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Reflections: Playwright Paul William Taylor Sr.’s “He Was A Slave”

Paul Wm. Taylor Jr.’s plays are always a communal and educational event. Generations come to see his plays and often discuss thought provoking scenes all during intermission. It’s what we have come to appreciate and expect from this insightful writer’s introspective dramaturgy.

Paul Wm. Taylor Jr, Delores Fisher, Gloria V. Verdon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This February, playwright Paul Wm. Taylor Jr produced another production at the Community Actors Theater(CAT) in San Diego California. His one act drama “He Was A Slave” explores ways in which ancestral memory interweaves throughout African American’s real lived-experiences as synchronic life events intersect and mingle on a diachronic cultural time continuum.

Paul Wm. Taylor Sr. has written several plays with successful production runs–see my review of his play “Rants” that examines African American inter-generational relationships,  https://sonictapestry.wordpress.com/2016/06/23/theater-review-rants-at-san-diegos-cat-theater/ 

Although Taylor tours some of his plays on the K-12 public school circuit,  He enjoys being in community at Jennie Hamilton’s Southeast San Diego theater. His play “He Was A Slave” is one of his education plays.

Playwright Paul Wm. Taylor Jr.

Without giving away too much of the plot, the play opens with Scottie Nic center stage (yes, the same Scottie Nic  stunt double for Terry Crews in the “Longest Yard”). Nic’s opening monologue is a short lecture about Black history month. His narrative is interrupted by a thick rising mist from which emerges George, the slave character played by Paul Wm. Taylor Jr. Using mist as a motif for ancestral phatasmogoric absence and presence, time is collapsed and expanded. Young actress Heleena Mosley and San Diego actress Shea Coleman create a phantom Greek chorus, commenting on pathos filled moments from George’s life with song.

Shea Coleman, Paul Wm. Taylor Jr., Heleena Mosley, Scotti Nic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronology intersects and merges at various points throughout the play, informing the audience about African American lives throughout history. Taylor juxtaposes contemporary lived experiences as a way for his audiences to consider a longitudinal perspective on Black lives and how they matter in America in a world in which much experience is as Amiri Baraka said, “The Changing Same.”

Shea Coleman, Paul Wm. Taylor Jr., Scottie Nic, Heleena Mosley

Shea Coleman also enjoys working in community at San Diego’s Community Actor’s Theater. Although her list of acting credits include many venues, she notes that being back on CAT’s local stage helps her stay balanced.

 San Diego actress Shea Coleman

A panel discussion followed “He Was A Slave.” Paul Wm. Taylor Jr, Gloria Verdon, Heleena Mosley and I examined ways in which America’s systemic racism and slavery impact today’s society. Our discussion embraced lively audience commentary/dialogue and lasted for over an hour.

 
Heleena Mosley, Paul Wm. Taylor Jr., Delores Fisher, Gloria Verdon

 

If you have a chance, catch one of Paul Wm. Taylor Jr.s’ plays. Sit back, watch, listen closely, and enjoy.

 

Musewoman,

Delores Fisher

Happy Black History Month 2017-A Poem

Delores Fisher Poet/Blogger

Delores Fisher Poet/Blogger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s February and Black history month is celebrated across the United States. On this site, we celebrate African American and African diasporic contributions to our nation and the world every day of the year. We celebrate accomplishments as well as engage in critical discussion of ongoing concerns.

So in light of that perspective, I am posting one of my performance poems included in my newest book of poetry to be published later this year. Imagine a rural, wooden “church house” from built mid-1880s, still in use today by people from surrounding homes. The poem takes place in present day rural Georgia, at an old time revival meeting.

Visions: New Millennium Marketing

by   Delores Fisher (2012)

The lively devotion service eases into mourner’s bench moan
On this unseasonably cold April Georgia night:

UMMMMMM, UM-HUUM UUHM HUMMMMMMMMMM

Yas Lord, Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU!

Old folks grow silent,
Close eyes, bow heads
Young ones shudder,
Search for groaning chill winds not there.

The old, blind teacher woman
Born ‘bout 1918 stands,
Lifts parchment yellow eyes to heaven.

She whispers:
The Hollow ones be dancing again
‘mongst Red , Brown, Yellow, Black, and White.
Slashes of incandescent Internet computer blues
Inscribes ancient runes on flailing arms and kicking legs
Rituals orgiastic wash—internecine flashes, bonfire lights.

She groans:
I sees pyres, crackling ash logs yield
Fuel to unsheathed flames
That tongue moonless, starless sky mouth.
On they prance, dance and howl
Wolfen blood-claws slash air
Dancing, dancing, they be dancin’…
Again stabbing the fabric of our lives.

AAAaaaaaWOOoooooooooooooooooooooooough!!!!
Rips night’s full moon tissue
Slobbers on soft sacrifice,
Pierces fleshy bloated body electric
In Fetishistic bonfire glow-screams,
Gnashing, gnashing teeth brings blood,
Sealing ravenous pact’s vacuity,
Caressing rue-less cruel heart urbanity

They dance and howl . . . . . . . .
Ekwensu is singing.
Sweet voice trickster’s lullaby-wolfen sanguine rune
Engulfs their souls as each swoons
Hollow-dance-killing-life with a tune.

She moans:
Look, LOOK!
I sees . . . . .
Ruptured souls in predatory glee:
All of King’s horses and keepers of others
Cain’t birth brother Martin’s dream
Into daybreak of a bloodless rising sun,
No new day begun
No one dreaming dreams no more . . . . . .

Deferring dreams on crystal cloud-inhaling stairs
Leeching out lives in rhythmic ostinato gasps
Of chimerical, quick-silver green sand smoke.

She wails:
The Hollow ones is in groove, on Internet move
Adding critical mass in arithmetic proportion
As we, zombies, glut on axis mundi spoils,
Consume ourselves to sleep.

The old blind teacher woman shivers,
Lowers yellow parchment bloodshot eyes
Onto Georgia country congregation, old and young.

She whispers:
Like my mammy, my gran’mammy, and the OLD folks sayed—–
Watching strange fruit of once virile futures
Hanging from ever present deep rooted, leaf-sick ash tree,
Its hallowed leaves mourning skyward—–
I cain’t keep my peace.

She stare-screams at the young people in the congregation:
The dream killers, they’s dancing again, chillun’
This time amongst you–Brown, Yellow, Black, Red, White

Wake up!! Wake Up!!. . . I just cain’t keep my peace. . .WAKE UP!!!

She swallows centuries, softly weeping
Help Jesus! Jus’. . . cain’t. . . keep. . . my. . . peace!

Delores Fisher

Africana Studies Department at SDSU: Martin Luther King Luncheon 2017

Delores Fisher outside of Montezuma Hall at San Diego State University

Delores Fisher outside of Montezuma Hall at San Diego State University

 

Its raining heavily on this  January 20th 2017. The Africana Studies Dept. decided to go forward with its annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon celebration. This event has been sold out for weeks! Its theme: “Reclaiming the radical legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.” was selected and embraced by MLK Luncheon committee members last year.

Historical note for many under twenty five, for a Black person to boldly speak out against Jim Crow discrimination’s impact on minorities, especially Blacks during the 50s and 60s, it took depths of courage and was VERY radical!! Open discussion and criticism could result in more than threats, public humiliation, or physical beatings. This year’s luncheon served up a full course of corrective information. It was a timely reality check. How quickly we/they forget?

Consider, for some of our children whose history textbooks reduce the expanse of the Civil Rights era to two pages, how can they forget what is not published, what is not taught? A sense of depth and complexity has been erased. Family and community elders, educators, it is time to restore, share, discuss, engage our students in critical thinking about an era when the word equality was more than a 2 cent word tossed about in knee jerk reactive personal responses published on social media.

Photo highlights from the luncheon:

Administrators, faculty, staff, students, public officials, members of the faith community, and community members enjoyed the remembrance celebration. Despite challenging heavy rainfall, the crowd was buzzing with excitement and anticipation.

While audience members settled into their seats, I took time to document a few guests.

SDSU Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Aaron Bruce

SDSU Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Aaron Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 SDSU Career Counselor Bobbie Gray

SDSU Career Counselor
Bobbie Gray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guests at the Africana Studies Department at San Diego State University's 2017 Martin Luther King Luncheon

Guests at the Africana Studies Department at San Diego State University’s 2017 Martin Luther King Luncheon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guests at the Africana Studies Department at San Diego State University's 2017 Martin Luther King Luncheon

Guests at the Africana Studies Department at San Diego State University’s 2017 Martin Luther King Luncheon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chimezie Ebiriekwe of SAAB

Chimezie Ebiriekwe of SAAB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Diego Central Librarisn, Marc Chery and his wife with San Diego poet Sylvia Talafaro

San Diego Central Librarisn, Marc Chery and his wife with San Diego poet Sylvia Talafaro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor Philmont Bostic and his wife Logan Temple AME Zion Church

Pastor Philmont Bostic and his wife Logan Temple AME Zion Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening ceremonies included thoughtful, emotional libation offered by Dr. Adisa Alkebulan

Senior Artisha Johnson sang a soulful rendition of what has been dubbed The Black National anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” with lyrics by James Weldon Johnson and music by his brother Rosamond Johnson to open the luncheon, honoring another African American tradition of beginning events with song. Later in the program, Artisha sang Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On?” and rocked the house with her vocal interpretation of lyrics that foreshadows today’s socio-political climate.

Vocalist Artisha Johnson at Africana Studies Dept., SDSU Martin Luther King Luncheon 2017

Vocalist Artisha Johnson at Africana Studies Dept., SDSU Martin Luther King Luncheon 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Elliot Hirshman delivered an reflective,  stirring, and insightful opening address

SDSU University President, Dr. Elliot Hirshman

SDSU University President, Dr. Elliot Hirshman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coral MacFarland-Thuet, vocalist and lecturer in Chicano Studies at San Diego State University reached into our thoughts and consciousness with an a cappella rendition of Harold Melvin and the Blue notes’ recording “Wake Up Everybody.”

 

Vocalist Coral MacFarland Thuet (in scarf ) at Dept. of Africana Studies SDSU Martin Luther King Luncheon 2017Luncheon

Vocalist Coral MacFarland Thuet (in scarf ) at Dept. of Africana Studies SDSU Martin Luther King Luncheon 2017 Luncheon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KEYNOTE ADDRESS

Keynote speaker Dr. Shirley Weber delivered a lets look at the real Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. perspective, confronting and dismantling media driven factoid platitudes often associated with who and what he was. Foremost he was a human being, subject to complexity beyond those one sentence quick- quotes we often hear this time of year as we approach Black History month. He was a Christian man of much faith. He was not perfect, but he believed that we as Americans are all striving for an existence in which we can be better. He entered into his testing ground and stood up for justice. Dr. Weber reminded us that like Rev. King’s era, our early 21st century is perhaps this present generation’s testing ground. Paraphrasing Dr. Weber: One gives witness to trials overcome. One can not give witness to that which one has NOT endured, overcome.

79th District San Diego Assembly woman, Dr. Shirley Weber

79th District San Diego Assembly woman,
Dr. Shirley Weber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the lyrics of Gospel song writer Kurt Carr:

 

Two Negro Spiritual implore us: “Hold On Just A Little While Longer” and  “I Don’t Believe He Brought Me This Far to Leave Me.” Another Gospel song encourages us:” We’ve Come This Far By Faith.” Dr. King believed in a united America with a deep ethical spiritual commitment to all people’s well being. Yet, he knew better than most that true national unity cannot be bought, but it does have a cost.

Musewoman,

Delores Fisher

 

 

 

2016 and now 2017 Happy New Year!

Our seemingly long year of one of the most contentious elections is over. Peace, peace, peace, perhaps?

At any rate, time for a bit of frivolity. Here’s a few uh, “fun shout outs” from 2016.

Delores Fisher: Christmas Morning

Delores Fisher: Christmas Morning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hooray for Dominos Pizza!

Delores Fisher at local Dominos Pizza

Delores Fisher at local Dominos Pizza

The elixir of sports enthusiasts and college students! A local artist donated her time and artistry to the public graffiti wall at a Dominos pizza here in downtown San Diego. Hope it stays for a while. It’s really good and truly fun.

Dominos Pizza Grafitti wall

Dominos Pizza Grafitti wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And speaking of murals and graffiti art, Here’s another shout out to artist CHRISTOPHER KONECKI.

Remember his interview I did (on Youtube)

 

Well, here are a few more examples of his work. It’s two huge murals (about 25feet high) on a parking garage off of 8th Ave and Broadway.

Christopher Konecki

Christopher Konecki

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Christopher Konecki

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Buskers

On a city bus

On a city bus

 

Abstractk the Band

Abstractk the Band

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Seaport Village

At Seaport Village

Rockin' Ron on a rare break!

Rockin’ Ron on a rare break!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samoan vocalist/gutarrist Pua

PUA: Samoan vocalist/gutairist

Walter Gentry(saxophonist) and me on a COLD afternoon

Walter Gentry(saxophonist) and me on a COLD afternoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This year I got to try a few fun food stops in other states,

 Cracker Barrel.

sept-13-tues-039  Delores Fisher at Cracker Barrel

 

 

I even returned to a very popular tourist spot in Seaport Station (Seaport Village near the Cheese Cake Factory)

PUESTO

The food here is wonderful, gotta try it.

Puesto Mexican Street Food

Puesto Mexican Street Food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A friend treated me to delightful chocolate candy created by a marvelous chocolateer,

the place?

DALLMANN

Dallman

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Frivolity has its place and this has been a rather HEAVY year.

dec-2016-083

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course good food does not replace good health, a sound spiritual balance/belief, an ability to enjoy material things and treasure that which is beyond materiality: loving family, loving friends, or loving neighbors.

Hope this brief update finds you healthy, at least a little more wealthy and a whole lot wiser for the coming year.

On that note, I’d like to share my never before seen and recently posted Comic Con 2016 music video with you.

Party on guys, take us into 2017:

 

Happy New Year!!!!!

Musewoman Delores Fisher

 

An Open Letter to Maya Angelou: Author, Poet, and Mother to Many of us . . .

Maya Angelou

If I were to write an open letter to a list of writers who have impacted my life since childhood, the list would start with Maya Angelou. In my old neighborhood, we had, “Play mommas,” those who in African American culture are what we call “Fictive Kin’. These women were approved by our parents. They were part of our everyday social fabric, women who joined in the community goal of helping us reach a healthy, productive, and spiritual adulthood. They would nurture, chastise, and comfort for the good of children and family.

Delores Fisher : poet at the mic during Hope for Haiti Benefit performance

Delores Fisher :
poet at the mic during Hope for Haiti Benefit performance

As I begin thinking seriously about writing you this open letter Mrs. Angelou, my heart fills with sadness at your passing and joy at the nourishing words you left behind for us to feast upon when spiritually drained and emotionally famished.   Um,um,um, what would I say?

Momma Angelou . . .

First, I want to say thank you for making my life brighter with books filled with memories from your childhood’s southern rural word-portrait landscape and adult global travel snap shots from tours with the cast of “Porgy and Bess’ to living in Egypt. Your critically observant interior thought-scape not only helped me sidestep several major culture war landmines in the late sixties, but it today gives light to my cloudy thoughts about twenty first century camouflaged ideological complexities and PC stereotypes waiting in ambush, hiding in discursively banal cultural shape shifting rhetoric.

At one point during my youth, you  went from confidante to role model; you became that hip but wise aunt from “Out there in the world” whom I had never met, but watched on TV speaking poetry to the nation at a president’s inauguration. Youth are so hard to impress, but what a day! Many of my friends and I were so proud: we pronounced your name as if it was a rare golden diamond pearl.

During my early twenties, I would curl up on the sofa with hot tea or warm milk while watching reruns of your programs that promoted children’s literacy. On a rainy autumn day, you were always so “there,” in the moment. My momma also liked your poetry. She gave me a book of poems owned by my grandfather, a literate Black man born more than a century ago.

Your voice warm and encouraging word mastery brought back empowering memories of my momma in her eighties, slowly holding out her wrinkled hands and smiling proudly as she handed on to me, the next generation, a book that she loved to read that my grandfather, a literate Black man born more than a century ago, had owned and had given to her. It is a heavy book with gold-leafed trim on each page. It is a nature poetry book. My grandpa on my mother’s side of the family was a gardener who shared poetry with his family. My grandpa on my father’s side of the family was a farmer thought “deep.” He taught my daddy to meditate on life, to plant seed,  nurture, and wait for harvest in what ever one endeavored.

My momma and daddy both loved plants. She was just like her daddy, loved roses. My daddy was just like his daddy, loved fruit, vegetables, tilling the land. And like their fathers and mothers before them, they both loved us, their children and planted much seed for future ripening and harvests.

They both knew somehow that I would be in the arts. Momma knew my secret love of poetry. She somehow knew I’d be a musician and a writer. She cultivated both in me. Daddy provided a home life for me to dig deep and root into narratives prosaic and poetic.

Momma Angelou, ya’ll shared similar soft voices, you know, love-infused voices with twinkling eyed mischievous smiles and full-bellied laughs waiting to burst into air with open delight.

When you came on TV., I’d stop and sit right down to listen to your vibrant recitations. You could “sho’ light it up” as the teens say about resonating, relevant spoken word.  I beamed as you delivered your poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the 1993 inauguration of then newly elected president Bill Clinton. Also, you weren’t afraid to share other’s words with us.

A few years ago, your rendition of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “Jump Back Honey Jump Back” on the Arsenio Hall show put a swagger in Arsenio’s smile and laugh. Me? I was rolling on the floor, going “No she didn’t!” It was so hip, so live, so rhythmically right in the pocket. A smile still slides across my lips when that memory parties through my thoughts.

Recently, I read your “The Heart of A Woman.” Your life held so many bittersweet memories. Most history books do not do justice in retelling the micro-narrative complexities of Black Women’s lives during that era. Your woman’s eye captured and reproduced authentic instagrams and selfies that today’s women artists should study as they navigate today’s gender- inflected arts community gaze.

And, oh yes, your participation in Dr. Dorothy Height’s funeral inspired my courage to offer this letter of thanks, this tribute. You respected her old school Black tradition of leading by example. Both Dr. Height and you joined the mid -twentieth century struggle so that many of us in this generation can also lift voice to sing poems of, spin rhymes about, honor your legacy with spirit-life/love-words.  Though fragile yourself, you celebrated her home going with a quiet, eloquent fanfare.

Our community used to have a saying: “Give them their flowers while they yet live.”

Momma Angelou, I do not know you personally, but I hope as a writer and poet to be included among your daughters. Your life is an inspiration, a pearl of love from God. Thank you for sharing. I am a better women because of so precious a gift.

Watch and enjoy Maya Angelou’s introduction to one of her last works Letter to My Daughter right after her 80th Birthday.

 

You are missed Maya Angelou, you are missed

Delores Fisher

Music and Everyday Life: An Essence of Generational Sharing Part 1

This “blast from the past”post that I wrote several years ago was originally published on now defunct Myrtle Hart.org site

june-30-127

Delores Fisher

It started with the reading of a book from one of the New Negro authors of the nineteen twenties, Jean Toomer. I somehow became fascinated with the narratives of Toomer’s Harlem Renaissance novel Cane.[1] As I read, sleeping memories began to rise and haunt my waking thought. I knew I would never be the same, and I have not.

cane

 

Cane . . . sugar cane….bending beneath breezes of stilted soft summer wind in early nineteen twenties backwoods rural Black Georgia. I feel as if I know Jean Toomer’s Georgia.  His description of dense rural woodlands conflate with frequently told family stories and several collections of faded brown edged early twentieth century photographs.
Several decades ago, on a cool early late summer upstate western New York morning, my uncle’s deep gravelly voice tap dances with intense excitement after a trip south to Georgia. He echoes palpable images of rural life. Uncle Lawyer and my daddy, holding thick bamboo looking stalks at eye level, laugh in a mystic sharing totally unfamiliar to me. Two working class Black men, looking back into a past of “in your face” survival, seem like one soul, lost in sights and sounds of rural life with shoeless feet, mule plowed fields, Sunday overalls, and coal stoked trains. Daddy hands momma the cane. She places it on the red formica kitchen table. Smiling she simply says, “Well.” Her eyes blink small tears. She looks at me as if I should understand her silence. “Is that stuff really sweet?” I ask. Momma, daddy, and Uncle Lawyer go outside to watch the red winged black birds noisily playing above the empty clothes line. When I try to follow, they shoo me back inside, laughing at my youthful Northern suburban naiveté.
I look out the kitchen window. Uncle Lawyer’s hand proudly grips a bundle of Macon Georgia sugar cane like cat eye marbles from an old treasure chest.  He and daddy break open a stalk. They hand momma a piece. All three stand in crisp morning sun, woods framing their unity. They laugh and talk for almost a half hour before momma brings several stalks back into the house. She slides one yellow-green stalk on the kitchen table and stands the rest next to the fridge. My brothers and sister eagerly lick their lips as they asked about the cane. I whine again, “Is that stuff REALLY sweet?”
Everyone looks at me as if I am a little space being. I run off to the railroad tracks behind the house, slamming the screen door behind me, singing at the top of my voice, “Freight train, freight train . . .” That’s when I saw Aunt Bert. She winks and shakes her head. Aunt Bert and Uncle Lawyer, momma and daddy, come back outside to sit and sip ice tea with mint leaves. They sit in our back yard facing the suburban Tonawanda New York meadows and trees behind our house.  Later, during a supper table of collard greens with ham hocks, pan fried corn bread, pork chops smothered in creamy brown gravy and mashed potatoes, their stories began again.
Like the rural inhabitants of Toomer’s novel Cane, all of daddy’s brothers and sisters inhabited a farmland terrain. Their personal narratives continued as they migrated from Georgia to settle within a few miles of each other in urban Buffalo New York during the late nineteen forties and early fifties. Momma’s immediate family also moved to large urban centers. Her surviving sister lived in Chicago, distant relatives still lived in Georgia, some in the high mountains. Prompted by the sight of Uncle Lawyer’s gift that summer, it seemed as if all my kinfolk who visited talked about sugar cane as if it was mythic ambrosia.
Their conversations surrounded “cane talk” with a cast of colorful, sad, funny, and bigger than life characters from a sun baked distant south. In the next few weeks, with this new batch of cane, my daddy began to talk about parts of his life he hadn’t mentioned before. He talked of his quartet days singing tenor in a local group that traveled to La Grange, Idea, Manchester, and other odd named Georgia counties. Music provided a popular source of folks’ entertainment at church, work, and at home.[2] Daddy and I would walk around our small vegetable garden, talking about birds and listening to their songs. Then, we’d sit on a stump in his small dark purple skinned grape arbor next to the vegetable garden. He’d look over at the oak trees, start talking about Georgia and remembering. We became closer than I’d ever remembered that year.
Some days that summer, when he was working outside alone, he’d whistle, gentle as a breeze, a sad tune. He would stop and pull a piece of cane from his pockets. Unfolding the wax paper, he’d look out over the yard, cane in hand. His whistling was almost as pretty as his sweet high tenor voice. When we lived in Buffalo, few of the neighborhood fathers sang like him. They were city born. Daddy sure seemed “country” then. Out in the suburbs, none of the dads, mostly European immigrants, whistled while they worked. My friends said their folks did sing old songs they mostly couldn’t understand. Seems we all had one thing in common, music.
When we lived in the city, my family had an old piano roll upright … I’d watch the keys and try to press my hands in them as the music played. I guess that’s how my folks decided that I had his and momma’s gift for music. As a matter of fact, they gave all my siblings music lessons. Clarinet, guitar, organ, accordion, and despite the fact that I wanted to play ukulele like Arthur Godfrey on TV, they gave me piano lessons at a piano studio called  “Wurlitzers” that specialized in Wurlitzer pianos.
Momma liked that I was learning piano. Every year, she would play hymns and Christmas carols as all of us gathered around and sang. Daddy and momma, who had the best voices of us all, sometimes sang duets. Momma had a high spinning soprano voice that made us sit quiet, made us listen. She and Daddy both read music. His silky high tenor voice was smooth and honey-like.[3] My folks encouraged us to sing and play at least one instrument well. It was just what they grew up doing, what should be for us too. For some reason, everybody expected me to play piano. We had a clunky, solidly built heavy old upright piano with a functioning piano roll. Fascinated by sound and movement, I would watch the keys play and play and play. It was magical entertainment.
When our family moved to suburban Town of Tonawanda in Western New York, we traded our old piano roll upright for a light weight smart spinet. We moved because like many areas of Buffalo New York at that time, our old neighborhood was filling up with people who didn’t have traditional Southern values. These were new, urban second generation people who seemed to move with irritation, seemed to create palpable tension, fusing the air with violence and noisiness. They and their children always seemed ready to fight. In response, our old neighbors, Irish, Italian, and old world Jewish immigrants, began moving out. We had music and song, got to know each other through our “cultural musics”  With our old neighbors, from old world places beyond America where group music was better than television, we shared music, songs.
Our new neighbors’ children didn’t sing or play instruments or have a piano like us. They watched a lot of television, sat on their front porches in kitchen chairs and commented on passersby with barely covered. I don’t think I ever saw their dads.   And their moms always seemed more intensely cranky near month’s end. Not like our old parents or our old neighbors whose mild crankiness depended on how NOT well behaved  us children were at any time of the month as we giggled and played “Engine Engine, Number Nine” or “Red Light Red Light Green Light”or “Giant Step”.
 These new Northern born city folks and their kids were less friendly towards my folks and us. My parents were never  truly “urban”. I think my siblings and I had somehow absorbed quite a few rural attitudes and ways of being. We could be quiet when needed, not defiantly cussing at adults or throwing rocks at each other.
We couldn’t go to our new neighbors’ houses and sing and just hang out and talk. As girl and boy gangs began to surface, my dad became less tolerant. Perhaps all their fighting and drama pushed him and my mom to move us out of the concrete grey city and into the green lawn suburbs with meadows, woods, and no sidewalks on the street. Without loud anger and noise  from the city’s urbanely profane people, my parents felt at peace. It wasn’t Georgia, but it was enough.
The Georgia of the early twentieth century that my parents grew up in was a different place than today. Most people who could afford a piano had a beat up old something to bang on. It was common for somebody in Black neighborhoods to sing or play a guitar, a piano. Music lightened long work days in tending to fields or washing over a hot laundry tub. Perhaps many rural African Americans were unaware of the ways in which academics viewed cultural historical memory linked to usages of music to ease repetitiveness of manual labor and daily chores.
This aspect of music’s function was an African-inflected tradition documented from slavery days.[4] It continued into the twenties and thirties as Blues music spread. According to my mom and dad, music was also used to create a deeper sense of community: music bonded folks with shared meaning as they came together  to dance, sing, and play instruments, to celebrate rituals and holidays. The space could have been sacred, secular or profane, but music was often the common unifying performative element.
Part 2 is in my second book, now in progress!
END NOTES
[1] Jean Toomer. Cane.(New York: University Place Press, 1951) 3rd printing 1967. with Foreward by Waldo Frank.
Toomer’s collection of poems, vignettes, short stories, and songs weave a surreal tapestry of early twentieth century Georgia rural life. As a child, my images of Georgia, through relatives’ stories, grew into a mystical fable world.
[2] We attended the Trinity Baptist Church in Buffalo New York which, at that time, was  located at 41 Spruce Street.
[3] According to Earl L. Stewart “General Characteristics of African American Music” in African American Music: An Introduction (New York: Schirmer Books, 1998) p.7, Although several famous African American male singers have been baritones, a majority, especially in popular music, are notably tenors. Typically in popular music, black male vocal  lead singers of various musical genres have and are tenor. They cultivate personalities to add flourish to the  falsetto range of their tessaturas. The tenor with falsetto  is still quite common even in the twentieth century. This is seen today for instance in the voices of Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson,  Ney-o, and Prince
[4] Mungo Park.  “From Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa 1800” in  Readings in Black American Music. 2nd ed., Eileen Southern ed. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1983) 4-7. Julia Floyd Smith. “Slave Culture of the Georgia Coast” in Slavery and Rice Culture in Low Country Georgia 1750-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press:1985) 166-167.
Special note: Cane book Image from zorosko.blogspot.com

Musewoman, Delores Fisher

Comic-Con:San Diego 2016: Crowds and Cosplayers

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Delores Fisher and Chris Smith of Sync Sound (Blogger’s dream simulation”

Comic-Con International:San Diego 2016 as an annual local, national, and international diverse population event was interesting this year  http://www.comic-con.org/ . Yes, you detect a hesitation and searching for the right descriptor. Commercials flooded our consciousness with television invocations to “watch us live here in San Diego at Comic-Con 2016” for those who could not or did not get tickets.  Professional and  quasi-professional Media coverage was massive this year.

As usual, I interacted with quite a few awesome Cosplayers:

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My focus this year, due to a different teaching schedule and musician obligations, was to go downtown and photograph a few cosplayers and reflect on science fiction, comics, computer games, and technology. I wanted to NOT include myself in a lot of the photos and to seek out more African American cosplayers.

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What inspired my flights into costume play and sci-fi day dreams? Saturday morning Cartoons! And of course, I read plenty of books: fiction, historic, fantasy, and illustrated books like comics and Mad Magazine (one of my personal favorites as a youth). They played a role in  African American literacy n the past. Today, an African American Comics festival celebrates these influences and others on today’s youth. http://bcaf.norcalmlkfoundation.org/     It’s an exciting time for those interested in e-books, electronic simu-worlds,  space/time/inter-dimensional  travel.

For me, in addition to written the influences on African American written and cultural literacy noted in a previous post https://sonictapestry.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/delores-fishers-san-diego-comic-con-chronicles-2015-4-literacy/  ,   sci-fi horror Blaxploitation films like “Blacula,” alternative worlds films like Sun Ra’s “Space is the Place,” even avant- garde music have all contributed to diverse interests in sci-fi, fantasy, and technology among Black people that often goes unnoticed,  invisibilized into more overtly “acceptable” pressing social-cultural concerns and expressions associated with African Americans, or morphed politico-socio-futuristic academically inflected identity issues in lived-experience genres like Afro Futurism.

(See my ongoing newest page:https://sonictapestry.wordpress.com/afrofuturism/

Yet, borrowing a phrase from others and Jimmy Diggs screen writer for “Star Trek Deep Space 9,”  and “Space Trek Voyager,” that I heard uttered while on a panel discussion moderated by Prof. Ajani Brown about Afro Futurism, perhaps my thoughts from time to time seem  like a case of “Black to the future.”

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Dr. Adilifu Nama, Delores Fisher, Grace Gipson, Jimmy Diggs (on Skype) and Ajani Brown

Technology, historical recovery, and identity politics has been reaching across the country, transforming our youths interests in even our poorest neighborhoods most noticeably since the television Star Trek and the pre-Hip Hop generation. As noted by Nichelle Nichols who played the original ground breaking role of communications officer Lt.  Uhura, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Star Trek fan.

 

We have had few African American highly visible galactic female roles like Nichelle Nicholes,  despite genre blurring innovators like the heavily make-up covered role Zoe Saldana embodied with poignancy and yet strength in “Avatar.” Her role as communications officer in the new “Star Trek” franchise not only openly explores a vaguely hinted at inter-galactic affair with Dr. Spock in the T.V. show, but also creates a platform on which to become this generations’ space/technology inspiration. However, Lt. Uhura was not the only visible African American woman in an alternative world series. Eartha Kitt was also on the scene.

During that era, Catwoman played by controversial singer/performer Eartha Kitt in 1967  http://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/a-23-2009-06-04-voa1-83142292/130031.html burst into general American TV audiences’ awareness in scintillating sexiness in the weekly comic book inspired Batman series.

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Eartha Kitt as Bat Woman

Halle Berry sexily re-caped the role in the 2004 film “Cat Woman”.

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Most of the Cat woman cosplayers at Comic-Con :San Diego that I encountered were based on Halle Barry’s  film role.

Two cosplayers as Cat Woman.

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Several Michael Jackson Cosplayer were at Comic-Con:San Diego 2016. In my opinion, Jackson’s “Thriller” despite its musical video genre busting, sparked a renewed interest in  film interpretations of African American sci-fy horror.

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One had to be in the arear surrounding downtown San Diego’s Convention Center to enjoy the vibes. T.V. coverage did not capture the flavah for me. Despite enjoying media staged events at home, fora few nights, I had to return to the event just for the vibe. I’m glad I did. I interacted with and photographed a few more cosplayers.

African American super heroes were very visible in the crowd.

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African American Gamer cosplayers were also a huge part of this year’s event.

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Lastly, but not least, with a nod to early Hip Hop(the past) and to “Star Wars,”(the future), one of the Saturday evening side street photo op sessions, they were amazing, like mini-flash mob groupings all along various blocked off streets where no traffic could mess with the flow, featured a mobile red storm trooper with boombox, bling chain around hid neck, dance moves, and interactive crowd photo ops.

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Comic-Con International: San Diego had really fun African American cosplayers in the house!

Musewoman,

Delores Fisher