This has been a week of SPRING AWAKENINGS (a shout out to the Broadway musical my friend Tamara Tunie is producing. Please check it out: www.springawakening.com/), playing themselves out alongside near-freezing temperatures in April. Like the winter into the reluctant season that follows, I feel like I'm thawing out slowly and surely, but not quite fast enough to finally feel the energy from the inevitable heat that promises to warm my body and heart. Does that make sense? It's like the lyric from my Diana's "SUMMERTIME" (".... when will you come. I want to put my light things on. I want to put my winter life away. SUMMERTIME I need a sunny day...". REMEMBER THAT? It's from her 1987 RCA swan song Red Hot Rhythm & Blues.).
Fortunately, in my life, there continue to be moments that reflect the layers of JOYFULNESS that I choose to stand inside and create, even when the day is not the best or I'm not feeling the best or I'm inside of angst and anxiety around things past, present, and future. I CHOOSE JOY and CHOOSE TO BE LOVING, VULNERABLE, and OPEN... just because. And knowing that those WAYS OF BEING are showing up in the world and shifting those in my life is MORE THAN ENOUGH (the OUTWARD FOCUS). The JOY that comes to me is icing on the cake... and I might be having a diabetic coma for all the SWEETNESS that continues to come my way.
In a recent entry, I referenced that my man Anthony had graduated the BASIC course of MOMENTUM EDUCATION (www.momentumeducation.com), a highly-recommended four-day course that offers its participants to take a closer look at their lives and how they show up in the world. He chose to continue on with the work and has - since that writing - completed the ADVANCED course, which is a more intense, five-day course that challenges its participants to GO FOR THEIR DREAMS and have them SHOW UP inside of a CONTEXT of WIN-WIN and WHATEVER IT TAKES. It's a POWERFUL work that I will continue to recommend to anyone who is looking for any level of SHIFT in their lives. For me, MOMENTUM continues to be an experience I channel and reconnect to when possible as a reminder of what is truly POSSIBLE in my ABUNDANT life. And on that inevitable day when things aren't going MY WAY, there's still someone I can BE (in the way of ACCOUNTABILITY and RESPONSIBILITY) to have that 'frown' turned 'upside down' and AMAZING results show up in the world.
Just Saturday, for example, I had the chance to show up in a way that I didn't think - in my mind - I had the energy to pull off. On Friday night/early Saturday morning, I got an 11th hour dispatch to Toronto, where I was to conduct a quick interview and return to New York that same afternoon. Quite a JOLTING request, considering I didn't get much of a heads up as I spent the bulk of my Friday offline and off-the-clock from any of my clients. Then, to do a quick e-mail check before bed introduced these URGENT (yet casually presented) requests of my services. I took a deep breath and CHOSE THE STRETCH. Still, nothing seemed to be going right for me to get prepped in the four hours that I had to get this trip off and popping - from drivers/car services who couldn't accommodate my need for a ride to the airport to determining the distance from the Toronto airport to where I needed to meet the subject in an Ontario suburb, etc. In the end, I made it to Canada, giggling when the Canadian Customs guy asked who I was there to see. I was so minimally prepared, I didn't even know and had to comb through the little information I did have handy to figure it out. In the end, everything truly worked out and I found inspiration actually from the quick story I was there to get. Moreover, I finished in record time to be able to get an earlier flight back to New York City, but that flight unfortunately would have mechanical issues. Still, I landed back in New York City in time to meet my friend Michael K. Watts at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill (bbkingblues.com/) to see the amazing songstress Ledisi, whose two independent albums, Soulsinger and Feeling Orange But Sometimes Blue, have moved over 160,000 copies and continue to be the most hard to find independent albums to date (http://www.ledisi.com/). Ledisi has enrolled a cult following of fans who truly adore her. (I've been a fan since Fall 2001 when I had the chance to interview her in Los Angeles on the "Levi's Engineered-Jeans Self-Engineered Tour" with The Roots. I knew she was something special then). From there, she has continued to pierce her talents into the universe, "the mainstream machine" notwithstanding. Feeling Orange received a 2003 California Music Award for Outstanding Jazz Album and Soulsinger has received high praise since its initial release in 2000 and was re-distributed by Tommy Boy Records in 2004. After being an independent artist for six years, Ledisi had her first major break after appearing as a guest artist on GRP’s Grammy® nominated album, Forever For Always For Luther (2005). Audiences got a taste of her singing on "My Sensitivity" being one of only two singers (Lalah Hathaway being the other) featured on this wonderful instrumental tribute album. And after many years of being an independent artist, Ledisi has now leaped into a new phase of her career and has signed with the Verve Music Group (www.vervemusicgroup.com). That project, excerpts of which she introduced to us on Saturday night (including a song titled "Joy"), comes out this summer. And in addition to her powerhouse vocals and songwriting prowess, she is an accomplished actress. She has performed in theater on and off Broadway, most recently in the Tony Kushner/George C.Wolfe production of Caroline or Change and has done some work with The Color Purple. And I am thinking THE WORLD is really getting ready to know LEDISI as her voice has no limitations and yet - unlike some big-voice divas - she doesn't abuse her range. Instead, she takes hold of a lyric and a melody and takes a song on a rollercoaster ride of understated pleasure right alongside the overexpressed ecstasy that comes out of her mouthpiece and vomits (in the most elegant of ways) all over the stage and the audience. And to show she's not a show-off, she welcomes "sing-a-longs" that she directs as if in front of the young adult choir at any-church USA. Then, there's her MESSAGE that echoes the INFINITE POSSIBILITIES I stumbled into in my MOMENTUM studies. She pulls from her own TESTIMONIAL of how she worked in somebody's office from 9-to-5, putting her art as a singer on the side. She says that SPIRIT called her to BE BOLD and GO ALL THE WAY as the SINGER she is on this earth to be. She quit her job and the rest is about to be HISTORY. Of course, as I know from my own LEAPS of FAITH, there are a number of struggles to pay bills and stay afloat, and yet - inside of her TRUSTING her POWERFUL CHOICES - it all works out. I am excited about LEDISI's future and my future in being able to hear her more and see those around me enjoy her inspired VOCALS and MESSAGE.
At this show, one of MOMENTUM's own got the honor of showing up inside of his (and LEDISI's) own stretch. Leslie "BUTTAFLYSOUL" Taylor, poet/spoken word artist, host, vocalist, actor, producer and director, got the chance to sing background for LEDISI, simply by being in the right place at the right time. As the legend is told, he was waiting in line with LEDISI's many other fans, when news broke that her background singers were not going to be able to make it. BUTTA and two others jumped right in to score the challenging, layered vocals that LEDISI's songs sometimes require with little to no rehearsal time. And as a singer myself, you can't expect it all to go perfectly when moments like this happen. Instead, you can CHOOSE to show up and have it show up as it will. And I'm here to tell you, from my seat, BUTTA and the two other singers performed BRILLIANTLY and made the night the ORGANIC WONDER that any LEDISI experience will bring. IMPRESSIVE, it was as IMPRESSIVE, this native of Chicago, IL is. BUTTA has been featured on 98.7 Kiss FM, Boston Comedy Club, Blue Stockings, Club Decades, and the BET/Pantene Totally You Tour with Nikki Giovanni. He has also been featured at a host of poetry venues, churches, and universities. His spoken word artistry has also won him the Nuyorican Glam Slam Championship as well as the opportunity to open for Motown recording artist Donnie. He is currently one of the contributing writers for the Signifying Harlem Literary Journal and featured poet for the Nubian Heritage on line magazine. He prides himself on having the distinction of being one of the esteemed members of the Peabody Award winning Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam family. As a singer, his vocals have been showcased and featured in Chicago, Miami, Washington D.C., and New York City. He is currently featured on the dance single “Trouble Man Remix.” He is also the newest member of Deep Dickollective (DDC) a hip hop group based out Oakland. Together they tour colleges and hip hop venues a like sharing their brand of in your face hip hop lyrics. Butta has also been featured in Peace Out East in New York, and Peace Out West in Oakland. Though his heart is in gospel music, he easily makes the transition into R&B and Jazz. With his melodic sound, he continues to be a sought after and respected vocalist. And as his STAND for the WORLD goes, he is committed to educating people on HIV/AIDS awareness especially in the African American community. He took the opportunity to share his gift of poetry and desire to change the community at large by facilitating the bibliotherapy group “Loungin In Giovanni’s Room” at The Gay Men's Health Crisis where participants utilize poetry as a tool to face daily issues or concerns around sexuality. The group is open to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Straight people of all ages. Many have become poets or writers and have been featured at venues that BUTTA has hosted. He is truly one to watch and know.
As SPRING AWAKENINGS go, EASTER SUNDAY is not always a holiday that makes me feel rejuvenated. The loss of my Kodjoe on this very day (not the date) has conjured up sadness in the last two years since his passing. Still, these year, since the actual date of his death (March 27th) was so far removed from the holiday, I CHOSE to look at what is RISING AGAIN in my LIFE and in my SPIRIT. On the heels of a rough EASTER-eve, I was awakened by my Anthony with the news that we were invited to an EASTER BRUNCH that our friend MELONY was throwing in downtown Manhattan, just next to where the World Trade Center Towers burned down on 9/11. I got dressed and we picked up some wine from a shop that is now Anthony's favorite, The Greene Grape (www.greenegrape.com/). From there, we headed up to meet MELONY and her friends Debbie and Jonna. Melony, Anthony's and my friend who I've referenced before in this blog: "DREAMS SEE US THROUGH TO FOREVER" (PART TWO) and "LOVE IS IN CONTROL (FINGER ON THE TRIGGER)" ) and Debbie are from South Africa. (Here, Anthony hugs Melony [left] and Debbie [right]. NOT TO MUCH, GIRLS... HE'S MINE! SMILE!): Debbie is a talented burst of energy who works in hospitality and tourism for South Africa (in New York City and all over the world). She too does great work around voice messages and helping people organize their lives via (www.debbiesvoice.com). In fact, she was instrumental in mediating a conflict between Anthony and me with LOVE, UNDERSTANDING, and BALANCE... and we had only just met her. THANKS DEBBIE! She and Melony created a lovely meal of South African delights, the names of which escape me. But one dish had mince meet (ground beef), eggs, milk, seasonings -- all baked in a casserole-style. It reminded me of what my dad sometimes makes with ground beef, scrambled eggs, onion, and peppers. He calls it FRICASSEE! Then, for dessert, we had a Malva Pudding, which put me in the mind of "carrot cake". My simple, southern taste buds adapted to something other than fried chicken and potato salad (especially for Easter).... and I enjoyed it. But more than the meal, we all came together as relative strangers except Anthony and me... and we BONDED with lovely sharing. The other guest JONNA is a talented artist here in New York City. You must check out her paintings at (www.jonnatwigg.com). Her sister CARRI, visiting from Columbus, Ohio, joined us as well. (Here, I'm pictured between them): We talked POLITICS, SEX, RELATIONSHIPS, ART, FASHION, ENTERTAINMENT, and even took some time to acknowledge the CONTEXT of the day as if JESUS ROSE, our LIVES were and are armoed to RISE as we all yearn for the lifting of the cold into a... SPRING AWAKENING! We are all confident we will get together again... and CELEBRATE LIFE, which I should add that Anthony and I had the chance to also do last Wednesday as we broke bread and toasted cocktails with our friends at N (the boutique in Harlem that carries so much of my favorite gear). (www.NHarlemNewYork.com). Owners Lenn, Larry, and Nikoa invited us to join them for the inaugural event for 2007. Belvedere Vodka was the sponsor of the evening and much of that was flowing. Since NO vodka agrees with me, I sipped otherwise. But I did enjoy meeting the multi-cultural initiatives event coordinator for parent company Moet-Hennessy USA, Jason Parker, who is responsible for hooking all of the flowing spirits up. Ginger (www.gingerexpress.com/) is where we enjoyed some of Anthony's birthday celebration last year and he again seemed to enjoy the cuisine - namely the "green rice". Additionally, it was great to see some folks who are doing awesome things in the industry - from Nia Flowers, publicist at The Apollo and Tracy Lynn Anderson, another publicist who has just completed work on Tamia's new project and is poised to celebrate her own birthday later this week (in Harlem, the invite says...). With the tease of spring and the ever-present reminder that winter is still here, the folks are beginning to come out as only we do in the spring. And SUMMERTIME will soon follow...