My icon of icons Diana Ross says it best: "TIME PASSES QUICKLY HERE!" In the last twenty years, she's often reminded her audiences and interviewers the like that LIFE, FAME, and all of the MOMENTS in between are fleeting... and it's important to go for your DREAMS and where they lead or deal with the REGRET. Also, with whatever RESILLIENCE you can muster, it's key to STAY ON COURSE. On the heels of my VEGAS trip (my last entry), it's been a challenge to do just that, but before this journey continues, I will take a moment to REFLECT - in bullets - the last couple of weeks in "... the life of Riley...".
Further evidence of how quickly our 24-HOUR days can flash by is the anniversary on which I write this BLOG entry. It's been two years since the life-changing Hurricane Katrina hit. In the wake of it (just a day after), I was assigned to do cover that horrible tragedy in New Orleans. Two years later, I was dispatched to do a follow-up. Sadly, there is still much work to be done in order for these folks to return to the comforts that so many of them had before the storm hit. It was dire, to say the least. But the hope shows up in the form of my friend Katina Parker's efforts: New Orleans: A Labor of Love is a grass-roots, multi-media, public awareness campaign to mobilize a minimum of 5,000 volunteers to participate in reconstructing the city during 2008. Awareness about the Gulf Coast's ongoing need for volunteers is being created through screenings and videocasts of the New Orleans: Labor of Love documentary, which follows a group of Los Angeles Valley College students during their recent volunteering experience. The film screens this fall at 50 campuses/churches/community spaces where they will recruit volunteeers. Perhaps most importantly, they serve as a clearinghouse to connect volunteers to the Gulf Coast relief effort with volunteer opportunities and resources. I missed her by a couple of hours (as I had to segue out of New Orleans for Chicago to file my story), but Katina was in New Orleans to film the Day of Presence, spearheaded by Susan Taylor and Essence Magazine (www.essence.com). For more information about this work, visit www.nolaboroflove.com.
Meanwhile, as I ventured through parts of the lower 9th ward, I stumbled into the New Orleans branch of the church that is my parents' church since they were children. It's The United House of Prayer for All People. You can learn more about it via: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_House_of_Prayer_for_All_People . It too is my church that I've attended throughout my childhood, but most engagingly, when my parents moved back to Savannah, Georgia with their three kids in tow (in the late '70s). Faith and commitment to The United House of Prayer for All People is a big - if not the biggest - piece that sustains my family through good and bad times. In recent years, I don't always have the chance to attend services, but I do send my tithes to the church. And since this institution meant so much to my mother during her life, I will always hold the H.O.P. - as we sometimes nickname it - near and dear. In my travels, I find myself always stumbling into the varied locations all over the United States. And my trip to New Orleans this time was no exception. Just driving down the street, I saw - off in the distance - a building I knew was The House of Prayer... and I was right. Of course, I had to stop and capture the moment. PEACE! GRACE!
All over the place might be a great way to describe what the last couple of weeks have been. Just after coming back from Vegas, my Morehouse brother and dear friend Mario invited a group of us out to celebrate his birthday.
Over drinks and light fare, we fellowshipped at Kellari Taverna (www.kellari.us/), which served as a backdrop for many laughs and much love. Mario and I have been friends since our days in college... and his friendship is one I continue to cherish. My friend Carl and Anthony joined me. And we really had a nice time! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARIO!
Though not a friend, I was invited to celebrate Vivica A. Fox's birthday. I would understand via reports later in the week that she was to receive an appearance fee for showing up to her own party. Didn't know that was a possibility for the BIG WILLIEs and WILLIE-MENAHs out there! COOL???? I guess.
Even though Anthony and I didn't get any "perks" per se for attending (other than Ra-Fael Blanco graciously escorting us into the club pass the long lines and velvet ropes). But we did enjoy socializing with some of our favorites from pop culture at SOL (http://www.sol-nyc.com/) - including our 'hip hop dance instructor' (at Alvin Ailey) Tweety. From varied cycles of "America's Next Top Model", we saw Whitney Cunningham and Jade.
Hulk Hogan's daughter Brooke (www.brookehogansmusic.com/), who is now a recording artist in her own right, was also there. Anthony and I have appreciated her talents as they've unfolded on her family's reality show and now in music videos, talk show appearances, and the like.
My sometimes-boss, Raymonde Green from UneQ Magazine (www.uneqmagazine.com/) for which I've contributed stories on film director Maurice Jamal and Luther Vandross, was also there.
And the male trio KING performed a couple of songs inside of stellar choreography before serenading Miss Fox with HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Overall, it was a good night.
You recall my telling you about John Singleton's sophomore production to "Hustle & Flow" (as green-lighting producer) "Illegal Tender" starring Wanda DeJesus and Rick Gonzalez. We screened it at NABJ in VEGAS and I interviewed John Singleton as well as the film's director and some of its cast members. Well, it premiered last week in New York City as well. Anthony and I attended and in addition to chatting up our new friends, we got the chance to talk to another actor who wasn't in attendance at our Vegas screening: Tego Calderon, who plays Choco, a gangster tough guy.
You folks also know how much MOMENTUM EDUCATION means to me (www.momentumeducation.com). I had the chance to recently see a couple of the people with whom I've done this work. My friend Pete threw a WHITE PARTY recently at his DIX HILLS home and Anthony and I attended. Pete and I did the work together (all levels) as well as Fred, who attended with his girlfriend Karen. Fred calls me his "best gay buddy". And though much time has passed since we - along with Pete - did this work together, we continue to hold each other dear. We too were such an integral part of each other's lives at a point where we were looking to shift and tweak our already fabulous selves that when we get together, the updates are tangible and from the heart. Fred - for example - had the chance to know my late, great soul mate Kodjoe who introduced MOMENTUM to me. He too has been a support on whom I could lean during the grief that followed Kodjoe's passing. So, for him to meet "... the LOVE that found me again..." via my Anthony was special. So much LOVE for you, Fred; Pete; and ALL of my LT-12!!!!! YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!!!!!!!! I didn't get any pix with PETE as he was having "... an empowered relationship with a breakdown..." during this party. But PETE is such a gracious host and throws a great party...
I got the chance to also go to Chicago for a couple of days this week and it gave me a chance to reconnect to my best friend Eddie and my "Chicago Carl". We enjoyed the jukebox (I chose lots of Whitney); some wings; and a cocktail at The South Loop (http://cityinsights.com/loopclub.htm). I talk about Eddie all the time and it's always good to see him. Eddie? Here's your shout out!
Now, most of you know, that Chicago is the backdrop (partially) of my favorite movie, "Mahogany" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwuWfkDBhoA). My Theo, Anthony, and I recently enjoyed it in the theater (Clearview Cinemas in Chelsea) - one more time. It did a one-week run the other week. And each time I see the film, I am reminded (1) that it holds up, but (2) that - in Diana's words - "... time passes quickly here....". And yet, as Diana has just come off of two well-publicized performances - a benefit in the Hamptons and the opening of the Venetian Macao - it's clear that time may be passing quickly here, but "... black don't crack...". May we all ride on a journey that - even with its bumps and diversions - keeps us Forever Young... in SPIRIT!!!!
P.S. Check me out from January 2001 when I interviewed President Clinton in the White House's Roosevelt Room. I found it recently and - again - am reminded "... TIME PASSES QUICKLY HERE..."