Even Though He Wouldn’t Shut Up

The music was amazing and it took me back. How about y’all?

Remember the time when all of the food had been cooked, everyone was getting ready to play cards, and they put the records on the player. Everyone in the room knew all the worlds to all the songs.

This past weekend, which was also Easter weekend, the guys at Versuz served up some music and memories. More important they taught us some history we need to hear right from the horses mouth.

On Instagram it was supposed to be an epic battle between two historic R&B bands: Earth Wind & Fire v The Isley Brothers. The way it works is they have the bands side by side and they play hits from each other to see which is the greatest.

Not how it went off.

We danced and sang for almost four hours Sunday evening. Everyone sang with every song. Those old dudes got stamina, cause I was ready for bed by 10, but Ron Isley was still standing and singing with his cane in hand.

Philip Bailey, of Earth Wind & Fire was still throwing that falsetto at us.

Earth Wind and Fire was a band founded in 1969 by Maurice White. It has won Grammys, American Music Awards but more important to me, has created music that shaped my life.

The Isley Brothers started in the 1950s with brothers, O’Kelly, Rudolph and Ronald. Their first big hit was Shout! in 1959. This is a song that had shape many a party.

Epic doesn’t even describe this versuz battle. I loved the music. I loved the live social media chats. I too wanted Steve Harvey to shut up, cause I was tired of our drunk uncle.

The best part was the storytelling from the bands. It was good to hear that they were all friends, but you could see that as they sang each other songs. It was good to hear how a song was made or why. It just added another level of love for the music.

It is always good to hear our history from our people.

The Story Intrigues

If you got Hulu this story is worth your time.

It is part of the National Geographic Series Genius. Season One was neat. Season two not so much. Season three is a Kaw Pow! Each season has a different character and focus.

In Season Three, Genius sets out to tell the story of Aretha Franklin, with all of the great music and moments from history.

Shaian Jordan plays Aretha when she is young, giving the audience a view of life on the gospel circuit. She is adorable and makes you believe she is the young Aretha Franklin. Older Franklin is portrayed by Cynthia Erivo who can take us to church, but also remind us why she was the “Queen of Soul.”

Now, I am not saying I believed every part of the story they told. I am saying it is entertaining and has great moments. Franklin is more than a woman who just wants to be a great singer. She is a woman who wants to make an impact.

It is a very intriguing story.

We Have Got To Tell Our Stories

“Hey Baby Daddy King!” Said Lavelle Junson’s mom as they are escorted before the Zamundan King in Coming 2 America which was released in early March on Prime.  Junson is the bastard son of King Akeem and Mary Junson who finds himself in the land preparing to be an heir to the Zamundan throne. Junson’s mom was played by Leslie Jones who brought her A game to the role.

This comedy is the sequel to Coming to America released in 1988 starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall.  Not only is it funny, but it reminds me of why I loved the original because they bring back almost everyone they can. In the 1980s this movie was an oasis in a desert of stories with African Americans in them. We celebrated being able to see a cast full of people of color.

This movie sends a wonderful shout out to the 1980s with music from Gladys Knight, En Vogue and Salt N Pepa. It is lighthearted and celebrity filled which will made me laugh.  It is good to laugh with my people because many of our stories aren’t funny.

On the darker more for real side is The United States vs Billie Holiday and Judas and the Black Messiah.

Both movies tell a story we need to hear, but don’t do them if you depressed or sad. The plight of African Americans in the United States has not been an easy joy filled experience, so don’t expect that from either of these movies. You might get angry and cuss at the TV.  (There were moments I was instructing both Fred and Billie to just cuss them folk out, please!) So do what you have to do to deal with your frustration.

In The United States vs Billie Holiday I watched as the FBI doggedly pursued the young singer through her drug addiction. Andra Day, who plays Holiday, has an amazing voice that reminds me so much of Lady Day, that in the beginning I thought she was using original music.  Day’s performance was good, but by the end of the story I just wanted the government to leave Billie alone.  It took me days to get through the entire movie because I kept stopping when I would get too frustrated. I can’t imagine living through it.

I am glad I did finish it, but it is difficult to see story after story of lives ruined by authority figures left to their own devices.  And many of their desires was destroy black lives.

Again in Judas and the Black Messiah, which is the story of how William O’Neal becomes an FBI spy to gather information on Fred Hampton of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers. Daniel Kaluuya plays Hampton and LaKeith Stanfield plays O’Neal.

The acting was impeccable, but the nature of the story made me pause it and come back to it after a few days. We have to tell these stories. We have to know our history, or we are doomed to repeat it.

 In all three of these movies’ music is key to creating a mood. There are drumbeats in all of them that I believe connect us.  But sometimes you got to turn it off for your own sanity and find your own rhythm.

My challenge to you is to allow each story to inspire you. Allow each story to leave a piece of itself with you.