever written by Mr. Wonder, “Another Star.”

In 1976, he released the quintessential Songs in the Key of Life. Featured on this double album of 17 craftily recorded songs and four bonus tracks, wereSongs in the Key of Life many of the songs that multiple generations have been able to sing to, including “Another Star.”

On this same album, Stevie Wonder included a song “Isn’t She Lovely”  that he had written for his newly born daughter, Aisha, where she is heard crying.  Since Songs in the Key of Life was released in September of 1976, I like to consider it an ode to me, too.

Following the success of two albums that had already amassed Stevie Wonder star power since 1973, Innervisions and Fulfillingness’ First Finale respectively, Songs in the Key of Life catapulted him into another dimension. Stevie Wonder has consistently been nominated, made appearances, performed, and been a big-time winner at the GRAMMY Awards–he has earned 22! He is more than just another star–he is cosmic delight and humanitarian nutriment!

Most of us don’t know that Mr. Wonder’s convictions towards human rights almost led to his retiring from music; and, he was thinking of moving to Africa to work with disadvantaged youth.  We may never have had Songs in the Key of Life! 

But then the stars aligned.

Stevie Wonder, has contributed his artistry to everything from supporting a Stevie We are the Worldfederal Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday (his song Happy Birthday is pretty much the only rendition I sing when I wish someone a happy birthday) to famine endeavors (He co-wrote, with Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, We Are the World).  

From raising AIDS awareness (That’s What Friends are For) to the Anti-Apartheid Movement, from increasing awareness about Domestic Violence (How Come, How Long duet with Babyface) to announcing that he will not perform in Florida because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Laws, Stevie Wonder has persevered like stars often do because he knows that through his artistry and beyond, he emits light.

I am such a music fan!  Although I wasn’t moved by most of the performances outside of the amazing  Hip Hop artist Kendrick Lamar and the Rock group Imagine Dragons, Daft Punk with Pharrell and Nile Rodgers and the amazing collaboration with Stevie Wonder was worth the entire show! Daft PunkDaft Punk, an electronic music group from France, has obviously meandered through the galaxy and landed on planet Stevie Wonder because millions watched them rock out to his genius and follow in his footsteps by winning the Album of the Year award.  But then again, Stevie Wonder sends all of us into orbit.

He has always elevated artistry to a higher plateau and standard. He supports causes that will change the world and not just boost his album sales.  He stevie wondermakes music that speaks to our intellect, not only to our carnal desires, and he showcases performances that entire families can feel proud to watch.

“For you, there might be another star, but through my eyes” the light of Mr. Stevie Wonder is all I see!

Congratulations to the GRAMMY Awards for its long-standing relationship with Stevie Wonder; he validates this awards show.

The quotes above and below are from Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an Africanneil degrasse tyson American astrophysicist, cosmologist and author. His voice can be heard narrating Dark Universe. Just as Dr. Tyson believes there is no way to deny the magnitude and magnificence of the Creator’s design, there is equally no way to discount Stevie Wonder as one of the Creator’s best contributions to our Universe.

“We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the Earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.” ~Neil Degrasse Tyson