Adventures in the Art of Life: Music, Dance, Movies, Theater, Travel, Divinity, Dreams, Visuals, Philanthropy, Culture …
Hey movie lovers – the 2013 African Diaspora International Film Festival (ADIFF) will be held in New York November 29-15, 2013. The ADIFF “presents an eclectic mix of urban, classic, independent and foreign films that depict the richness and diversity of the life experience of people of African descent and Indigenous people all over the world.” The ADIFF will feature a diverse selection of films from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and Latin and North America that are written, produced, directed and starring Black people. I think the timing of this festival is excellent, as so many Black Americans have been vocal and critical about what they perceive as a lack of diversity in content and images from the mainstream movie industry. Much of the backlash stems from weariness and even anger some people feel regarding “slave-servitude” storylines depicted in films including “The Help,” “The Butler,” “Django Unchained,” and – most recently – “12 Years A Slave.” The ADIFF (as well as other film festivals dedicated to cinema focused on people of color) gives movie goers a choice of films they may not otherwise be able to experience at their local big movie theater chains. Here is your chance to see and support films by, for and about Black people and our rich, varied experiences around the globe. If you cannot attend the festival in New York, you can also purchase ADIFF-featured films at http://www.africandiasporavideo.com/. “Our” stories are being told in movies – are you watching?
Remarkable live performance by the incomparable Luther Vandross! And the background vocalists (including the incredible Lisa Fischer) sound celestial! Feeling so grateful for each time I was blessed to see/hear him live! If “Love” is a sound, it would be this …
I really would like to see Esthero perform live again - SOON! It has been much too long and her shows are always unique and wonderful.
The “A” – Where the Soulful Kids Play – On Labor Day - House in the Park 9 and The Atlanta Weekender 2
“In the beginning, there was Jack” …
For the past few years, I have spent the Sunday of Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, Georgia at “House In the Park” (HITP) - an exceptionally energetic, multi-generational, free gathering of soulful House music lovers. The brainchild of creator/organizer/DJ, Chicago-native Ramon “Rawsoul” Guyton, HITP 9 surpassed even my expectations – it was bigger and more beautiful than ever. In the words of the Lisa Stansfield song - “I’ve been around the world and aye aye aye …” – I have traveled many places in the U.S. and abroad for music events, but NONE on EARTH compares to House In the Park!! Along with Ramon, three of Atlanta’s best DJs (and all around good guys) Salah Ananse, DJ Kemit and Kai Alce took us on an amazing, eclectic 8-hour musical journey - seamlessly weaving classics, current favorites, dance, disco, gospel, Afro-beat, R&B songs, remixes, and new and never heard House tracks. I cannot count how many times I ran to the DJ booth and asked “WHAT IS THIS?” or said “THANK YOU for rocking THIS,” or slid behind one of them to glance at their laptop or peak at the vinyl they were spinning. Just the sight of thousands of people of all ages, shapes, sizes and hues communing, dancing, laughing, singing, eating, shopping and socializing defies description. Even the intermittent rain showers could not dampen the spirit of the day. In fact, it added some special magic to it – do you know how liberating it is to truly and freely DANCE in the rain?!
Speaking of dancing – Man, LISTEN – some of the BEST dancers get it IN at House in the Park! Sweaty soul circles, gravity-defying acrobatics, hand-dancers and hustlers, tribal and ceremonial movements, break dancers and full-body-jackers WORKING IT ALL OUT AND LEAVING IT THERE ON THAT HARD, CONCRETE, baby powder-sprinkled floor. While hundreds of folks danced in the pavilions - creatively carving out even the smallest, most sacred dance space on the floor, atop tables, and between speakers, THOUSANDS of others GIGGED in the GRASS. Everywhere you looked you could see people grooving and moving to that magnificent music - some people epitomized the saying “Dance as if no one is watching,” as others performed for everyone to take notice! YES - “HOUSE IS A RELEASE!” In my own “Diva Down” moment, I twirled so hard at one point that I literally danced out of my shoes – I broke one of my sandals but, alas, I had a spare pair with me. Dancing at HITP is a full-fledged work-out – the type of moving that you just KNOW your knees, legs, feet, back, booty and most other body parts will be sore the next day yet you just can’t STOP! “House Is a FEELING!”
When I wasn’t dancing, I (as usual) was perched on our prime “home-base” picnic table taking it all in and giggling HARD with my folks from Atlanta and those who had traveled from New York and other places. It was the kind of laughter that brings tears to your eyes and a sharp pain in you tummy. I was so glad that so many of them actually LISTENED to me and made the trek. House In the Park takes many elements of a traditional Black family reunion and turns it all the way UP - I saw Grandmas dancing with their grand babies, folks grilling, chilling in their tents, hula-hooping, playing cards and dominoes, little kids running, playing, dancing and singing. There was a vendor’s row for people to shop and sell their wares (everything from jewelry to dresses to hair and beauty products to wellness services), food trucks serving yummy treats and even a cash bar (not that I needed it – my folks know how to make cocktails, Honey). All of this PLUS gorgeous, sexy eye candy for the ladies and gentleman alike. I LOVE a party where you can dance AND get your flirt on.
In response to the throngs of people who arrive so early on that day to secure prime spots in Grant Park, organizers this year even offered “The VIP Experience,” allowing folks to purchase tent spaces close to the pavilions (there are two – one with the DJ booth and another where the music is piped in), wait staff, complimentary drinks and even parking spots. I’m sure more than a few people were happy about this option since so many arrive at the crack of dawn to set up their grills, tents, and tables. Yeah, it is THAT serious – it’s like how fans tailgate at sports events. Even local legislators have embraced and recognized the growing House In the Park movement: In August 2013, the City of Atlanta and City Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell presented HITP founder/creator Ramon Rawsoul with an official certificate and proclamation naming September 1st, 2013, “House In the Park Day” for the City of Atlanta.
One of the most powerful moments of the day was when DJ Salah Ananse played the classic “You Brought the Sunshine” by The Clark Sisters. As it so often happens when I am listening to music, I found myself deep in thought and prayer. As the song played, so many emotions washed over me: gratitude, humility, love and joy, but also some thoughts of worry crept in. As all these feelings flooded my spirit and tears began to flow, a young lady approached me who I had never seen before. With a radiant smile and tears in her eyes, she said to me “I SAW YOU … I felt you … from all the way across the pavilion, and I had to come and tell you that whatever it is you’re going through, it’s gonna be alright!” We hugged tightly like long lost cousins and, in that moment, I was again reminded of the power of this music we love – to give us messages of hope and peace even in the midst of our struggles. “House will pick you up when you feel down…House will make you strong when you feel weak.” I asked the young lady her name, but I’ve since forgotten it. Whoever you are – you are an ANGEL – thank you for being obedient and fearless in allowing God to speak through you and for delivering the message. That moment is what music in general and, in particular, that which we call “House,” is to me – “It’s A Spiritual Thing” and I’m so very grateful for it.
In 2012, to further promote and showcase Atlanta’s vibrant music scene and to encourage more people to travel to the area to attend House In the Park, one of its DJs, Salah Ananse created and organized the Atlanta Weekender (ATL Weekender). It is a series of events that begin on the Thursday before HITP happens. Harnessing the power of each of House In the Park’s DJs, the ATL Weekender incorporates their individual brands and parties (Alce’s “Distinctive,” Ananse’s “Afrique Electrique,” Kemit’s “SpreadLove,” and Rawsoul’s “The Gathering,”) as well as Salah’s “Love Sexy” Prince tribute and live music acts. This year’s 2nd annual Atlanta Weekender grew in size and scope, offering three days of music events (all for the LOW price ranging from $25 (presale) to $40)! This year’s list of DJs included South Africa’s phenomenal King Deetoy, House music legends Josh Milan (SO GLAD he stayed to experience HITP) and Moodymann and luminaries Sabine Blaizin, Deep Just Aquabeat, Kwest_On and Sean Alvarez. Roland Clark and Miranda Nicole performed Friday night, while Saturday’s “Soul Stage” day party - hosted by one of my favorite indie soul artists Anthony David - featured bassist/producer Khari Cabral and his collective, and the heavenly-voiced Chantae Cann. As if this weren’t enough, the official HITP after party on Sunday night featured the incomparable Ron Trent. The Atlanta Weekender gave party-goers an incredibly rich range of music - AfroBeat, House, R&B and Dance – all of which, for me, no matter how it’s labeled, packaged or marketed, is true SOUL music!
What makes HITP and the Atlanta Weekender such joyous experiences (in addition to the music itself, the energy and the exuberance of attendees and participants), is seeing how successfully the strong brotherhood shared by DJs Kai Alce, Kemit, Ramon Rawsoul and Salah Ananse work TOGETHER to pull off what is becoming THE premier House music festival deep down in the dirty South. Watching my brothers in music, the talented, beautiful women behind the scenes (huge shout out to my sister-in-shenanigans Nina Ananse, Aishah, Alison and Karen Smoot), and the army of dedicated volunteers reinforced what I already know – WE LOVERS OF HOUSE MUSIC ARE BRILLIANT, SIGNIFICANT AND UNSTOPPABLE! This collaborative effort bringing together some of House music’s best and brightest DJs, producers, musicians and dancers stands in stark contrast to the many negative and untrue stories about how the House music scene lacks unity, or how soulful (read “Black” and “Brown” DJs/producers/promoters) aren’t talented or visionary enough to compete with so-called EDM acts and festivals being held around the world. House in the Park and the Weekender illustrate the positive, powerful force shared by so many who know and love this music and the strong sense of unity from which it springs. These events strengthen our bonds and ourselves.
Soulful dance/House music lovers, if you can only take one trip in 2014, I STRONGLY encourage you to spend Labor Day weekend in Atlanta at House In the Park and the ATL Weekender. Next year will be HITP’s 10th anniversary and I’m sure the organizers are hard at work now planning an unforgettable day, and I know the Atlanta Weekender’s third anniversary line-up will be outstanding!
Thank you Ramon, Kai, Kemit and Salah for sharing your visions and gifts – I am forever grateful for your individual and collective talents and our connection through music. Thank you beautiful people of Atlanta and thank you God for giving me another chance to sing and dance and praise you!
“This is OUR HOUSE and OUR HOUSE MUSIC!”
Check out photographer John Crooms’ incredible pictures of House In the Park 9 and Atlanta Weekender 2:
LET’S CELEBRATE LIFE
Libra season is upon us, my B’earthday will be here soon (September 30) and I am excited and grateful! Thankful to God for another rich, rewarding year of life, happy that it’s Autumn (my favorite season) and blessed with loving family and friends! And, if all these things weren’t enough, I get to celebrate this beautiful life during a time when so many awesome music events are happening in New York City!!! Yay Me! Hope you will join me as I twirl, sing and celebrate the passing and dawning of another year!
9.30.13: Mobile Mondays with special guest Jellybean Benitez (advance tickets guarantee entry: http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=3821274)