Sistah Summerfest 2003
                June 6-8, 2003
An Event for Womyn of all Ages,
                               Lifestyles and Persuasions



Stasis FemmeNoir Events Contact Coffee Klatch The Village

Pat Parker
Twenty Years . . .
The Women Gather
Since I Do Not Dare
An Ideal Partner
The Greatest of These
In The Spirit
You Were Loved
You Are Not Alone
Choose Your Label
Peace On Earth
This Life I Live
Eros, Pathos
Choice of Weapons
On My Own



Nothing came easy. I was just born with a need to explore every toolshop of my mind, and with long searching and hard work. – Gordon Parks

Back in the day, my mother bought my brother and I, each, a portable record player.  I can still see the thing:  a large monolithic device constructed of black plastic with two white removable plastic speakers hanging off either side.  The turntable folded down and it had a handle on top for portability.  It was not audiophile equipment, but it did the trick.  The first 45 rpm record I happily purchased with my allowance was the Temptations “Cloud Nine.” 

Both my brother and I grew up in a house full of music, be it our own individual choices in music or my mother’s large stereo playing classical or instrumental/easy listening music in the living room, we were always surrounded by music and developed quite an appreciation for same.  The musical tastes in our house spanned the gamut from country and western, classical, instrumental/easy listening, soul and R&B, folk, jazz and spoken word.  I, always the rebellious one, introduced revolutionary rap, the spoken word artists of my time, into our quiet home.  My favorite artist was Gil Scott Heron and his words “the revolution will not be televised my brother” permeated the walls of my bedroom, our house, and often contributed to many a headache for my dear mother. 

His were not the first words I heard accompanied by music; there was another favorite of mine, Oscar Brown, Jr.  I was fortunate enough – or maybe the correct phrase would be – aggressive enough to strongly persuade my journalism instructor and editor of my high school’s newspaper to interview Mr. Oscar Brown, Jr. when he visited our school.  That single interview made my day, my week, my month, my year and my life.  Watching him go into character onstage endeared you to him as he became one of many characters, talked about situations in life, or made fun of animals – like The Signifying Monkey.

While watching Tony Brown’s Soul one Saturday evening, I watched Nikki Giovanni recite her poetry accompanied by a gospel choir – I was mesmerized.  I believe I have every book Nikki ever wrote and anytime she appeared on television to read, I recorded the program.  Though I was not able to record this particular program, I did purchase the album “Truth Is on the Way” and listened to her performance over and over and over again.  If I could meet the entire group of individuals who got me through puberty: Oscar Brown, Jr.; Gil Scott Heron, Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni, I would – as my uncle would say – look to the Lord to be dismissed, I would be a very happy person.

My rap music, if you will, was not always accepted by those who overheard – often folks found it offensive as Gil or the Ghetto Poets would shout, curse or scream obscenities.  Sometimes, people found their words of protest uncomfortable and the combination of words and music did not always suit the tastes of many a listener.  “Great Pax Whitey, why that name?  Some would ask.  “They sound so bitter and angry” was another statement I often heard.  Even today, many are offended when they hear the songs of my youth – their belief is we should be able to move on from the angry times of the 60s and 70s.  Can we? 

This is why I understand the music of the youth today.  Like my need to hear the words of the time accompanied by music, I likewise understand the youth who equally feel a need to voice their feelings, opinions, and experiences in their own music.  I may neither understand nor like what is being said, but I can appreciate their art, creativity and honesty.  As Nikki Giovanni said in her poem “All Eyes On You – For 2Pac Shakur:” 

There are those who wanted to call it dirty, gansta rap, inciting.  There are those who never wanted to be angry at the conditions, but angry at the messenger who reported it:  Your kitchen has roaches, your toilet is overflowing, your basement has so much water the rats are in the living room, your house is in disorder and 2pac told you about it.  What a beautiful boy. . . . what a beautiful boy to lose. Not me, never me.  I do not believe East Coast West Coast.  I saw them murder Emmett Till, I saw them murder Malcolm X, I saw them murder Martin Luther King . . . . Not me, never me.    

* * *

Sonia Sanchez said when she learned of his passing, she walked all day, walking the beautiful warrior home to our ancestors.  I just cried, as all mothers cry for the beautiful boy who said ‘he and Mike Tyson would never be allowed to be free at the same time.’   Who told the truth about them and who told the truth about us?  Who is our beautiful warrior?  There are those who wanted to make HIM the problem, who wanted to believe if they silenced 2pac all would be quiet on the ghetto front.  There are those who testified that the problem wasn’t the conditions, but the people talking about them.  They took away band so the boys started scratching; they took away gym so the boys started break dancing; the boys started rapping ‘cause they gave them the guns and the drugs but not the schools and the libraries.  What a beautiful boy to lose. . . . And we are compelled to ask ‘are you happy Ms. Tucker, 2pac is gone?  Are you happy?’

I can’t help but repeat the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Ludakris and his song “Shake It Fast” or whatever the non-radio version is titled, is no different than Joe Tex’ “I Gotcha, uh huh, huh.  You thought I didn’t see ya now didn’t ya?  Uh huh, huh.  You tried to sneak by me now, didn’t ya?  Uh huh, huh.  Now give me what you promised me, give it here.”  Or Clarence Carter’s “Strokin” when he talks about making love to the “late, late show.”   We are a creative people and we will express ourselves “by any means necessary.

Gil Scott Heron in his song “Is that Jazz” states: We over analyze.  We let others define a thousand precious feelings from our past. . . . I take pride in what’s mine, is that really a crime when you know I ain’t got nothing else.  Only millions of sounds lift me up when I’m down.  Let me salvage a piece of myself.  What it has, will surely last, but is that Jazz?”    When it comes to rap, many would argue “but is that music?”  It is.  Some of us may not understand the repetitive riffs, the slur, the words, the slang, the bump or the beat, but it is set to music and it is spoken word, like Gil, Nikki, Maya, Oscar and others back in the day.  Their words and music are the drumbeat of a civilization we may be too far removed to understand and that, for them, is the point.  We may not like the idea that “it was a good day, I didn’t have to use my AK” is being broadcast loud from BMW’s in middle-class white neighborhoods or suburbia, but it is a reality for those who live it daily. 

When I first moved to Los Angeles, never in my life had I heard gunfire – automatic gunfire – on a daily and nightly basis as I heard from the streets of this city.  Never have I driven through the streets of a city where I have seen so many young men laying in the street, covered with sheets, pronounced dead at the scene, as I have seen in this city.  It is a reality and it is their reality, just as “the revolution will not be televised” was mine at the time.

I have personally been in homes where mothers have referred to their sons using the “N” word or have called them “pussy faced MF’s.”  I have heard and seen the anger in young girl’s who were abused by their mother’s boyfriends.  I heard a mother tell her teenage son to go to a vacant lot where he would find an abandoned, stripped, stolen car and steal the radio from the dashboard and “see how much you can get for it.”  I have seen grown men beat their adolescent sons in the street and tell them they’ll never be anything.  This is their reality.  Pointing a finger at these young people while saying this is not what King died for is missing the point.  I’m sorry; they cannot afford the luxury of such lofty thinking when their biggest concern is surviving the day-to-day.  If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.  I ain’t mad at ‘em; they’re only speaking from what they know.  Whether they are talking about a “bumping party” or “busting a cap in somebody,” it is their experience and their reality. 

As teenagers, my brother once said “wherever you are, find your music.”  I have mellowed over the years and have experienced much in the last six years and thus, my music has changed.  These past few years have not found me listening to much music, particularly with the zeal and excitement I once had.  Certain difficulties in life have a way of emptying you, changing you, and causing you to reflect inward or, depending on the situation, force you to focus more on the needs of others and not your own needs.  The longer the trial the more you fall, dangerously, into a place where you neglect yourself and later, you forget how to take care of yourself.  In the last few weeks, I found myself looking for my music, looking for ways to take care of myself, and looking at my period of stasis. 

One evening as I sat listening to a potpourri of every conceivable musical genre one can listen to I found my music.  It began with Ferrante & Teicher’s “Theme from Exodus.”   That evening, Exodus became my theme song.  Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, I rose and still rise.  After death took me first to its door and later, to gaze hard upon its face; I came to realize the BS we carry around in life means nothing in our final moments.  I’ve come to that place where I am now more prone to ask for clarification than make quick assumptions and produce volumes of fiction based on those assumptions like I once did.  I am bridging the gap between the older generation and myself and embracing their music as I am finding it both soothing and satisfying.  I am also looking at the younger generation as I am now dealing with a younger co-worker who I used to call “the Saturn afflicted Capricorn, filled with the hot fiery passion of youth” and realizing I also need to build bridges of understanding towards her and others of the younger sect. 

Focusing more on the revelations in my music, I moved from Ferrante & Teicher’s “Theme from Exodus” to Itzhak Perlman’s “Carmen Fantasy, Opus 25.”  Here, I had a great reflection on my life.  I have always been fond of Bizet’s Carmen.  As I went through my videos in search of one film, I found I either purchased or copied two films many years ago, one was the opera featuring Placido Domingo and the other was Antonio Gades’ Flamingo Carmen.  I don’t know why I’ve always loved the music of Carmen particularly since this love preceded any comment I heard that I somehow lived very similarly to the character Carmen.  People often said of me, I was the personification of the words “disappearing act.”  I was mysterious and elusive and could never be possessed or held for very long.  One person called me a “professional single” another said just as easily as I could “drop in” I just as easily “dropped out” and disappeared.  One male friend recently said of me “if your attention is not held for long, back to Mecca you’ll go.”  I have to admit it is all very true – every word.  Maybe, just maybe, Bizet’s Carmen has been for me what David’s lyre was for Saul – soothing to my soul because it truly is me. 

As I found my music in the movement of the classics, I began to notice a particular theme and asked, was this all by grand design the experiences I have had these past few years that took me from busy city streets, helicopters flying overhead, constant shootings, commotions, and noise to settle somewhere without so much activity, just the static mountains in the distance where I can now compose my own music without being influenced by outside noises?  Maybe it was meant for me to live miles away from clubs and potential parties, easily accessible malls, and the common distractions of a city to settle into a more contemplative place far removed from the city lights and noisy streets.  This may be the best place for me – the rebellious loner – instead of trying to live a false existence, faking participation in the manufactured movement of life.  Maybe the design was for me to be in this place so that I might more readily accept and experience death and loss in order to better understand and appreciate the precious gift of life.  Maybe this is why I actually allowed someone in my life and did not “disappear” as I had done so many times in the past.  Then again, maybe it was meant for me to experience someone leaving me for a change. 

Whatever the reasons, I now understand the stasis or the appearance of stagnation I experienced in the past six years and the stasis – equilibrium and/or balance – I now have by looking at the music of my life – my personal opera.  I understand it now, both the profundity and the genius in the arrangements.  Being a rebellious loner has actually been very good for me.  At least I can say I allowed myself the pleasure of enjoying all life had to offer and my wandering loner ways have afforded me the luxury to take whatever train I wish to take, to any destination of my choosing, at any hour of the day or night.  This is probably why I have a great appreciation for all music, including hiphop and rap because I recognize its honesty.  Just as there are those who do not understand rap or hiphop, there are also those who do not understand opera or classical music.  Some would say it is not Black enough for them.  I would offer them my favorite person and mentor, Gordon Parks, a Black man who is not only a photographer and filmmaker; he is also a composer of orchestral music and film scores and considered a “creative genius.”

Sure, if I had a choice between going to a club where house, hiphop or rap was being played or going to a club where they were playing jazz, retro R&B or chamber music, I would probably choose the latter over the former.  But, I applaud any and everyone who finds their music, whatever it is because it is the movement of their lives.  It does not matter whether I understand it or not.  What really matters is how important is the music to them.  To quote the saying of the day, does it allow you to “keep it real?”  If so, it is all good.

L'amour est un oiseau rebelle (love is a rebellious bird).

Many times I wondered whether my achievement was worth the loneliness I experienced, but now I realize the price was small. – Gordon Parks






The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Winter in America
(featuring Brian Jackson)


Mr. Oscar Brown, Jr. Goes To Washington

Sin & Soul...And Then Some

Truth Is on Its Way

The Way I Feel

In Philadelphia [LIVE] (Features for 2Pac)


Black Pearls: The Poetry Of Maya Angelou

Itzhak Perlman - Greatest Hits ~ "Carmen" Fantasy · Havanaise · Poème · and more

The Bach Album
(Featuring Kathleen Battle)


Ferrante & Teicher - Greatest Hits


Carmen (Featuring Placido Domingo)

Antonio Gades Flamingo Carmen


















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