Sunday, July 4, 2021

Happy Juneteenth...Again

One of my most beloved quotes is from the great late poet Dr. Maya Angelou who stated, “…when you know better, you do better.” It’s served as one of the most profound quotes I’ve held onto that has helped me give myself grace when learning from personal mistakes or, better termed, “life lessons.” Which is why on this Fourth of July/Independence Day, the question “Independence for who?” makes it so easy for me to replace waving flags, gawking at fireworks, and singing the National Anthem with sojourning on the couch and watching Ice Cube’s “Friday” trilogy for the umpteenth time. Don’t get me wrong, I—like most Americans despite ethnicity—reveled in all the pageantry and festivities of the holiday for years, which unofficially marks the peak of summer and the beginning of “cookout season.” But if the last year has reminded me of anything, from the health disparities underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic to the growing economic divide to the continuous yet unpunishable murders of men and women of color, is that this country still has a long way to go before it can authentically celebrate its passage of 1776’s Declaration of Independence, which was to guarantee life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the promise of equality for all—although written while more than half a million black Americans were enslaved at the time of its signing. Le sigh. 

This is why Juneteenth—a day commemorating the emancipation of African-American slaves on June 19, 1865 (yes, two whole years after President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation issued on January 1, 1863 officially outlawed slavery in Texas and in all of the other states of the original Confederacy)—is so much more meaningful for me to celebrate. And why although President Joe Biden officially signed the day into law this year to be recognized as a federal holiday, makes no difference to me, since it was an honor for me in recent years to use my personal leave time to take the day off from work in reverence to. In fact, I actually have great reservation about Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday for fear the day may become like any other holiday for most and misappropriated for mattress sales and “ladies free before 6:19 p.m.” club promotions, but I digress. 

Therefore, for that reason and before the possibility that the richness of Juneteenth is dismantled, I was ecstatic to commemorate the holiday this year with family at the historic Leimert Park with its two-day celebration of Black liberation designed to “educate, entertain and activate” through art, music, food, and performances. Spending that time intentionally with family and the extended family of “skinfolk” was the perfect reminder that regardless of our progress, we must continue to celebrate, and uphold one another and the many facets of our culture, if we are to continue to survive and thrive within a country that regularly reminds us that July 4, 1776 was and is just another day for us.
Thus, while I’d never turn down a good ol’ grilled hot dog or hamburger offered to me on this fourth day of the seventh month of the year, my inactivity is solidified with an excerpt from abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass’ famed 1852 speech to the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” in which he states, “…I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common….”

On that note, and to my African-American brothers and sisters, Happy Juneteenth…again.

Sources: Wikipedia, Britannica

Angelou and Douglass Image/Photo Credits: N/A

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Black Brilliance on the Big Screen

On a recent self-imposed sabbatical, I was able to (once fully vaccinated :-) travel and spend much-desired time with family to do a lot of the “joyful nothingness” that bonds us, from watching crime shows over a jumbo bag of potato chips to taking late night neighborhood strolls while trading “remember when…” stories. However, my family’s greatest bond is our love of cinema. So, incorporating a few trips to the movie theater into the itinerary was a must. Unfortunately, with the theater industry being one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, it was no surprise that my family and I were often the only moviegoers present, even with the world reopening and making its slow return to “normalcy.” Not surprising since the closing of movie houses helped streaming services reign supreme during a most unprecedented time in history. I personally missed the regular Friday night treks to a physical movie theater, smelling fresh popcorn wafting through the lobby, and being placed in the middle of the action courtesy of IMAX-sized screens and Dolby stereo sounds. Because of this, I am whole-heartedly committed to returning to the theaters despite the simplicity and accessibility streaming allowed us, for I’m wise enough to know joy is not always about ease, but often about a full experience. And the moviegoing experience is one I’m ready to embrace again. So, if you’re like me, enjoy this list of blockbusters coming to a big screen near you soon (even if they show up simultaneously on your streaming apps).

Zola – June 30th 

When I first read the premise for the Janicza Bravo-directed "Zola," I recall having a déjà vu moment of “Why have I heard this story before?” It’s because I and million others had, courtesy of a viral 148 tweet-thread that A'ziah "Zola" Wells King had posted in 2015, recounting her tale as a waitress who meets a sex worker and embarks on a wild cross-country adventure. Almost everyone agreed it sounded like something out of a movie; it’s no doubt Bravo felt the same, prompting her to rush to her agent and manager for advice on next steps on how to make it so. And as they say, the rest is history. Or, better yet, the rest is one of the most anticipated movie drops of the year. Starring Taylour Paige (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) and Riley Keough (“The Lodge”), the noir dramedy follows Zola who meets sex worker Stefani at a restaurant where Zola works and where the two immediately bond, leading to an impromptu two-day cross-country road trip to Florida that finds the two of them, along with Stefani's lovesick boyfriend, caught in a tangled web of madness that involves strip clubs, seedy hotels, unwelcoming locals, and a pimp named "X."   See trailer here

Summer of Soul (Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) – July 2nd 

Some movies are just too powerful to not be seen on the big screen. Although streaming on Hulu as well, you’ll want the full concert experience of The Root’s Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson’s directorial debut, “Summer of Soul (Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised”). As the 2021 Sundance Film Festival moved to a virtual platform earlier this year, I had the pleasure of seeing the release on its opening night and it did not disappoint. As Thompson recounted in a recent Essence July/August 2021 issue, when producers David Dinerstein and Robert Fyvolent told him about archival footage they’d stumbled upon of a 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival that rivaled Woodstock and, in fact, took place mere months before over a period of six weeks, Thompson called B.S., stating there was no way such greatness had occurred that there would be no record of. Oh, there was record of it; sadly, it was all sitting in the basement of late filmmaker Hal Tulchin’s home, all but forgotten after his many attempts to shop it for distribution failed due to “lack of interest.” Thompson, reluctant of being handed such a treasure, hesitated to get involved with the project. But, after seeing a snippet of footage, knew bringing it to light would be one of his greatest callings. The roster of artists who appear in 'Soul' are too long to list and their performances too astounding to be captured in words. All I’ll say is this: the 117-minute concert documentary features a young Stevie Wonder—on drums. Thank me later. See trailer here.

Respect – August 13th 

The Queen of Soul has been getting a lot of, well, respect the past year from Cynthia Erivo’s portrayal of the superstar in "Genius: Aretha" to the soon-to-be released biopic, “Respect” starring Academy and Grammy-award winner Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls”) as Franklin; Academy-award winner Forest Whitaker (“Black Panther”) as Franklin’s father, C.L. and, in his first big screen dramatic role, Marlon Wayans (“White Chicks”) as Franklin’s first husband Ted White. Directed by Liesl Tommy, the movie's star power alone is guaranteed to make 'Respect' a winner, especially since the late Franklin herself endorsed Hudson to best portray her, but also because much of Franklin’s personal life remained somewhat of a mystery, leaving fans to use all the joy, hurt, and pain she delivered in her songs as the only tiny glimpse into her world. What Franklin never kept from her fans, however, was her soul. Neither does Hudson. And if Hudson’s tour de force performance in Dreamgirls is just a prequel to what we can expect her to deliver in 'Respect,' “ain’t no way” it won’t be a hit. See trailer here

Candyman – August 27th 

You already know not to say it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it…. Let’s face it: the original 1992 Candyman (and its subsequent two follow-ups) didn’t, as the young folks would say, “give what it was supposed to have gave.” Sure, it gave us a fair share of jumpy moments but there’s a whole different fear factor level anticipated whenever Jordan Peele adds his name to a project. As the writer of this fourth installment, Peele and director Nia DaCosta's revamped version of Candyman merges morality and macabre as Chicago artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, “Watchmen”; “Us”), now residing in the infamous, yet gentrified, Cabrini Green neighborhood, is told about the horrific history of Candyman and the Cabrini Green Towers. Looking to revitalize his flagging career, McCoy decides to incorporate the legend and images of his destruction into his artistry, unknowingly awakening Candyman and sending him on murderous new streak. We all know chanting Candyman’s name five times leads to doom. Here's hoping Peele’s offering, after several lackluster attempts, will revive the legend in a more "positive" way. Also starring Vanessa Estelle Williams (“Soul Food”) reprising her role in the original film. See trailer here

The Harder They Fall - late 2021

Not since 1993’s Mario Van Peebles-directed “Posse” has a Black western been as highly anticipated as this year’s forthcoming "The Harder They Fall" directed by Jeymes Samuel, who co-wrote the screenplay with Boaz Yakin. 'Harder's" chamber is locked and loaded with the best in Black Hollywood including Jonathan Majors (“Lovecraft Country”), Idris Elba (“The Wire”; “Luther”), Zazie Beetz and LaKeith Stanfield (both of FX’s “Atlanta”), Delroy Lindo (“Da 5 Bloods”) and Regina King (“Watchmen”). Need I say more? Okay, if I must, here's a little bit of a plot drop to lasso you in: Major portrays real life African-American cowboy and former slave, Nat Love, who reassembles his former gang to seek revenge against the man who murdered his parents. Love’s real-life exploits have made him one of the most famous black heroes of the Old West. Saddle up and head to a theater near you. Note: 'Harder' is scheduled for a Fall 2021 Netflix release but may be available in theaters as well. See trailer here.

That’s it for now, my fellow cinephiles. May each of you continue to stay safe and return to indulging in those things that bring you joy! See you in the lobby after the movie….

Photo Credits: N/A

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Best in the Worst of Times

I don't believe there is a better way to sum up 2020 than with the opening of Charles Dickens' famed novel, "A Tale of Two Cities," which reads, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...." Whether that best was simply a reprieve from a daily work commute or the worst being the loss of a loved one, it's safe to assume, at this conclusion of the year, we could all perform a soliloquy built on both of Dickens' sentiments with the "worst of times" reigning supreme. Because of this, I won't add a monologue. Instead, I've decided to close out the year reflecting on and sharing a brief list of those things that brought me joy, laughter, or generated deep thought during this time of great uncertainty. Hopefully, as you await the promise a new year brings, these "best of" recommendations will help turn any of your frowns upside down. 

Best Movie 
With the amount of movies I've indulged in during quarantine, you'd think it would be difficult to identify a "best." It's isn't. But how did I make that determination? Simple: It was the first movie that would come to my mind whenever friends would ask me for a recommendation. That movie is none other than Radha Blank's "40 Year Old Version." The semi-autobiographical flick gives the nostalgic feel of Spike Lee's "She's Gotta Have It" (thanks to it being shot in black and white) and the artistry of Theodore Witcher's "Love Jones" (thanks to its writer-based premise, dope tracks, and nuanced love story). And it's hella funny too. Thanks to Blank's honest and raw portrayal of a down-on-her-luck playwright who feels the only way she can make her voice relevant again is to become a rapper at 40, "Version" made such an impact upon its release, that it took home the U.S. Dramatic Competition Directing Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival and has garnered praise from Los Angeles and New York Times' critics. Gen X'ers will enjoy this all-to-familiar fear of a pre-midlife crisis yet be inspired to blow the dust off any dreams they may have placed on their proverbial shelf. As an added bonus, be on the lookout for your fav hip hop artists who are cast as "regular folk." Available on Netflix. View trailer here

Best Documentary
There was no shortage of Netflix offerings this year and the streaming service went above and beyond in the documentary genre from its now cult classic "Tiger King" to the rebirth of the 80s hit TV series, "Unsolved Mysteries." However, none of them left the emotional stain on my soul as "Trial 4." The eight-part crime docuseries directed by Rémy Burke tells the story of Sean K. Ellis, who was unjustly convicted as a teen for the 1993 killing of a Boston police officer. While Ellis fights for his freedom thanks to a courageous defense attorney who refused to be intimidated by "the powers that be," systemic racism and corruption in Boston's justice system, political arenas, and even churches is put on full display. For persons of color, these stories are not new, but this deep-dive, investigative look at the relentless collaborate efforts across four trials to keep Ellis incarcerated despite a lack of evidence is both astounding and heartbreaking, while his ultimate redemption is empowering. Available on Netflix. View trailer here.

Best "TV" Series
It is often said you gotta laugh just to keep from crying. And when it came to the groundswell support this summer centered around justice reform due in part to protests over the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of the police, there was more than enough reason to shed tears upon tears. There was also more than enough reason for us to take a few minutes to breathe and recharge, and HuLu's "Woke" provided the perfect relief. Co-created by Keith Knight and Marshall Todd and starring Lamorne Morris, the series loosely based on Knight's own life, follows a Black cartoonist on the verge of mainstream success who prides himself on 'keeping it light' regarding topics of race until mistaken identity lands him--literally--in the hands of police and he's finally forced to confront his "blackness." Now that Knight is "awake," it's impossible for him to lookaway from the microaggressions and blatant acts of racism confronting him daily, thanks in part to the talking inanimate objects around him that he's suddenly now able to hear thanks to his "roughing up." As crazy as it may all sound, it works due in part to the diverse cast of characters including Knight's funny, polar opposite, black and white roommates; an editor friend at a Black-owned newspaper (played by SNL's Sasheer Zamata) who's been critical of Knight's past ambivalence; an unexpected love interest; and, of course, those inanimate objects--a pen, a trash can, and a 40 ounce--voiced by comedic greats such as Cedric the Entertainer and J.B. Smoove, all helping Knight navigate through his newfound "wokeness." The series' eight episodes are extremely short but nonetheless entertaining, and the series has already been renewed for a season 2. View trailer here.

Best Album 
When I was alerted that Nas' would be dropping a new album this year, I was certain this would be the "musical oasis" we needed that would give us a much needed reprieve from the chaos. While "King's Disease" wasn't horrible, it definitely wasn't "it" if you will (due to what I believe was a push for a more commercialistic approach). And just as I was prepared to return to the hip hop classics that always sustain us, boom, guess who stepped in the room: Busta Rhymes with Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God. Now if there was ever a way to use the devastation of 2020 as a marketing tool for an album, this was it! Whether Busta already had this album in the works and the Universe gave him the perfect platform to perch it on or if he was inspired by the chaos that soon became our norm, I'm not sure. All I know is it was both right on time and right for these times. This sequel to 1998’s E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front (which I kept on repeat back in the day) and his first studio album since 2012's Year of the Dragon, E.L.E 2 offers a variety of soon-to-be classic, base-heavy tracks and features guest appearances from a roster of musical icons including Kendrick Lamar and Mariah Carey to Q-Tip, Mary J. Blige, and Rakim with narration intervals from both Chris Rock and Minister Louis Farrakhan. We don't know how long this pandemic pandemonium is going to exist, but whether you're in these streets fighting for social justice or fighting for household supplies, be sure to rock out to Busta while you're at it. Available across all music platforms. 

Best Book
There's nothing better than the assurance you get when one of your favorite writers whole-heartedly endorses another. That's how I felt when Damon Young from Very Smart Brothers and "What Won't Kill You Makes You Blacker" fame encouraged his supporters this summer to pre-order writer Deesha Philyaw's debut novel, "The Secret Lives of Church Ladies." If the title alone doesn't grab you, its collection of nine stories that explore the intersection of sexuality and Christianity through the lens of infidelity, casual sex, and same sex relationships will. With black women as the protagonists in each story, this finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction is an unapologetic, thought-provoking collection of short stories that capture the complexity and diversity of black women struggling to live authentically despite the religious strongholds that conflict with their desires. Grab a glass of sweet tea and enjoy. Available on audiobook, Kindle, and in paperback from Amazon here. Blogger's Fun Fact: Upon receipt of the book, my plan to read one chapter before bed turned into me completing the entire novel by 3 a.m. Enjoy. 

Best New Discovery
Whether we want to admit it or not, 2020 probably found us all imbibing our favorite libations more than we normally would (or should). However, with nowhere to go and streaming offerings aplenty, we sat back and toasted to the weekends and sometimes weekdays alike. And when those moments called for a smooth red, everyone's favorite nephew Snoop Dogg delivered fo shizzle with Cali Red courtesy of his partnership with 19 Crimes wines. According to 19 Crimes, the Cali Red is considered "full and dense, with strong black & blue fruit notes from the Petite Sirah, complemented by bright red, slightly candied fruit from the Zinfandel...tied together by a darkly toasted oak." In other words, it's good. Let's face it: there's not much the D-O-double-G doesn't successfully have his hand in and this bold red is no exception. Cheers! For more information, check out 19 Crimes.

Best Virtual Experience
Apologies to all of my friends who lamented over the missed brunches, homecomings, and happy hours 2020 robbed them of. However, my greatest missed opportunity this year: live entertainment. As one of the things I love most, not being able to sit in a concert hall or jazz club and immerse myself in a live music experience was disappointing. However, thanks to the City Winery corporation's partnership with the Mandolin Concert Livestreaming Platform, music lovers were able to purchase tickets to real-time performances at a few of its seven locations. As artists ranging from Chante Moore to Keith Washington to Chrisette Michelle played to a limited in-person audience, viewers at home were able to sing--and chat--along with fellow fans for a close-to-the-real-thing experience. Of course, there's nothing like being front and center for a live performance but connect an HDMI cable to an HDTV, set the right lighting, and grab a glass of Cali Red, and you got yourself some "homemade" vibes. For more information on upcoming live and streaming shows from City Winery, click here.

Dickens would continue his famed quote by writing " was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” And, yes, 2020 has delivered on all of those fronts. However, as we anxiously await that "spring of hope," I wish all of you the best of whatever those good things are you've discovered this past year that will continue to sustain, uplift, and invigorate you until we can all safely meet again. Be blessed, happy holidays, and happy new year!

Photo Credits: N/A

Friday, September 4, 2020

A Tribute Fit for a King

One week has passed and the melancholy cloud I found myself under has yet to lift, although the world seems to have found a way to continue its rotation. News features and tribute specials have ceased; social media reflection posts have been replaced by satirical memes, blooper reels, and ever-present dance challenges. Verzuz battles have resumed and the never-ending call to vote has recommenced. Yet I'm stuck. Stuck in the painful disbelief that another one of our shining stars has left us. 2020 had already stolen so much--187,000 lives to date due to COVID-19; the continuous black and brown victims of police brutality whose names we continue to shout out less we forget; icons and civil rights heroes from Kobe Bryant to Andre Harrell to John Lewis--and now there was this: our King T'Challa, our Black Panther, our beloved Howard brother, Chadwick Boseman, had ascended at the young age of 43. And, again, it was simply all too much to bear.

So much so, I refused to believe it was just me that was still wrestling with such pensive sadness days later. It couldn't just be me who decided to shut the world out last weekend to just lie in bed and grieve or as writer Damon Young implored in a curt yet impactful essay, to remove the need to "gotta do anything" else in this moment besides just cry. No, I couldn't be the only one re-watching Boseman's blockbuster movies and related interviews, or scrolling through photographs looking for any sign we all must have missed that revealed our black superhero was in the fight of his life battling stage 3 and, ultimately, stage 4 colon cancer, all the while expending his complete energy to bring us joy, inspiration, and hope. 

Whether reminding graduates to "take the harder way" in his 2018 commencement speech at Howard University or in simply offering a sly yet empowering smirk standing at home plate to embody the fullness of the late great Jackie Robinson or commanding the full attention of a courtroom to portray the honorable Thurgood Marshall or, of course, delivering a tour de force performance as Marvel's Black Panther in both a leading movie role and within the Avengers franchise, it was no debating Chadwick Boseman was "The One."

So, no, it could not just be me that felt this loss as greatly different, unshakable and, dare I say, unnecessary. That's when I reached out to a friend, whose reaction in a group chat the evening the devastating news of his passing broke, mirrored my own. "Is it just me...?" I asked. Her response read in part: "Nope, it's not. Still sad and took off from work last Monday to process this...still trying to figure out why I feel this it the HU connection...the way he related to and spoke on the injustices that plagued us...his activism...his gentle spirit...his awesomeness in Black Panther...knowing there was so much more for him to do...?" I replied, "All of it." All. Of. It. And then some. 

I was never a "comic book head" but, growing up, my bedroom was directly across from someone who was: my youngest brother, who cherished comic books so much, he ran to our local 7-11 on a regular basis with me in tow to snag latest releases and first editions, then ran back home to lie across his bed and read them, before storing them in his nightstand, pulling out his art pad, and recreating near perfect renderings of his favorite characters, demonstrating a natural gift in drawing that ironically was never pursued beyond his childhood past times. And so, while the Barbie collection had my full attention, I was keenly aware from watching the joy that engulfed my brother of the transformative power of comics and superheros and what that meant to other kids like him. So, it would be no surprise that this transformative power would be tenfold when brought to the masses on the big screen in Black Panther, highlighting black excellence and the beauty of the African diaspora while giving little black boys and girls (and the rest of us "big kids") the representation we never had but so desperately needed on the big screen. That an aspirational kid from Anderson, South Carolina, would not only set his life's course on a deliberate path to change how Hollywood saw us but would, as a result, change how the world saw us was nothing short of astounding. 

Therefore, it was comforting to know that although the world was returning to its "new normal," my continued sadness was justified, although I was sure it paled in comparison to those who knew him personally, and would continue to wrestle with this loss for weeks, months, maybe even years to come. So, I felt and still feel no rush in needing to push through my grief; yet, I was ready to try and make some sense of it so that I eventually could. And that's when I realized the ability to do so lies directly in understanding the very arc of almost every superhero story: that it starts with an every day person, serendipitously bestowed with supernatural strength that leads to a life of wielding goodwill and honor, that inspires and transforms, until it encounters that one villainous enemy that ushers them toward death. However, it is in what happens to the superhero next where the real magic is found: the rebirth. Be it in a person of a different gender, a different ethnicity, or a renewed storyline, the superhero never really dies: they simply transition and transform. 

I believe that is what Chadwick knew that allowed him to quietly face the reality of his mortality and what he hoped we would all come to embrace as well: that although he may have left us, he would be "reborn" and allowed to live on in every life he touched again and again and again. He would show up in little boys and girls who could now dream bigger than ever before; in men and women who would reflect on his tenacity and courage to push through their own personal hardships; in his fellow black actors and actresses who would be encouraged to always seek the roles that celebrate and uplift us first; in the graduates who he reminded on that hot summer day to "[find that] life purpose that crosses disciplines"; and in every child from that small town of Anderson, who would now beam with pride in knowing they come from a place where a legend was born. Actor Aldis Hodge once said, a superhero is simply someone who "represents hope, opportunity, and strength for everybody." If this is true, Chadwick Boseman was always a superhero. He never needed Hollywood for that; Hollywood needed him. And his legacy will live on in each and every person he inspired, as only superheros can. 

Rest in peace, Brother Chadwick. Job well done. 

Photo Credits: N/A

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Troubling the Waters: Remembering a Monumental Man

When the news of the passing of the honorable Congressman John Robert Lewis began to trend and was subsequently officially announced on the evening of July 17th--ironically, mere hours after famed civil rights activist and friend Rev. C.T. Vivian would leave this earth as well--I was filled with an enormous amount of sorrow that was surprising even to me. After watching CNN's late night broadcast that evening, which would offer the first major media coverage of the loss of the great icon, the tears began to flow. And they would continue as I reached out to family to make sure they heard the news. And as I drifted off to sleep and awoke the next morning. They continued when scrolling pass quotes, memorials, and the now viral "Happy" dance video of him that was posted across social media platforms. They certainly continued when a horse-drawn carriage carried him one final time across the infamous Edmund Pettus bridge--both the backdrop of Selma's 1955 Bloody Sunday and concomitantly the footstool on which Congressman Lewis would cement his legacy. And the tears would undoubtedly continue as he would lie in repose and in state at the Georgia State Capitol and the U.S. Capitol, respectively, before fittingly and finally being eulogized in his representative state of Georgia at Ebenezer Baptist Church--the church of his own hero and mentor, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

As the tears remained unceasing throughout the week, I texted a friend that I had grown sick of my own self at that point--an attempt to inject humor in a somber moment but also to try to reconcile why the loss of Congressman Lewis aside from its humanistic implications was hitting me so hard. I'd never met him personally like some friends were blessed to do; I missed witnessing him speak about the "good trouble" we all needed to get into although I was in attendance at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington; and I never marched beside him although I prayed my footsteps at least traced his at some point during the times I did take to the streets of Washington in protest for the very ideals he'd fought for his entire life. But the sorrow remained palpable.

In examining my feelings, I was forced to recall that the last time an icon's passing had impacted me so deeply was that of D.C.'s Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown, which I blogged about as well in 2012. At that time I was able to instantly and undeniably pinpoint the source of my sorrow: the tears for Chuck were equally being shed for a city us D.C. natives were no longer recognizing greatly due in part to gentrification. Losing Chuck was losing a giant, living, breathing symbol of the heartbeat of our youth that would forever tie us to our native city even when many of us had long moved away. And in losing Chuck and thus that connection, it gave us trepidation about a new D.C. that was emerging where we weren't certain we would be embraced let alone included. And that's when I was more clearly able to understand the relative pain in losing the great Congressman: because his passing, too, symbolizes a country were we aren't certain we'll ever be embraced and were we are continuously fighting to be included. In losing Lewis, there was fear draped in sadness that we were not only losing a great man, but were also losing our compass, our consciousness, and our last living "civil rights caretaker."

On the night of his passing, I recall struggling to convey to my sister that I was so pained at the thought that after 65 years of literal blood, sweat, and tears that would start as a dream in the heart of a 15-year-old boy from Troy, Alabama and ultimately lead him to a 34-year tenure in Congress, that Lewis may have left this world brokenhearted at the state where it currently finds itself; where the renewing of the Voting Rights Act hangs in the balance; where black and brown bodies continue to be destroyed and discarded before our eyes at the hands of law enforcement; and where social determinants put minority groups at greater risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19 than any other group.

To have lived the ultimate purpose-driven life that Congressman Lewis did, yet to leave this world behind with resolutions to so many of our social ills continuing to be at stake, was too much for my soul to bear. Gratefully, I would be comforted in the coming days hearing from those that knew Congressman Lewis best that he was not only pleased with the work of the Black Lives Matter movement and the social activism that continues to grow from it but had taken comfort in believing the torch had been successfully passed. And I also found relief in hearing that Congressman Lewis never expected to solve or see a resolution to all of the "trouble" he dedicated his life to eradicating, but that instead he was wise and hopeful enough to know that as long as we're on this earth, there would be wrongs to right; that the fight for freedom is both continuous and renewed with each generation; and that--as former President Barack Obama reminded everyone during  Congressman Lewis' homegoing service--we don't have to do everything he did; just do something!

That first something for me is to finally dry my tears and turn the sadness to gratefulness to live in a time where I was able to witness principled men like Lewis and Vivian and Lowery, and women like Waters and Jackson-Lee and Bottoms, and so many countless others past and present, who led and continue to light that path toward liberty and justice for all. The second something is to remain hopeful and continue to find that "good trouble" John Lewis beckoned us all to get into by working toward change at every level whether its voting, marching in protest, or holding our elected officials accountable to make good on the promises on which this country was built. And the third something is, as Lewis himself would personally write in his farewell words to us all, "to let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide." Message received, dear John. Rest well, and may your good and faithful service be rewarded on high and forever held in sweet remembrance.

Photo and Video Credits N/A