Many blasts from my past are tugging at my emotions in a multitude of ways. My 20-year reunion from high school, for example, is approaching (I know! My black doesn’t crack and I still have my 29 waist from high school), but as I hear from my fellow Windsor Forest High School classmates – most of whom I have not seen since we crossed the stage for our diplomas at the Savannah Civic Center (I was graduation speaker), I am reminded that we all have a lot of mileage on our respective lives – from careers to spouses to children, “OH MY!”. And though we’ve lost some a long the way, I’m also excited to hear that everyone is doing so well and living their best lives. As some classmates reach out, I too am reminded of some wonderful friends I’ve had along the way. Hence high school, friend circles – for me – did tend to get a bit segregated, though my school was very integrated and chockfull of diversity. That said, I haven’t seen many – if not most – of my dear ‘white’ friends from that era at all. And as we are now reconnected via email and our reunion website, I’m overwhelmed with happy emotions for these abandoned yet cherished (for their season) relationships. Such a fond spot sparkles right in the center of my heart for old friends like Shawna, Beckie, Erin, Susan, Adam, Lisa, and then some. We’re still aiming to reach out to more classmates – so the reunion will be a success. If any of you are out there, click on www.windsorforest88.com and enjoy a walk down memory lane!!! Moreover, my Savannah homegirl and fellow Knight Tandi Reddick (also a Spelmanite)has launched something for Windsor Forest alums at large: www.windsorforest.ning.com and that has got even more folks from my four years in high school popping up to say HI! And if that wasn’t enough: There’s a site for the Morehouse/Spelman alumni community: Visit SpelHouse.net at: http://www.spelhouse.net. Not so much from the site (as I have stayed in better touch with my college mates), but I’m in the zone of reflecting on those college years as well. My best friend from Morehouse Eddie (based in Chicago where I’m working on an assignment now) is coming to New York later this week (I’ll be here. Fortunately, I see him often when I’m in Chicago). Also, another Morehouse College Glee Club brother Robert Petagrew reached out the other day. Always good to hear from my folks from back in the day as you know how much I enjoyed my Morehouse years (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/5/22/walking-in-strange-and-new-places.html) and how excited I am to have a legacy piece, my only nephew Herman Lee Riley III, matriculating through Morehouse, as I write this. He too is a Windsor Forest alumnus. See my pride as we witness his high school graduation. As our website reads like a MYSPACE for the Windsor Forest High School Class of ’88, my partner Ant updated my MY SPACE page. Please check it out as I try to keep up with the times and my younger, hipper significant other. Thanks Ant! http://www.myspace.com/thelifeofriley2k
During my college years, one mentor stands alone. It’s Ann Kimbrough, who was my advisor and professor at Clark Atlanta University through which I funneled my Morehouse College degree in Mass Media Arts (Broadcast Journalism). Ann and I have stayed in touch over the years. She holds a distinction as one of the only people I would allow to say she’s my “mom” as I have never been into the “play mom” business (as some), but most in particular after my mom’s passing in 1994, that distinction froze in time and I have held onto feeling like a “motherless child” because no substitute will do. That includes Ann Kimbrough. And yet, when she says she’s my “mom”, I know it’s coming from a deserving place as she stepped in maternal on the “college” and “professional” career tip in a way that has shaped me today. She coached me and worked me to ensure that I got all internships and scholarships that were going to help me forward my career. When I was ready for change, she supported every move – offering sage advice on how those transitions could benefit me most. And even when there would be moments we’d not talk for a year (or even five), I am always on her radar and she mine, which is why I’m excited to share this tid-bit from www.ocgnews.com: Kimbrough explores running for DeKalb CEO seat Voters may have another name to choose from on the ballot for DeKalb County’s next Chief Executive Office. Ann Kimbrough has launched an exploratory committee to weigh her chances for vying for the position. If elected, Kimbrough would be the first African-American woman to hold the post.
Among those in the race so far are Joe Bembry, DeKalb County Commissioner Burrell Ellis, Tracey McMeen, Angela Miller, Calvin Sims, and State Rep. Stan Watson.
Kimbrough, a long-time DeKalb resident, currently serves as the Chief of Staff to Vernon Jones. As Chief of Staff, the Clark-Atlanta graduate oversees the day-to-day operations of the executive office’s initiatives, serves as senior policy director for the government’s executive branch and interfaces dail y with residents, business owners and department heads to advance the mission of the Jones’ Administration.
With eight years of experience under Jones’ leadership, Kimbrough says that she will be able to build upon the accomplishments of Jones and continue to move the county forward in public safety, infrastructure and economic development.
Kimbrough, who was most recently recognized at the Atlanta Business League’s 2008 “Atlanta’s Top 100 Black Women of Influence,” earned a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University and is a 2010 candidate for a Doctorate in Business Administration at Argosy University.
Kimbrough is a single mother of three. She has previously held leadership positions with Fulton County Government and the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. She formerly worked for WSB-TV and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
One of Ann Kimbrough’s best pieces of advice was that I join the National Association of Black Journalists and all of its student and local affiliates (www.nabj.org). As you often hear me mention, NABJ is still a huge part of my life. I Chair the Arts & Entertainment Task Force. I often co-produce (with Morehouse brother and best bud Michael K. Watts) many of its big events – including the NABJ Hall of Fame Banquet which we are doing for the big convention in Chicago scheduled in July (www.2008unity.org).
And I’ve sat on the Board nationally and locally in Atlanta and New York City. Recently, I was asked to be a part of an esteemed team of jurors to judge entries presented by students from seven Historically Black Colleges and Universities (like Morehouse). The program is a part of NABJ's strategic effort to partner with CNN and it's upcoming “Black in America” series (www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2008/black.in.america/) – led by many investigations from Soledad O’Brien (who incidentally is excited about the “Big Sister, Little Sister” documentary on which I’m associate producing. She’s agreed to be one of our high-profile women of color to be interviewed for the special independent project that chronicles three New York City girls from their prom to graduation to college: www.bslsthedoc.com - in progress; www.myspace.com/bslsthedoc) . I recently blogged about it: http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/3/15/twas-passing-strange.html.). Anyway! CNN has charged students from seven Historically Black Colleges and Universities and asked students to generate there own stories (iReports) on Being Black in America. Participating Schools include: Florida A&M University; North Carolina Central; North Carolina A&T State University; Hampton University; Howard University; Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta and Spelman. Seeing each students’ entry reminded me of the work we used to do at CAU-TV and WCLK. Like Mrs. Kimbrough said to me (and I continue to pay it forward), “I know each of you will go on to shine brightly into your destiny!!!!”
NOW, HOW DO I REFLECT ON THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS??? Well, let me just do it. This last two weeks have kept me on the road for work – a good thing! It too gave me some special New York City moments which are par for my course of pop culture and possibilities.
- Ant and I stumbled onto a cute sake/sushi spot in The Village on 6th Avenue. It’s called Aja Asian Bistro and Lounge (http://www.ajaasianbistro.com/). It was the perfect place for us to workout our appetites and our pain bodies, which freed us to lift up our dear friend/plastic surgeon with the most Dr. Shirley Madhere (www.thenewaesthete.com) or (www.drshirleymadhere.com). It was her birthday. Location? Grammercy Park Hotel (www. GramercyParkHotel.com ) – just off Grammercy Park which always puts me in the mind of Savannah (any square will do - www.officialsavannahguide.com/article_8.shtml). (Did I tell you that I wrote a book with my 6th grade class from Savannah (Largo Tibet Elementary) – with some of the aforementioned reunion folks – on… The Savannah Squares??? The book is titled: “A Child’s View of Savannah Squares” and it was hardback and informative with lots of pictures and good info. See how all the roads are leading back to Savannah? Or my early years??? WOW!). Well, back to Dr. Shirley’s party. It was on the rooftop/penthouse and we were introduced to some wonderful people who know how to socialize on the cocktail tip, including model and artist Aissata Pinto da Costa. Check out her work via: www.aissata.com or www.myspace.com/aisscool or www.redbubble.com/people/aissata HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DR. SHIRLEY! WE LOVE YOU… and look forward to picking up our dinner series with Mr. Ted Gibson and beau Jason (www.tedgibsonsalon.com/) who were missing in action. Ted? Jason? SOS!!!!!
- A shoot in Raleigh, NC had me at the Siena Hotel (www.summithotels.com) which provided southern hospitality that I always welcome when I travel below the Mason-Dixon line. I also met Carol B. Stack, author of “Call To Home: African Americans Reclaim Rural South” (Basic Books). This book relates the story of urban Black Americans choosing to return "home" to the rural South – something that could be my own reality one day. The book is based on research in rural areas in North and South Carolina, considered the top nonmetropolitan areas for Black Americans moving south. Unfortunately, my trip to Raleigh left a bad taste in my mouth because of Northwest Airlines (www.nwa.com). They bumped me from an oversold flight on which I was scheduled to board to get to Detroit for another assignment. (Now, don’t go imagining Diana Ross in Heathrow when the security person “touched” her in a too-close-and-personal-for-Miss-Ross kinda’ way or – more recently – Naomi Campbell’s arrest from a British Airways flight, but I was that angry…). I was confirmed to fly first class from Raleigh to Detroit on NW flight. One hour before, I got to kiosk to check in (didn't need to check bags). Machine rerouted me to ticket counter. NW representative (and subsequent supervisor) alerted me the flight was oversold and there was no other way to get me to Detroit before I needed to be there for business (the following morning at 9:00 am). A $300 voucher was being forced down my throat when all I wanted was to get to Detroit to do my work. This, as the entourage with which I was traveling, did make the flight (and would tell me later that there were seats available behind them - so that further disturbed me when I saw them the next day as the option NW gave me was to go back to Newark (my home) and - after my insisting they come up with an option to get me to Detroit by the next morning for my work - a 6am flight from Newark to Detroit (not optimum, but it got me to work). My experience of the workers was not cooperative, it was dismissive, and not urgent (as I asked them to ensure that the flight I wanted was full vs. these many options i.e. vouchers, flights the next day after the time I needed to get my work done, etc.).If not for my bottom line (which was to stay with the rest of the crew with whom I was working as we are traveling together for work - a point I clarified off the top), I could understand the lackadaisical way they treated me. But I was clear (and asked that they be clear before they push me away from my goal – to get on THAT FLIGHT!). So, to find that there was a seat(s) available and I wasn't in it, disturbs me and makes me not trust the way in which NW handles its customer service. Ultimately, at a point where a less-optimum solution came into play (going to Newark and getting up really early the next morning to go to Detroit), the supervisor at Raleigh's ticket counter did add a $100 credit voucher to the $300, but it couldn't - in that moment - salve the blow of unprofessionalism, inconvenience, and frustration. And a week and change later, I’m still awaiting a suitable reply from Northwest Airlines. THIS JUST IN: They sent a reply but need another pair of supervisor's eyes to review the case before they decide how much more generous they want to be in the way of retribution. We'll see...
- Well, if it’s any consolation, I did get to have dinner with my Ant and Ern. We went to Crab House (www.crabhouseseafood.com/) in Edgewater, NJ. Then, we joined Ern’s friends Miriam and Danielle, who remind me of our aforementioned Windsor girls, at Lua in Hoboken (www.luarestaurant.com/). Pardon the camera phone shot. I left my digital at home:
- Upon my return from traveling, Ant and I had to pull out our WELCOME MAT for his “Amazing Grace” Manivone who moved here (to Brooklyn) last week. Her roommate – also from Denver (and a friend of Ant) – is Alea. During their time here, we’ve been showing them around town – Manhattan and their borough of Brooklyn. The first night, we went to the Fat Black Pussy Cat (www.thefatblackpussycat.com/) to toast in their arrival. From there, we had a nice round of comfort food at The Waverly diner (on Waverly and 6th Avenue). Another night, Ant and I had to indoctrinate Alea into our karaoke jones at the spot: One 17 (http://www.karaoke17.com/). Afterwards, we gave them a glimpse of some of our favorite go-go boys at Club Splash (www.splashbar.com). Then, we enjoyed a late night bite at one of our favorite overnight haunts “Cafeteria” (www. cafeteria247.com ). Another night, we joined Alea’s friends for a cool night of networking/partying at Upstairs in SOHO – above Café Bari (www.cafebari.com) on Broadway and Broome. We did a take two on Waverly that night (these girls like to eat), but only after we went to “Happy Endings” Lounge (www.happyendinglounge.com) which allowed us to take some cool pictures under red light as we sat in what once was an old steam room (perhaps more than steam was once going on at this place that is now simply a lounge). We had a great time! Lovely folks! Great energy! The shots remind me of my childhood/teenage/adult icon Diana Ross’ 1983 album “Ross”. That was the album with "Pieces of Ice". Remember? Whatever! One day, Ant and I ventured to their neck of the woods – Brooklyn – to show them around as both Ant and I consider Brooklyn a home away from home. We went to enjoy “Red Velvet Cake” in Fort Greene from “The Cake Man” (www.cakemanraven.com) and Brooklyn's BBQ (www.bbqnyc.com). Then, my friend and designer Moshood hosted us for a moment (www.afrikanspirit.com/). As I’ve written about before - http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/7/7/summer-repeats-and-repasts.html, there was a time there (between 1995 & 2002), all you'd see me wearing was Moshood (with African mask on pants leg or shirt hem, etc.). And it fit many occasions - including formals, vacation, White House interview with President Bill Clinton, etc. And Angela Bassett, Chaka Khan, Isaac Hayes, Erykah Badu, and many more are often sporting his wears.
Ant and I were pleasantly surprised on Saturday when we saw a new addition to his series of popular T-shirts (which are often adorned with positive, affirming messages like: 'IF YOU TAKE MY JOY AWAY FROM ME YOU DESTROY THE BEAUTY OF YOURSELF'). It reads: 'IF YOU'RE NOT FOR BARACK OBAMA, GET OFF MY BACK!'. Well, maybe not the most clever or punchy slogan, but the display case was filled with white Ts - different shapes and sizes, but one message of HOPE around Moshood's candidate Barack Obama. I thought “How cool!” And secured a bunch for friends who would enjoy an Obama-inspired Moshood T-Shirt. While in Brooklyn, we stumbled into one of my best friends in the business Frankie Edozien ( www.edozien.net) who is City Hall Reporter at New York Post, but also Founder of the “African” Magazine
(www.africanmag.com). Being out with me means I run into folks and they lead us to our next stop. In this case, Frankie told us we just had to come to the Brooklyn Museum for its First Saturdays mixer – dancing, cocktails, and mingling ( www.brooklynmuseum.org/ ). We did, but got there a bit late. Still, we posed for pix.
- I’ve been seeing commercials for “Red Robin” ( www.redrobin.com/ ). Had never been to one. Ant knew of them from Denver. Well, we found one just 10 minutes away in Clifton, NJ. Ern, Ant, and I went the other night and enjoyed delicious gourmet burgers with baskets and baskets of what they call “bottomless fries”. Not a meal for everyday, but it was so good… in that moment. I’m sure we’ll find excuses to revisit that spot. As comfort food goes, we enjoyed – not for the first time – some “Cowgirl” in the West Village before I had to hop a plane for Chicago yesterday. ( www.cowgirlnyc.com ). Its corn dogs, catfish fingers, chili, and margaritas made this too a spot we shouldn’t do too often, but we must repeat soonest. Love that comfort food!!!!!! (And yes! I still have my 29 waist from high school! SMILE!).
RANDOM SHOUT OUTS AND POP MUSINGS:
- How many of you have seen these commercials from TRIGON Insurance ( www.trigoninsurance.com/ )! The cutest!!!!!:
- The one-man show Thurgood, starring Laurence Fishburne as the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, will begin previews on Broadway April 12 at the Booth Theater, with an opening set for April 30. My friend Natalie Clarke who is Senior Director of Marketing and Client Services for Walker International Communications Group, Inc (www.walkercommunicationsgroup.com) sent me a deal to share with you. THREE EASY WAYS TO ORDER:
1. ONLINE. Click here, or visit www.broadwayoffers.com and enter code THWCEB8.
2. BY PHONE. Call 212-947-8844 and mention code THWCEB8.
3. IN PERSON. Beginning March 24, bring a print out of this offer to the Booth Theatre Box Office, 222 West 45th Street.
Performance schedule: Tues.-Sat. at 8; Wed. & Sat. at 2, Sun. at 3
- My good friend Caroline Brewer (www.carolinebrewer.net) – writer and renaissance woman her own – sent me some info on a friend of hers. I’ll share it with you here. The company is Tribal Ties, an ethnic brand of Italian-made silk ties, with designs inspired by cultural motifs found in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. They also make scarves for women. The owner, Laurence Ligon, founded the company and has run it sucessfully for 14 years, while maintaining a full-time job. In fact, he says the company pretty much runs itself. However, he's ready to move on to another venture and wants to spread the word about his desire to sell TribalTies. He's based in California. And you can check out his collection on his site, www.tribalties.com . Any takers?
- NYC based Fashion Stylist Andre Austin and photographer Eric Hason & are pleased to have their work included in the current exhibition at London's Museum of Fashion and Textile: "Peacocks and Pinstripes - A Snapshot of Masculine Style". The exhibit is showing through May 31, 2008. For more information, please contact my friend Wilson Mathews, who too works with Whitney from “America’s Next Top Model” at email@example.com or to view the exhibit please visit http://www.ftmlondon.org/exhibitions/detail/?ID=44.
- My friend Michael K. Watts sent me two things he wanted me to mention. His first recommendation went something like this: “If you have not tried these cookies, you MUST. They will make you slap yo’ sista and yo’ daddy! I say they're PERFECT for the blog!!!” Well, I don’t know if I need to go that far, Michael, but I trust you. It’s Insomnia Cookies (www.insomniacookies.com) which now has a retail location on 6th Avenue and MacDouglal that compliments their ‘til-3am delivery. Cookies, brownies, and combo packs of the two are served up piping hot.
- Michael’s other suggestion: A mentee of his named Barion Grant who worked at MTV during the same time he was there is the producer of a powerful documentary coming on MSNBC this Friday “… MEETING DAVID WILSON”. “TODAY” correspondent Tiki Barber hosts the documentary which is the remarkable and inspiring story of a young man’s reconciliation with his ancestors’ history as slaves. A 90-minute LIVE Conversation about Race moderated by NBC News’ Brian Williams follows. The entire event streams live on MSNBC.COM. For more information, go to www.msnbc.com.
As I reflect on my life (20 years since high school, etc.) - chronicling and revealing itself alongside the world’s recognition of the 40 years that have passed since Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s April 4th assassination, I’m reminded that time passes quickly here, doesn’t it? You heard that younger brother of late, great Gerald Levert, Sean, died recently. He too was in the group Levert (of “Casanova” fame) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sean_Levert. Not that we were thinking about him or checking for him, but – for sure – not expecting him to die. Then, as celebrations go, my cousin Floyd just celebrated another birthday. Hopefully he is honing in on how quickly time does pass and how little time there is philosophically for all of us to waste. We should all stand in our purpose and possibilities sooner than later... if we can. Tomorrow is not promised. This sentiment as another huge loss weighs heavily on my family. In the paper it reads like this: Bishop S.C. "Daddy" Madison, who for 17 years guided the United House of Prayer for All People, an affluent African American denomination based in the District, died Saturday night at his home in Northwest Washington . He was 86. I’ve often shared that this is my family’s church and for my years in Savannah, Atlanta, and New York, my church: (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/8/30/time-passes-quickly-here.html) and (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/2/12/tasty-freeze-of-chicago.html). See this article from The Washington Post for a more comprehensive view of his life. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/06/AR2008040602312.html?referrer=emailarticle ). I’m reminded that when I was a junior at Morehouse in 1991, my parents surprised me on the road in Norfolk, Virginia as the Morehouse College Glee Club was preparing to close out our two-week tour. The previous Bishop McCollough – only the 2nd in a series of 3 leaders within the church – passed away that same week, but my mom and dad still stuck to their plan to come and surprise me. As the glee club – on a tour bus – pulled into our hotel parking lot, I was told that someone needed to see me up front. When I walked off the bus, it was my parents. I was so emotional and happy to see them. Knowing the news of the Bishop’s passing (They’d called that news into me while on the road – earlier on the tour), I was further shocked to see them as I figured mom (and maybe even dad) would be preoccupied with arrangements around services, etc. But she held her commitment to spend time with me and knew she’d get back home in time to honor McCollough with whom she traveled from church to church and under whom her father was a preacher (He also served under Bishop Grace, the founder). During one moment where I was given clearance to hang out with my parents for a couple of hours before rehearsal, we got to talking about “Dad” (as the Bishops are endearingly called). Mom began to speak in tongues while we shared. Of course, I’ve witnessed this in the church and many places, but in my “academic” circles, I found myself looking around to see if anyone witnessed this highly-spirited moment for her. Once she came down off her moment, I said to my mother “Look, sistah! Reel it in! I won’t hear the end of this if you break out and start shouting here in the hotel lobby!”. We all laughed and went about our visit. I choke up and smile as I tell this story. Clearly, I miss my mom. But also, I love and respect The United House of Prayer for All People – my church. And I’ve had moments – over the years – to be an audience with Daddy Madison and I love, admire, and am in awe of the many amazing things he’s done to keep the legacy of our church and its founders (many of whom include my extended family from both sides) alive. I’m also reminded of a song my mom used to sing (as originally recorded by The Mighty Clouds of Joy). The song is titled “Everybody Ought to Praise His Name”.
The lyrics read:
Oh I woke up early this morning
my heart was beating right on time
I said Lord I truly thank you
For openin’ up these eyes of mine
Then I went over to my window
And while looking through the shade
Once again I had to tell him
Thank -You -Lord
For lettin’ me see another day
Now the sun was brightly shining
The wind was blowin’ not too strong
In a treehouse just a few feet away
Little Robin sang his song
I don’t know what he was singing
Pretty soon he was on his way
Who can say he wasn’t being
And saying thank you for another day
(Everybody ought to) Praise His name
(Be thankful and) Praise His name
(Everybody ought to) Praise His name
(Cause if the robin can say Thank You)
You can do it too
Now, the context in which I write this from my heart and for my blog is not a religious one per se. So, whomever you choose to praise, more power to you. But the line “… if a robin can say Thank You, you can do it too…” haunts me. It haunts me because I am looking back on a good life and breathing right now to more blessings than a million and am looking forward to abundance and a light so bright it blinds the eyes. What gratitude I am feeling inside of this emotional rollercoaster. What else is left to say but: THANK YOU!
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