Saturday, February 13, 2010 -- then click on excerpts ...

More magic. This is a link to author Bruce Frankel's new book entitled,

It can be purchased at  It's currently receiving enthusiastic reviews and is being highly recommended by AARP as a "good read".

My story is among those told.

After reading about the others featured in those pages, I fnd myself hoping there will be time to meet them all at some point while we're still alive and kickin'. Now here's a party lookin' for some place to happen, right? What an interesting bunch to hang out with ... I'll bring the wine! Mine story is told in the last chapter.
Though I've lived long enough to BE black history, life continues to offer up more surprises and novelty than one might ever hope to see ...

Learned from an email a few days ago that the California College of the Arts (honorary doctorate bestower) did not expect me to arrive on May 14th of this year, but a year hence -- in 2011! It was a good thing the good president caught it in time. I might have shown up in the middle of this spring's commencement and caused a real ruckus! Truth is that I don't think that I ever got to the second paragraph of that astounding letter announcing my being named before "whatever were they thinking" clicked in, and total disbelief took over. It was only after this second letter arrived that I sat quietly with the first and allowed myself to take it all in -- the honor, the wonder, and the fact that I must wait another year and write -- not 6,000 but 12,000 speeches in order to get the one to toss!

But before we arrive there, this spring I will be following in the footsteps of countless enlightened women from the stage and screen (and maybe even the local PTA) as a member of the cast of Eve Ensler's prize-winning and much-heralded "Vagina Monologues", directed by Kathy McCarty. How 'bout them apples? This production will be held in the historic and magnificent Craneway Pavilion of Ford Point in Richmond; a benefit for violence prevention programs here in the city.

Dorian is taking the news of her setback well, supported by a remarkable staff of social workers and physiotherapists at Elmwood Nursing Home in Berkeley. They have been phenomenal in a world that can be so frightening. She is being allowed to have a couple of weeks of feeling triumphant in that she's using a walker and has managed to cover 300 feet in one session, and to walk up four steps at a time with close supervision. At least she will go into this new round of surgery understanding that she will walk again because now she has, and that my second floor apartment is no longer unreachable. She speaks now of when she will undergo the surgical corrections, and not if that will happen. I credit a sensitive and empathetic staff for this. Her mother was all sympathy with more tears of disappointment than she, herself, was experiencing. Her resilience leaves me in awe.

Now I'm off to visit with my remarkable daughter -- bringing fresh laundry to replace the items picked up yesterday at Elmwood -- and a Valentine's Day remembrance. Tomorrow family members will share dinner with her on the lovely patio at the nursing home. We'll bring gifts and chocolates and love enough to get us all through the ensuing several months and on into whatever comes next.

On Tuesday I'll meet Ann Notarangelo, weekend news anchor for CBS's KPIX-TV of San Francisco, at Port Chicago for another video interview. This story is finally being given full prominence in the lore of the nation. Though it comes too late for some, it changed history for the many by bringing about the end of racial segregation of our armed forces in 1948. Helping to raise awareness as a part of the observation of Black History this way is a privilege to be held sacred.

Then I'll get to work reading Eve Ensler's work in preparation for a budding stage career!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Having difficulty dealing with the contrasts in life right now ... the highs and lows are so extreme.

On the one hand, David's concerts were an example. Of the 8 in the series, one had to be canceled due to low ticket sales -- but two were standing-room only (both in San Francisco and in Oakland). What an experience it was to be there to watch him standing in his late father's big shoes. He was commanding. He had been honest and clear in his dealings with people, and the respect he deserved was forthcoming. Not sure where it will go from here, but David has gone a long way toward re-introducing black gospel music as an art form back into the local culture. It had gone mainstream to a large extent by becoming "integrated" into some of the racially-integrated mega-churches, and was hard to distinguish from pure entertainment. I've maintained for years that -- if one were looking for a true black experience with black gospel music -- the audience has to be at least 51 percent black. Otherwise, the experience is hopelessly altered since so much of it rises from the traditional call-and-response of the congregation. Without that, it comes off as pure entertainment, and the magic -- the "religion" has been lost.

In white churches music is only one of many elements in the liturgy. In the black church (the venue for this concert series) the music, itself, is the act of worship. On Saturday evening at Star Bethel Baptist Church in Oakland, even we non- and barely-believers were quite visibly moved by the 3-hour experience of exuberance and blessedness -- the pure exaltation, the spontaneous dancing in the aisles; the arms waving heavenward in praise; I'd almost forgotten how powerful ... .

So much of American music has grown out of these roots. Found myself wondering while listening to dignified and humble Lee Williams and his Spiritual Q.C.'s -- four handsome black men conservatively dressed in beautifully tailored dark brown suits (appropriate for church), delivering their traditional songs in the ages-old manner of Lou Rawls and the Soul Stirrers; the Mighty Clouds of Joy; the Blind Boys of Alabama, etc., who preceded them in the genre -- watching them stir the congregation to heights of emotion that exceeded the energy of the mosh-pits and dramatic light shows of the Rock era. No staging here or electronic gamesmanship -- just the sheer power of the music. No shattered guitars or ear-shattering decibels or drug-induced ecstasy. No wild makeup a la Kiss or stage-stalking a la Mick Jagger and the Stones. No bare chests or dropped jeans, or crotch-grabbing. Just music. Pure unadulterated rhythmic and God-inspired music delivered in the equally unadulterated faith in the power and goodness of a Supreme Being whom everybody knew was in the house! I found myself wondering if all of that wasn't a vain attempt on the part of mainstream (white) culture attempting to reproduce the kind of raw emotion that we were witness to on Saturday evening in that sold-out standing-room only audience of believers?

I was awed by the experience, and aware of being in the presence of an art form that must be preserved. This -- was/is the very essence of the black experience; an authentic American experience that Mel and I (and now David) are lucky enough to have helped to preserve -- though with less awareness at the time than I now am able to appreciate in these years of summation.

... And, on the other hand, after 10 weeks of slow and painful recovery for her shattered legs, Dorian's x-rays show that, though healing well, the femurs are out of alignment and the entire process must now be re-started and the screws and metal plates surgically removed and the bones reset. This, after stays in 4 nursing homes and 3 times-a-day visits (with Mom) wedged between the increasing commitments for work brought on by Black History Month and additional public exposure that is beginning to bring more attention to my work than before.

Now -- having taken the day off to try to adjust to all this -- I'm off to visit with Dorrie -- who received the news yesterday on the very day that she was graduating from the wheelchair to a walker for the first time. I need to pick up more yarn for the creation of more colorful and mind-diverting afghans and scarves; and make a stop at my office to check on my in-box for updates ... .

Contrasts ... .