With my feet firmly planted on the ground, my "Amazing Grace" Nichole asked me if I would attend church with her on Sunday morning. Reluctantly, I agreed. Not that I don't enjoy church, but it wasn't my church she was asking me to go to. It was her church, which she joined a few months ago, but had forgotten the name. (Another story for another day. SMILE!). But more than that, this was my first morning in a long time when I could sleep late. Inside that 'selfish thought', I got grounded in the reality that "God" has been so good to me, why shouldn't I get on up and be it differently this time. I stand firmly inside a one-on-one conversation that I'm always having with my God, but I thought maybe I should embrace the fellowship brand of spirituality: the church.
Nichole and I met, acknowledging that the name of "her church" is Corinthian Baptist on 116th and Adam Clayton Powell. We were too late to sit on the ground level. Instead, we were escorted up to the balcony of the theater-style church. Perhaps from this vantage point, we were closer to God? Though an aerial view of the guest preacher, the loud, punitive tones from his sermon reminded me why sometimes I prefer to shape my own 'conversation with God' in my head. I come from as much 'brim and firestone' as the next black person, but sometimes these preachers can be so "preachy" that the message gets lost in the judgment, the shame, and the finger-pointing. Still, in defense of his almost- lost-me sermon, he did take a moment to speak about HIV/AIDS awareness and how important it is to be compassionate about this plight in the community and - like Jesus - to be all that we can be towards helping those in need and coming up with solutions.
$20 later (offering), Nichole and I walked out of church hand-in-hand, heading towards "Native" for some coffee and mimosas. My platonic boo Carl Nelson (not to be confused with my Chicago Carl) came to join us before taking us to the home of George Faison, Tony-award winning choreographer for "The Wiz", a first for a black in that category. I've met Mr. Faison many times over the years. We have people in common, including Carl. In fact, I referenced Mr. Faison in a previous "A Day in the Life of Riley" entry where I mentioned seeing him at one of my "!2 Days of Dreamgirls" screenings at the Ziegfeld Theater: ("WAKE UP.... AND DREAM" ). It was there he mentioned I should come by the "Firehouse" where he teaches dance and workshops productions alongside hosting fabulous parties. I've yet to atttend one, but their reputation precedes them. (I also thought I saw a George Faison cameo in "Dreamgirls" - the Cadillac Car scene - I and referenced that. He insists it was not him). Oh well...
But what I know for sure is he and his partner T were such gracious hosts to a brunch that I won't soon forget. As we set foot into Mr. Faison's beautiful home on the upper westside, we were greeted with the brownstone of life: six stories of lovely art (Romare Bearden, etc.); books; and antique furniture. Though pleasant on the eye, it was lived in, warm, and approachable - providing my imagination with images of the many places Mr. Faison has been in his life of traveling as a performer and choreographer. There were hints of his recent trip to South Africa (in pictures and pieces). There were touches of celebrity in the framed pictures - from Miles Davis to Ashford & Simpson. There was the aroma of the south (He's from D.C., which is the South - below the mason dixon line. SMILE!). This, as a delicious ham, macaroni & cheese, apple pie, and many other delicacies were brought up to the parlor for our consumption. Also, George's cousin Khalid was in the mix and being a gracious co-host, refilling mimosas and champagne flutes; engaging each of us in good conversation; and offering an eye contact that assured each of us that our stories were being heard. Before days end, we'd find out we have something in common (ten years removed): Morehouse. "You can always tell a Morehouse Man...." Not really, but there is a breeding there that translates - through the years and beyond the many differences that of course exist from those of us who attended the school. Another great small world!
And then, there were Mr. Faison's special guests (other than us): THE ANGELS, a group of 50-something and older women who travel somewhere different every year. This year, New York City was their destination. And they came from as far as Tulsa, Oklahoma and Montgomery, Alabama to participate. They are girlfriends of girlfriends of girlfriends (expanding every year) - started through just one lady. One of the older ladies in the group used to sing with jazz great Lionel Hampton and his band before she got married, teaching in Chicago. Then, after fifteen years, she moved to Winter Park, Florida with her husband who needed to be somewhere warm. Now, she's in Tulsa. But yesterday, at 80-something, she was sporting a red, skin-tight, leather two-piece and heels. Cute, right? One woman is shopping her debut novel as another woman uncovered that Mr. Faison was already the owner of six copies of her latest work on Mary Mcleod Bethune. On and on, these women shared their stories and experiences and adventures. And so did we. They are as amused at our stories as we were their stories. It was the best kind of sharing - vulnerable, invigorating, and real!
Our host, Mr. Faison shared that he is a part of a unique production that BET is currently airing called "One Night Only". This inspiring reality docu-soap follows eight high school kids and their drama teacher from New Orleans' McDonogh 35, as they race to mount the "Dreamgirls" play.
Within the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, the series profiles eight enterprising students -- Josh, Chrishira, Deri'Andra, Brandon, Tracci, Michael, Jasmine and Keith -- who join their families and peers in rebuilding their homes, school, and community while also trying to enjoy their teenage years. The half-hour, six episode series takes on dramatic twists and turns as these New Orleans students try to keep pace with the demands of preparing themselves for a successful "Dreamgirls" performance, while balancing academics, social activities and their lives in the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina. PROVOCATIVE! And given my jones for all things "DREAMGIRLS", it is now on my TIVO's season's pass!!!!
We didn't want brunch, which bled into the dinner hour, to end. At a point, my Nichole says to me: "Only in New York City can you have a Sunday like this one...???". To that, I said "...AMEN".