Shaking Up The World 

 

 

Watching Muhammad Ali’s funeral procession last Friday was quite a remarkable and beautiful experience. All along the 23 mile route, there were thousands upon thousands of people lined up cheering, crying, mourning, chanting, throwing flowers, touching and kissing the hearse. Thousands, wanting their own moment to honor, thank, offer expressions of love and say goodbye. Poignant images, first a young man, and later on a little boy, ran alongside the hearse. Each in an Ali training stance next to the slow moving vehicle. Another was the shower of flowers being thrown. So many that the driver had to turn on the windshield wipers multiple times to regain visibility.

The greater beauty of this moment was the diversity of people who participated and shared in this ritual. People of all colors, races, religions and walks of life gathered in one accord to honor a man who touched their lives. A black man, a man of Muslim faith. A man who literally shook up the world and made it better. There was no fear, no hatred, no venom or vitriol, no divisiveness or ugliness lining those streets; just an energy of love and peace. This is the America that I grew up in and the America I want to see again.

The election season has kicked up a negative and hateful spirit, creating a scary time in this country. It seems we are at a tug of war for our values and what we as a people will stand for moving ahead. After seemingly taking steps forward in the election of our 44th President, there are some who would prefer to take us back to an uglier time in America. A time that many of our greatest voices stood against and fought with all they had to shake up America and the world to make the culture change. Some sacrificed their lives to do so, but America became greater because of it. Like Ali when he would take to the ring to fight his toughest and meanest opponents, we are in a serious battle for the very nature of who we are as a people. It’s time for this generation to come out fighting and, like Ali and other strong leaders in trying circumstances when up against the ropes, shake up the world. And make no mistake, the world is watching.

Ali extended his great legacy through what he accomplished outside of the ring once he hung up his gloves. A once controversial figure for standing up for his convictions, Ali became a symbol of inclusion, peace and love throughout the world. At home in America, he became a hero. A legend. An icon elevated even more by the grace and dignity with which he fought Parkinson’s disease for the last 30 years. He truly was The Greatest. And he is a product of America, who in spite of some ugly and shameful bruises in our history is great.

Seeing such a diverse group of Americans come together in such a seemingly disheartening time gave me hope. This is the America I grew up in and the America we need to fight tooth and nail to preserve. Not one person can be absent, or apathetic in this election cycle.

Muhammad Ali’s interfaith service was representative of his inclusive, peaceful and loving nature. There were many beautiful statements and remembrances to encapsulate the life of such a special man. Billy Crystal’s statement was markedly appropriate for such a time as this.

“Ali forced us to take a look at ourselves, this brash young man who thrilled us, angered us, confused and challenged us, ultimately became a silent messenger of peace, who taught us that life is best when you build bridges between people, not walls.” Billy Crystal at Muhammad Ali’s funeral service on June 10, 2016

You A’da know I am for tearing down the walls that continue to try to divide us. We certainly don’t need to build any more. Instead it is time to continue building bridges. Only then can we finally achieve our greatest good.

Where are my world shakers?

 

 

When The Greatest Loses The Fight …

My heart is really with Laila Ali, her siblings and the entire Ali family this morning.

I know all too well what it feels like to see your daddy who had always been your hero and a symbol and figure of strength for your entire life fall victim to a horrible illness that ultimately makes his body betray him and the image of that physical strength.

To see your dad deteriorate over the years is a horrible thing, but to see the fight that he musters to come against the illness that is doing everything to overcome him and in that to see your father fight it with dignity, beauty and strength of character makes him even more heroic ultimately.

Even under those circumstances, maybe especially so, to lose your father totally takes the wind out of you, makes you lose your footing, catches you completely off guard and grounds you to the mat. I guess that is very much what a knockout feels like in the boxing ring, only you never recover from it.

Whenever I hear of someone that I know my dad admired or loved passing on, I wonder what my dad says when he sees them walking through the Pearly Gates. This morning I imagine my dad seeing Muhammad Ali walk in and I know he got that twinkle in his eye, made that special grin, chuckled and walked up to the Champ and welcomed him home.

Rest in power, Muhammad Ali. Strength and love to the Ali family.

I miss my dad, my Champ and Greatest of All Time, so much. Continue to rest in power, Dad.

img_5547

The Diluting of the Birthday Wish…

I used to be the birthday queen! I can remember people’s birthdays like it is a superpower. To this day I remember a couple of ex-boyfriends’ birthdays that I wish I could forget, believe me.

prince-side-eye

I would always make a visit to drop off a gift, send a card, or make a call, drop an email, or sometimes a text. It was significant and it made the birthday person feel special, important, and cherished. People frequently wondered how I could always remember. I don’t know, I just do.

Then, Facebook came along and the art of the birthday wish became cheapened, base and anti-climactic. Anybody and everybody could now remember a birthday because they had a cheat sheet courtesy of Mark Zuckerberg. Gee, thanks.

That special crown I imagined on my head as the undisputed royal birthday wisher became as common as the paper one that you could get from Burger King with the purchase of a kids meal.

More recently I’ve taken on a new persona – The Birthday Grinch. Don’t get me wrong, I still remember birthdays. Within a week of the actual day, the designated person and their birthday will come to my mind. However, I find myself slacking more and more in making the effort to get online, go to the appointed page and type in the words. It’s become too much of a chore. As a result, I’m not as diligent on the empty, drab, obligatory “Happy Birthday” anymore. Sometimes I do it, but more often these days I’m likely to skip it.

That’s not right. I know that I need to dig deep down, break this new bad habit and find the birthday magic that I always loved to spread around to those I love. It’s time to  begin to renew that personal birthday connection that always brought so much joy to those who were on the receiving end of it.

Oh, and to the ones whose birthdays I’ve missed in my new rebellious phase let me take the opportunity to say:

Happy Birthday, (insert your name here)!!! Wishing you a (insert meaningless platitude here)!”

I’m sure you will eventually weed through the overindulgent birthday posts from the multitudes of people you don’t even know to get to my genuine greeting. A greeting from someone who you mean something to and who actually knows you. I’ll be looking forward to your general thank you to everyone who took the time to remember you. Most whom only did so after the notification popped up on their screen.

But, hey, you got three hundred birthday messages on your page! Love you…mean it!!

Tuesday Musings…

I’m definitely on a particular theme in this last week, but stay with me for a while if you will…

Sometimes the hardest thing about moving to the next level in your life is actually doing what you know needs to be done in order to propel you forward. You are fully aware of the exact steps that must be taken, you promise yourself that you will do them, but then…you drag your feet.

Maybe it is fear and insecurity that causes procrastination in accomplishing what needs to be done. Fear that you are so powerful that once you start on the path to doing what is required you will succeed past what even you thought was possible. Insecurity that you will be ill equip to handle it when that level of success and manifestation of your dreams actually comes and what it will all mean. It’s safe to stay where you are because you know what it looks like and what is expected of you there. Moving from that comfort zone means uncertainty, it means change and it means unfamiliar terrain.

I admit to being a bit complacent and allowing myself to get too comfortable and stuck in what seems to be a “safe” place for me right now. However, it is costing me too much to stay here and not do everything that I need to do to step into my full destiny. I was reminded of that in a very big way last night. The message was crystal clear…”A’da get going! You know what you need to do, so DO IT!!!” The directive was definitely received.

Sooooo, I’m restructuring and making room to do what needs to be done to get me to where I want and need to be in my life moving forward. It will take a lot of sacrifice, but I’m ready to do it. I’ll get by with a little help from my friends, as they say. That means holding me accountable and taking no excuses when I want to give them or don’t want to “adult” that day.

The worst that can happen is that I will fail. Then I would just have to pick myself up and start again. But the best that can happen is that I will soar and receive all that I am meant to have and more. I’m betting on the second option.

What have you been dragging your feet on? What steps do you know that you need to accomplish to get where you want to be? Let me know!

 

Lenahornethewiz

“Everything you were looking for was right there with you all along.”

Dorothy, you had it all inside yourself from the beginning!

Restless…

beautiful_strange_extra_3

I woke up feeling restless today. It’s that feeling of knowing that you are on the verge of something big…humongous…life changing and you can just about reach out and touch it, but instead you’re in a holding pattern. It is like I am swinging around on a rope circling what’s on the horizon, but can’t quite get to it just yet. There are too many loose ends that need tying up, but I am just ready to BE there in that new place moving further towards my destiny. It’s a frustrating place to be…

Then I spoke to my grandmother, Eola Woolfolk. Today is her 95th birthday! Happy Birthday, Mama T!!! The beauty, life, wisdom and joy in her voice was the biggest soothing agent and exactly what I needed today. Her first words after my mom and I greeted her with our birthday wishes via conference call? “I am a blessed mother!” What a beautiful thing to be able to say at the age of 95.

I’m sure my grandmother had many days when she felt restless. She had many days when she was on the verge of big changes and probably felt like she was twisting around in the wind and hanging on to a rope for dear life ready and wanting to make it to the next destination. And she got there! And to the next “there”…and the next…and so on and so on.

What a special and beautiful motivation to let me know that if I just hang in there and keep pressing forward I will get there too.

What are some of the things you do to get through those restless times? Let me know!

image

 

His Name Was Prince…(Part 2)

 

IMG_3338Part 1 can be viewed here

Shortly after we met, the Twinz invited me to the debut performance of their band Heroine December at the Viper Room. Nandy and Maya are really sweet and I wanted to support them. As soon as I got in the main room, I spotted Donielle who said to me, “It is going to be a GREAT night! You’re in for a treat.” We were standing in front of a reserved booth right in front of the stage and near the exit. She told me to just stay right there, don’t move and then winked at me. I said, “Okay,” and did as she said.

I was talking to a few people and waiting for the show to start. After a while, this couple came in and sat at the booth. The guy was tall and in a black suit with a red shirt, it was Morris Hayes of NPG. After a few minutes he gets up and comes over right behind me and starts talking to this guy, who asks him what he is doing there. I hear Morris say, “Prince called and asked me to come tonight.” UMMM, WHAT??????!!!!!!!! Thus started some major ear hustling!!! The guy asked Morris, “Where is he?” He said Prince was riding around in the car until the girls are ready to come on. My heart jumped!

I look around and I started to notice people who were standing near me…Renato – Prince’s keyboardist; the guy who played the organ during the show for the 21-Nite stand. I am surrounded by NPG people!!! Morris and I laughed for a minute because he passed by me really closely several times going from where he was standing behind me to outside the exit within a matter of minutes. One time he looked at me and said, “I’m so sorry!” I said, “That’s okay, you smell good…” and he laughed.

About 15 minutes later, things started getting really frantic in the area. People came in and whispered to the woman in the booth… Whispered to someone backstage, went back outside, came back in and whispered to someone else… I observed everything and it was fascinating!!! Dennis, a man in a suit with glasses who had been standing right outside the exit on the street pretty much the whole time I was there, turned and signaled to someone. A couple of new people came over near the booth and the lady who had been sitting there since arriving with Morris got up. A few minutes later a couple of guys brought in this beautiful lady and sit her at the booth – Mocha skinned, with a natural ultra curly hairdo. She looked like a model.

Next thing I know, the man himself is walking through the door surrounded by his security!!!! Prince was literally right in my sight line and then walked right up towards me, stopped and paused not three feet away from me! If I had extended my arm out I would have been touching him. I froze and looked at him and he looked at me dead in my eyes!! It’s like his eyes were looking right through me and into my soul.

The only other moment in my lifetime I have to equate that instant to is after my youngest nephew was born. He was a Christmas Eve baby and a few nights after his birth he was sent home. I was preparing to return to Los Angeles following the holiday and sat in his room holding him in my arms. This few day old baby looked me in my eyes with the most intense, piercing stare. He was looking through me into my soul to the point that it was uncomfortable and I wanted to look away…but I couldn’t. His eyes locked on me and he was imprinting me into his spirit. From that point on, anytime I went home to Oakland my nephew knew me and who I was to him.

It was with that exact same piercing, intense, soul-gazing stare Prince looked at me that night. I felt that same level of discomfort and stirring in my spirit that my nephew had riled up, but I didn’t dare look away. After a fleeting moment Prince just smiled at me and his security guys got him in the booth. When he walked by he was about a foot away from me. After he was seated at the booth, he was maybe four feet from me. The only people between me and Prince were his main giant of a security guard and Renato who stood at the front of the booth as a shield. But, literally Prince was right in my reach. He sat down and cozied up next to his guest who was brought in before him.

Not long after he was in and seated, the girls and their band came on. I glanced over at him during their first song. I saw a different side to him that night because Prince – this larger than life icon – was at the booth holding his hands together in a wringing position looking like a nervous father. It was really sweet. As they started performing and it was clear that the Twinz and their band were AMAZING, he relaxed and from that point on just beamed at them with pride and love. Not surprising since Prince had mentored them and encouraged their music. That was their very first show with their band and it says a lot that Prince and the whole NPG family came out to support them.

What stayed with me after that night was that Prince had the most powerful, beautiful presence and energy. Seriously, I totally felt it! Also, he was very calm and grounded despite the frenzied energy of those who surrounded him. He carried himself as if he owned the world. He did. It was amazing to witness up close. Not surprisingly, Prince was dressed to the nines. I tried to notice how tall he was when he passed by me and I’d say he came to about my shoulder. He was definitely small in stature, but had such a gigantic presence. It was truly an incredible experience. I still pinch myself and get chills when I think of that night and am transported right back into that moment.

So, on April 21, 2016 right before 10:00 am, just like on June 25, 2009 just after 2:00 pm, the music world – no, the world – experienced a humongous, unfathomable loss. The news of Prince’s death stunned and shook me in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. It was unexpected and heartbreaking.

What strikes me most in all that has been revealed in the time since it was announced that he died are the amazing stories about who he was as a person, a friend and a philanthropist. The friends and loved ones who have shared in the media about his humor and his giving, caring heart and spirit show us who he was behind the music. Some of the stories I’ve heard from my friends who knew him and worked with him are incredible. My friend Robin shares a great Prince story here.

My heart aches for all of those that truly knew Prince and loved him. It saddens me that I will never have the blessing of seeing him perform live Purple Rain, Adore or any of his extensive and exquisite repertoire of music again. Since April 21 many of Prince’s live performances and music have been showing up online again. Out of respect for him I will not post anything here. I am including below a beautiful tribute by D’Angelo with Maya Rudolph’s Prince cover band Princess and a great Prince story from Jimmy Fallon.

After all of the shock, the pain and the tears all that is left to say is “Thank you,” Prince Rogers Nelson. Thank you for that epic moment in your presence that I will remember for the rest of my days. Thank you for giving us your all. Thank you for the memories that your music provided as a backdrop to the most significant times of our lives. And, most of all, thank you for the amazing legacy of music that you leave behind for us to celebrate. May you forever rest in purple.

“Until the end of time…”

“Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending,
But all good things, they say, never last

All good things they say, never last
And love, it isn’t love until it’s past”

 

IMG_3329

 

His Name Was Prince… (Part 1)

IMG_3338

I didn’t always love him. In fact, at first I hated him…despised him…detested him. Why? Because my first and always music love and loyalty was pledged and devoted to Michael Jackson. When Prince first came out he was Michael’s direct competition and, therefore, my declared enemy.

I will never forget the time when my family betrayed me by having the audacity to watch Purple Rain (on VHS) in our living room. (If you knew my parents, you know this was a big deal.) I was livid! I REFUSED to step foot in our dining room, which connected to the living room while HE was on the television screen and THAT movie was on. I remember standing at the edge of our kitchen leading to the dining room and living room and yelling at the top of my lungs with tears in my eyes, “You cannot watch this movie! WE don’t like Prince!!! WE love Michael!!!!!!” As my protests went unheard, in tears I cried, “You guys aren’t loyal!!!” I never let my feet cross over into the other room because I felt it would make me a traitor.

But that was then…

I didn’t always love him. In fact, at first I hated him…despised him…detested him.

But that was then…

After some time, I came to appreciate and be mesmerized by the talent, stage presence and genius that Prince possessed. Soon I was fully drinking the grape kool-aid and consumed every bit of music that I could get my hands on. This usually meant sneaking and listening to my older brothers’ Prince albums when they weren’t around. I missed the naughty Prince years completely with the booty-out pants, risque stage shows, songs and lyrics. Hey, I was a kid so that didn’t matter anyway. But I had a lot of catching up to do: Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day…

I remember when the Parade album came out. I would literally sit in our rumpus room and play Sometimes It Snows In April over and over and over and over again. We are talking about a LP on a turntable. That’s dedication! If it was raining outside, all the better. I was just a preteen then and didn’t even fully understand what that song meant. I just knew that it spoke to my soul.

The next album that came was Sign O’ The Times, which included my all time favorite Prince song, Adore! But it was all of the music and the hits (in addition to Michael Jackson and other favored artists) that provided the soundtrack to my youth and served as an outlet and understanding haven for my joys, my sorrows, my angst, my pain, my loves…my life.

Pop Life, Sign O’ The Times, Starfish and Coffee, 7, Alphabet Street, Raspberry Berry, Thieves In The Temple and too many others to name. Then came the symbol years wondering, “What am I supposed to call him again?!!” It didn’t matter because The Most Beautiful Girl In The World.

It would be some more years before I saw Prince perform live. That would usher in a whole new phase and level of admiration for the skills and musical brilliance of this man once again called Prince. On March 29, 2004 I saw the opening night of the Musicology tour at the Staples Center in Los Angeles with a friend. Although it was a tour promoting the newly released Musicology CD, which we got free copies of upon entry into the venue, he mostly played the classics and well known hits, which was perfectly fine with me! He played some of my absolute faves in addition to putting on one of the most incredible concerts I had seen in my life. As perfect as the recordings are, Prince live is just completely beyond being able to wrap your words around to describe.

But it was the closing number that night that proved to me that Prince, like Michael, was not of this world. Hearing Prince perform Purple Rain live shifted me spiritually. It’s one of the most beautiful music experiences that I imagine one could have, especially when he got to the guitar solo in the middle and finished with the refrain of  “Yooo-Hoooooooooo….Yooo-Hoooooooooooo…Yooo-Hoooo-Hooooooooooooooo…” It was breathtaking and magical.

My friend and I would go on to drive down to San Diego later in the Musicology tour to see Prince again.

After that, I was blessed to see Prince perform live four other times.Those times would be at the Welcome To America tour at The Forum in Inglewood, CA also known as Prince’s 21-Nite Stand. Prince came to Inglewood to do a series of shows “for the people” and only charged $25 for tickets! He could have easily charged ten, twenty or thirty times that and still packed the house to the rafter for every show, as he did. But he wanted it to be accessible for fans, for families, for music lovers. I wish I had attended all 13 of the shows he did, but the four I did make were out of this world.

During that stretch Prince had a smorgasbord of talented opening acts and guests playing: Mint Condition (my favorite band! Seeing Mint and Prince together was truly special), Jasmine Sullivan, Esperanza Spalding, Sheila E, Chaka Khan, Janelle Monae, Amel Larrieux. In addition, since this location is the haven for all things Hollywood and celebrity countless celebrities were in the audience every night. Halle Berry, Craig Robinson and Susan Sarandon were dancing on stage with Prince on nights I was there. I heard tales of Whitney and Bobbi Kristina and a plethora of other A-listers in the crowd on nights I wasn’t. It was a city-wide party with Prince as our dynamic and gracious host.

But even more so, Prince proved to me yet again that at 52 years old (at the time) he was probably the most dynamic, playful, masterful, musically proficient artist out on the scene and there were no signs of him slowing down any time soon.

 It was not until literally the end of this extended tour stop that I learned my friend Donielle had choreographed these shows for Prince. Whaaaaaaaaaaaat??!!!! She was a talented dancer in her own right who had worked with music artists such as LL Cool J, Madonna, Janet Jackson, and the great one Michael Jackson (among so many others) in the past and had worked with Prince’s backup dancers Maya and Nandy, known as the Twinz, for the 21-Nite Stand.

I don’t even fully remember how the topic initially came up between us, but after that revelation from Donielle she blessed me by making an introduction to the Twinz and helping me interview them and her about the 21 Nite Stand at the Forum and working with the Purple One himself. That interview was a great moment, but for me the best was yet to come…

 Prince was literally right in my sight line and then walked right up towards me, stopped and paused not three feet away from me!  I froze and looked at him and he looked at me dead in my eyes!!

For more on Donielle and the Twinz, click here and here.