Monday, September 1, 2014

The blaKbüshe Recording Begins. We're Going in!

The band!
I know that many of you are waiting for my super long yet very detailed account of Michfest this year. I started writing it and then all hell broke loose. Well at least that’s what it felt like over here. But while dealing with the things that hell broke loose I realized that there is something else about to happen that I have to share with folks before my Fest blog is complete. I can’t do anything short and sweet when it comes to this blog, but in this case I will at least give you the good news at the top and full story at the bottom. Well, here goes nothing.

Vernon and I. Beginnings...
Tomorrow, yes this Wednesday Sept. 3rd, Shelley Nicole’s blaKbüshe are on our way to the studio to start recording the next project! As you know this album being produced by Grammy winning guitarist, producer, super cool cat, and just plain old good human being Vernon Reid of Living Colour, Masque, Yohimbe Brothers, Spectrum Road, and many more! Now that that’s out of the way, here are my thoughts on this whole thing.

My first baby

 In 2003 I released my first album, she who bleeds... . It was one of the most challenging ventures and adventures of my life. Releasing that album was like giving birth, hence the title of the album. Sure women and blood can go in a lot of directions, but for me it was both that of the monthly blood and that of the hypothetical blood that I shed to make that first baby come to life.

After the release of the first album I put everything I had into making it work. Kind of like the first kid right? You want do everything perfectly. You want to make sure they are well taken care of, so in that spirit I sent that CD everywhere. I sent it to festival submissions, radio stations, press outlets, called in favors, gave them away to folks I thought could help get my baby heard, I pressed up THOUSANDS of copies (cuz that’s how we did back in the day) because I knew it was going to be a hit and my little baby made a little noise, but then I started to get hip to the game.

I was and am an independent artist. I chose this route. No one has ever offered me a record deal in the sense that we learn about in the fairytale books. I’ve never had anyone ever tell me they were going to “make me a star.” That is not my journey; at least not so far. I know those people. I have plenty of friends who have seen the mountaintop, but couldn’t get over for one reason or another and then come to the realization that they had to get on the good foot and do it their damn selves.

As time went by I realized that my thousands of CDs were not going to be sold in a flash, but I had some good people in my corner; one of the best being Daddy-O of Stetsasonic who was a Motown exec at the time of our meeting, who got on board as my manager. To this day he is the only manager I ever had and he was deeply in my corner. But some of the other help I enlisted really wasn’t helping at all. I took in so much advice from so many different people that it all started to sound like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons. I wish I had $20 for all the people that told me I didn’t fit into a particular box that black folks are supposed to be in to get ahead in this game. Well neither did the rest of my wild and wonderful friends, but here we are, and there I was. Outside, and not sold on what life would be like on the inside of the industry. So I stayed on the outs and rolled with the waves of it all. Daddy-O rolled with me and it was a ride. Thank you sir.

Daddy-O! One of my first believers.

Between 2003 and 2007 I attempted to record another album. In fact I think I attempted twice. What seems like a simple process in the eyes of those on the outside looking in is anything but. Most people on the outside watch a little too much Behind the Music or those types of shows to really understand what it takes to make an album on your own. Anyway, in 2007 I played a Brooklyn Pride event at the now sadly defunct club, Southpaw. As luck or really just fate or goodwill would have it, the club made amazing quality multi-track recordings of shows for artists for $50! Multi-track people! That was amazing. Southpaw had some of the best sound in the city. I don’t think I ever saw a bad show there. Well, we played that show and now I had this multi-track so I said, hey, I’m going to put out a live album. I felt like my studio attempts were just not happening for financial and other reasons.

So I have this recording and I say to myself, I’ll take it to one of my good friends, have him mix it and then I’ll put it out. Boom! Well once again, the slow hand of the indie music biz struck again. I will take the blame for my hand in some of the slow process. I really love my people. I know how talented so many of them are. So when the slow down started to happen with my friend I just decided to keep giving him time to pull himself together, when what I should have really done was just pull the project from him and find someone else. Sometimes, many times really, my big heart gets in the way. My want for everyone to win can be a drag sometimes. It’s taken me a long time to realize that everyone is not going to win the way I think they will. Meaning, everyone has a life’s journey and purpose. Maybe their path is not part of yours the way you think it will or should be. It doesn’t mean they won’t win at their game of life, but it might mean they are not part of your path the way you think they should be. That can be challenging to reconcile. It took me probably more time than it should have to wrangle that project back from my friend and take it to Atlanta for another friend and producer Darren Benjamin aka Daz-I-Kue to get that thing off the ground. Daz is from the UK and I had been a fan of his before becoming a friends. I have to honestly say I think I just injected myself into his life because I admired him so much. I wouldn’t see The Quick & Dirty EP completed until 2009, but with it came two amazing remixes of “blaK Girls” produced by Daz and Lionel Sanchez, Jr. and an remix of “Dance (Flying Home)” from my first album by my #1 supporter and producer/DJ extraordinaire, Ian Friday.

My Second Baby


Ian Friday

So now I’ve got this live album. I wasn’t even going to do an album release for it, but I was convinced otherwise so we did it up big. It was an amazing night with a ton of spectacle. I will say this about myself. I do know how to put on event on a tight budget and make it look like there was a lot of loot involved. I know I’m not alone in this. We have to be crafty in this town to pull things off.

I have been riding The Quick & Dirty EP since 2009 and once again I never thought it would take this long to start this process again. Since The Quick & Dirty came out I released it again as The Quick & Dirty EP: More Dirt and V. Jeffery Smith and I added a new song to the project and and Lionel added a remix of my song “Give it to Me” for the new pressing. I also released a lyric video for “Punanny Politixxx” produced by another musical genius in my life, Jeff Jeudy, that I wrote during the Obama re-election campaign. Also as many of you know one of my biggest stopgaps came when I was poised to produce my album with Toshi Reagon. I did an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the project and then my voice went all haywire. I will not recap all that again. You can go back and read the blog [In Gratitude... : June 25, 2012] if you like.

Toshi Reagon. Thank you!
When the smoke started to clear I knew that some things had to change. I knew that I had to change the kind of singer that I have been, dare I say all my life. I knew that I never wanted to lose my voice like that again. I knew I needed to work on my mind and my body so I did just that. I knew that you were waiting on an album from me, but I had to be OK with letting you wait a little longer. Thank you for your patience. Thank you so much for standing by me during this growth process. I have learned so much about myself and about how people show up, or not.

I am not just a member of my own band, I am also a member of an amazing band called Burnt Sugar. I’ve had the pleasure to travel the world with them and now they are my family. I’ve been in large choirs, but this is the biggest band I’ve ever been in. Once you are part of Burnt Sugar you are always part of Burnt Sugar. You can expect a call at any time. It’s just like that.

I have been in musical circles with Vernon Reid for a long time, but it wasn’t until 2011 that we really started to get to know each other. Mikel, one of my Burnt Sugar fam, asked him to sit in on the Burnt Sugar/David Bowie show at Lincoln Center. I think he was just supposed to play on one song, but then he fell in love with the project and with band and just like that Vernon was a part of Burnt Sugar. After that, Vernon set about to record the band doing those Bowie tunes from the show. Yes there is a recording out there, but I’ll only say this about it. We recorded this project just as I returned from headlining Michfest in 2011. It was the last thing I recorded before having to shut everything down to deal with my voice. What a ride.

In 2012 Vernon conducted Burnt Sugar doing the music of Steely Dan, which is an amazing show. We did it originally at Lincoln Center and then at various venues in NYC. Then we got the call that we were taking it to Paris! Yeah, we were going back to Paris. So in the winter of 2013 we went back and I was sick as a dog. You can read my Paris blog [Next Stop Paris! :February 18, 2013] for those details, but I will recap one thing that I didn’t put in my blog. When we got off stage that night and were walking back to the dressing rooms, Vernon rolled up next to me and said, quite matter of fact, “You’re next.” Me a bit confused asked, “Next for what?” He said, “Next to conduct this band.” Now that totally came out of the blue. I wasn’t expecting that at all. I didn’t think I had done anything to warrant that statement. I mean honestly I was just glad to make it through that show because I had been so sick. It would take me some time to realize that what he was really saying was, “I see you.”

Burnt Sugar in Paris!

As 2013 forged ahead I knew that I needed to start raising money for my project again even though I had no idea who was going to produce it. So that’s when I did the blaKbüshe Wellness Days and the silent auction. I just took that money and squirreled it away for whenever the time was right to pull it out. As I thought about producers a few people came to mind and I had a few conversations with different people, but nothing would stick until the day I decided to ask Vernon.

I had prepared a whole speech for him about why he should produce me. I was convinced that I would have to convince him. Well I was totally wrong. I asked him, he said yes and then started to tell ME why he wanted to do it. OK, now that was totally unexpected. To say I was elated was an understatement.

Now we are at the beginning of this long story. What I mean is that on Wednesday, September 3rd 2014 we are going into the studio to start recording the album. Yes, after I don’t know how long, it is about to begin. I have been saying that I feel a bit like D’Angelo, minus the drama, because it’s been over 10 years since my first studio album. I know things take the time they take, but I’m going to do my level best not to have this take 10 years again.

I’m so excited about this. I’m also feeling very emotional. Those folks who are my good friends know you might get a random, “I love you” text or call from me at any time. Yes I’m that person. Sometimes my emotions just take over and I have to tell people how they have impacted my life or that I’m just feeling them in that moment. I can’t believe that tomorrow, Wednesday, Sept. 3rd, 2014, I am starting this process again. I never got off the path, but this studio thing is such a thing. LOL

I still have fantasies of taking my band upstate NY to some fabulous barn and being there for a week or two with nothing else to think about, but making music and laughing together and clinking some glasses and having a good time. I know some people still make records like that, but I haven’t had that luxury yet. So until then, we will do the best we can and make the most of the time we have together in that bubble that is the recording studio.

In this moment I am remembering the times with my first producer and friend John Meredith. I am remembering the innocence of those moments we had together making my first album. He believed in me and all he wanted to do was make an album. Recording music was/is his passion. I knew nothing about making a record. I put all my trust in him, but it was a challenge. I am a live show kind of girl. Meaning I feed off the audience to do what I do and at that time I had only been in a vocal booth maybe once in my life. The road to that first album was quite the journey. Bless John for walking with me through my insecurities at that time. I know this time will be so different. I’ve had more experience, etc. But I can’t forget where I’ve come from. I can’t forget all those living and some who have passed who believed in me. Lighters up for Kim and Zook...

Here we are people. We are walking thought the door once again. I don’t know what’s on the other side of this one, but I’m ready for whatever this next phase has in store. So, before you start asking a lot of questions about when it’s dropping, slow down and know that it’s coming. The baby arrives in its own time. We will not be inducing labor. When we have named the baby I’ll let you know. In fact, when there is anything to tell you, I’ll let you know. In the mean time know this. The fetus is growing. Ashe!

Me and Vernon at the Crossroads...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ladies & Gentlemen: The Boycott Show (& a few more surprises!)

I know this blog is really late, but so much has happened since the Boycott Show on March 15th. I thought I was going to be able to sit down right after the show and recap it all for you, but the world keeps turning. Also since I don’t have an assistant...yet, I have to keep the wheels on my personal life bus moving. Please forgive me for the long delay.

Since the show I have had so many conversations about what happened, how I felt, how I feel, how to move forward, etc. The reasons this show had to happen in the first place are so layered, but after the myriad of conversations I’ve been involved in, I know that these are conversations that need to keep happening. Conversation is key here and it’s a big point in my blog so without further ado I bring you the Boycott Show wrap up.

Here we go...
We had an amazing show at Freebrook on March 15th, but I know there are still a lot of questions about what happened. Those of you who follow me on Facebook might have seen my angry rant, had no idea what I was talking about, and were a little shocked because I don’t usually take to Facebook in that manner. But Monday, March 10th – Sunday, March 16th I ran through every emotion in the book. It was a tough week that ended gloriously. So what happened?

Back to the Beginning: Wednesday, February 19th
I received an email from the Purim Spectacle Committee, which included three organizations (Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, Aftselokhes Spectacle Committee, and the Workmen's Circle),
asking if my band blaKbüshe could play this year’s Purim event on March 15th. In the email they said, You guys really turned the dance floor up a notch and we hope so dearly you will play again and rock our party.”

They were correct in that quote. We played Purim two years ago and we did indeed rock the house. We also had a really fun time. I had no idea what to expect when we got there that first year, but it was a really cool event. Puppets, oxtails and social justice were on the menu that night. Not to mention lots of revelry. It was a good time.

Monday, February 24th
It took a few days, but I was able to confirm that blaKbüshe could play for Purim this year. To which I received the reply, “This is great news. We are so excited to have you in our line up!” I was also excited.

My full band hadn’t played since last summer and to be honest I wasn’t planning any shows. My focus has been on recording the next project, which I feel like is long, long overdue (even though I know everything is on time). But when the Purim folks reached out to me I thought it would be a great place to play after being away so long.  I was feeling really good about what was ahead.

Monday March 3rd
Then I got an email from Matsu, my drummer, asking if I would be interested in having two of his friends from Japan who are dancers, sit in on the show. Shin and Zabu are members of collective in Japan called WeFunk. Matsu gave me a few links to check them out online and I have to admit I was shocked by the sheer number of people in the collective. It is a crew of over 150 folks (singers, dancers, musicians) and all they perform is Funk! Matsu also showed his friends a clip of blaKbüshe and they were really interested in working with us.

Shin lives here in NY, but his brother Zabu who lives in Japan was visiting for a few weeks. They really wanted to find someplace to perform while he was in town so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. After checking out their clips I told Shin and Matsu that it was a go!

Thursday March 6th
We had our first of two band rehearsals today. Shin and Zabu came through so they could get a feel for the music and make some decisions about what they were going to dance to. We had a great rehearsal and the guys were amazing! This made me even more excited about the show. I had never officially had dancers in a show so this was so great! I never really thought of myself as being a band that people could dance to, but why not?! At the end of that rehearsal they decided to dance to “In Your View” and “Power on the Floor.” Nice!

Everything was coming along nicely. I spoke to Kelly Horrigan about helping me to put together an outfit for the show. We were scheduled to meet on Tuesday, March 11th. Then I would be able to give the band a little more clarity about what to wear and we would be off to the races.

Friday March 7th
Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get better, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival lineup was announced. Holy Cow! I had known for some time that I was on the festival and headlining again, but when I saw the lineup I was so excited about the 39th year of the festival. The New York contingent is in effect this year including Climbing PoeTree, Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely, MazzMuse, Marcelle Davies-Lashley, Cocomama and blaKbüshe. Of course my west coast folks are representing as well, but the person who stood out for me was Beverly McClellan!!! I don’t know if you watched the first season of the Voice, but Beverly was one of the four finalists on Christina’s team. She is a vocal beast!!! I can’t wait to see her on the land. Whoo Hoo!!! It was a good Friday indeed, but little did I know, this simple announcement would become my steam roller and a reactionary battle cry.

Monday, March 10th (12:47am)
I received an email from the representative from the Purim committee who I had been corresponding with saying she needed to talk to me, but realized she didn’t have my number so I should give her a call. I really thought nothing of it. I replied to the email with my number;  saying that I was up, but she must have gone to bed.

“There’s a Shit Storm Coming!” (11:58am)
The statement above is the actual subject line of an email that was sent to me and another artist by a good friend, about what was about to go down. When I opened the email it said:

“I just found out that the Purim Collective voted to take Shelley off the bill because she’s performing at Michfest and a bunch of the Purim organizers are supporters of the Michfest boycott. They plan on calling you this afternoon. I didn’t want you to be blindsided. I just wanted to give you a heads up even though you probably know. I wanted you to know that there are people ready to support you Shelley if you want or need that.”

Well...I did NOT know. So her email did catch me off guard, but not as far off as that phone call would have. Now I knew exactly why the committee was trying to get hold of me via phone after we had been corresponding via email the whole time.

I got my friend who sent me the email on the phone, and she broke down what was happening. Honestly after I got her email I knew EXACTLY what was happening. Therein began my wave of emotions. My Monday morning emotion was, “Whatever! If they don’t want me on the event, then I don’t want to be where I’m not wanted.” Well, that was the morning.

I know some of you are wondering how a issue with Michfest could have made its way to a Purim event in Brooklyn. So I’ll break it down for you in a nutshell because that’s all we really have time for.

Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is just what the name says. It’s a WOMEN’S music festival. That means that ONLY WOMEN attend the festival and ONLY WOMEN build everything on the land to make the festival happen. The only time there are men on the land is when they come to clean the port-a-janes at the end of each night. So, the protest/challenge for many years, long before I even started attending, is around trans-inclusion in the festival. There are some who feel that the festival should be for womyn-born-womyn only meaning that you must have been born a girl and more specifically born anatomically into a woman’s body in order to attend the festival, while others feel this is not a fair assessment of womanhood in these changing times of gender identity and politics. Now as you can imagine this is a tricky and touchy subject to say the least and one that I’m not about to begin to address here, but let's take a moment to contemplate the challenges on both sides of this argument. It’s not only about gender politics it’s about the body politic. Feel me?

As for me, I have been blessed to be able to heal in women-only spaces for years and I am not about to argue against those spaces because they have made me a better woman, a better person and helped me to step into my power in such meaningful and profound ways. Michfest has been one of these powerful spaces. I don’t just go back year after year because it’s something to do for a week in August; I go back because it’s a refuge. It’s a week of no men and the energy that comes with that in the world. Let me also make something clear, I love men. I have some of the most wonderful men in my life in both my professional and personal circles, but sometimes a girl needs a break from even the most evolved man!   I will not apologize for my love of the festival, the land or for what is has meant to me over these last eight years. I have made personal and professional friendships that will last me a lifetime on and off the stage. I will not apologize for the tears and scars I have left there that the land has taken from me so that I can fly. I will not apologize for wanting my spaces with women as I know it and have known it, so I will not be bullied or made to feel ashamed of my love for this place or these women. I will not be made to feel ashamed of the love I feel when I walk through those gates and hear the words, "Welcome Home." But that does not mean that I am anti-trans and/or not open to having a conversation about the changing face of womanhood. I'm not afraid to ask or be asked the hard questions, but if you only want to throw fear, shame and angry gestures my way, then any conversation we could have had will be a wrap!  Trust me, I'm being real polite right now.  Feel me? OK. Let’s carry on.

The Call (10:28pm)
The whole day went by and no call from my Purim committee rep. I was in total “Act as if...” mode already. Even though I had gotten the earlier email telling me what was coming, I just kept moving forward with show plans. My thought, until I hear it from the horse’s mouth, it’s not a done deal. Then on my way home from a pretty stellar night, I got the call.

When the Purim rep told me that I was voted off of the show due to the fact that I was headlining Michfest I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I really was and soon became angry (my second and third emotions) because A) this is NOT the first time I’ve played festival. In fact this year will make my 8th! So if the committee was really that dedicated to protesting the festival and the artists who play there then they would have vetted me! All they would have had to do was 5-minutes of research and they would have found out that I have played Fest MANY times and participated in many capacities. AND if they were REALLY dedicated to this protest they just wouldn’t have invited me from the get go! B) No one on the committee did me the courtesy of calling to talk about how they felt once the Michfest lineup came out. No one asked me about my politics. No one took a moment to say, “Hey, Shelley has supported us and has been promoting the event to get people out so maybe we need to check in with her and see where she’s coming from and let her know what our challenges are.” No! None of THAT happened. Instead, in what felt like a total reactionary move they voted me off the show and then sent a woman who really wanted me to stay on the program to give me the news! Yup! But we’re getting there.

During the course of this conversation, which lasted about 30 minutes, I asked a lot of questions and got some pretty sad answers. Also the woman I was talking to was exhausted because she’s the mother of a young baby, which also made me angry. Not that she’s a mom, but because I knew she was tired and even though she wanted to talk to me because we had been corresponding the whole time, she clearly was not up for this conversation, which could really have been delivered by someone else, namely someone in this nameless, faceless committee who voted me off the island to begin with who probably doesn’t have children and wouldn’t be exhausted at 10:30pm on a Monday night. Another thing that had me livid was that fact that this nameless, faceless committee knows my face and name, but I don’t know theirs? What kind of cowardly shit it that??!! The woman on the phone told me that they were still going to pay me (well of course they were), but then she asked me not to say anything about this, specifically over social media. What??!!! Are you kidding me? So you have to right to just vote me off the show, for really no good and fair reason that I see, I have no say in the decision-making and then you pay me and want me to shut up about the whole thing?? Now, you’re smoking! I promptly told her I couldn’t make any promises on that front. In other words, Fuck That!

Now I ask, what does that sound like to you? I’ll tell you what it sounds like to me. It sounds like some white, male, entitled, patriarchal, misogynistic, cowardly bullshit is what it sounds like. I have absolutely no idea what the faces of the people who voted me off the show look like and honestly that doesn’t even matter, but I know THAT energy when I feel it. I know shady dealing when I see them. I know the shadow masculine when I encounter it. Trust me I know. I’ve been a black woman a long time. I know patriarchy and misogyny like I know my name.

Then came the rant. I got on Facebook at about 3am and let folks know how I was feeling. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything like that, but I needed to be loud that night. My feelings required more than my journal.

As a side note, I also found out earlier that day that musicians in the house band, who happened to be all women and transgender (in specific FTM), were being questioned about their affiliation with Michfest artists! Yes you heard me correctly. So now we have also entered into some pseudo-McCarthyism here?! I’m just asking.

Tuesday, March 11th
“Rejection is God’s Protection” was one of the first things I saw that morning on Facebook. Thank you Lord. I was determined that the show must go on. I was ready to sing, the band was ready to play and Shin & Zabu were ready to dance. So I set about the business of erasing myself from Purim. I took down the invite I had put up for the show and changed it to say, “Shelley Nicole’s blaKbüshe: Playing somewhere near you.” I informed people that the show would go on, but at a different venue although I had no idea where that would be. I let the band know what happened and told them that the show would go on. I kept our rehearsal date for Wednesday. Act as if...

That morning as I was riding the train into the City there was a man who was asking for food. Not a new concept on the train, but that morning I actually had some food to give. So I pulled two oranges out of my bag and handed them to the man. He thanked me and just as I was about to sit back and close my eyes I hear a voice say, ”You have another orange for me?” I opened my eyes and it was my friend Daniel. I started to laugh, but before I could really get it out, the man I handed the fruit to offered one of the oranges I gave him, to my Daniel. Saying, “Hey man, you can have one of mine, I have two.” Let me tell you something; that made my whole day. That man was clearly down on his luck, but he still offered one of his oranges to someone he thought was in need. That was such a lesson in giving. I needed that. People on the train also noticed the man’s generosity. It was a powerful moment on an otherwise mundane morning commute.

Later that night, after teaching yoga, I went to see Kelly and keep working on what I was going to wear for the show. Act as if...

Wednesday March 12th
My fourth emotion kicked in on this morning; sadness. I went to pick up my check from two reps from the Purim committee. They were there with a check and flowers. One woman said, “Here are some flowers. You can do with them what you please.” I promptly told her that the flowers didn’t do anything to me so I would put them in water where they belong. Then I headed to teach yoga, but before I could get into class I finally cried. I called my friend Ian and just let it all out. That was my sad moment. I just want to make music. It shouldn’t be all that deep, but some people really make it a challenge. I was upset because people are sad out here in the world, miserable really. So they inflict their misery upon others in an attempt to feel better about themselves and I got caught up in some of that. I knew everything was going to be alright, but I needed to cry especially since I felt myself getting sick and I knew it was because of all the anger I holding and not releasing. So standing on a street corner in Brooklyn I did just that; released. After my cry, I pulled myself together and went to teach.

Later that day I posted what is now somewhat my mantra: “I am an artist and a healer. I go where both are required. I am necessary.” That day I solidified a venue for the show. I spoke to DeeArah at Freebrook Spaces and she said that the 15th was open so I could have the main room for my show. At that moment I put the word out that the Boycott Show was happening on the 15th. I didn’t have all the details, but things were moving.

Freebrook is a raw space so I needed sound and a drum kit. I called my man Dexter because I knew he had everything. Thank Goddess he was free that night and able to provide the sound. Now we were cooking with gas!

Later that night I had band rehearsal and gave them a short press conference so everyone understood what had transpired. Only the women in my band have been to Fest so the men needed some clarity about what was going on. After that meeting we got to work on the show. Onward!  Late that night I got home and posted on Facebook the details of what would be The Boycott Show and then even more magic happened.

Thursday March 13th
The word started spreading like wildfire. Once people found out that I was kicked off of the Purim event because I was headlining Michfest the festival community and my personal community came out of the woodwork to support me and honestly I was blown away.

As I stated above, this year will make my 8th festival. When I went to Michfest for the first time with Hanifah all those years ago I had no idea that I would attend 8 years in a row. There have been many years that I thought about not going, but then something would pull me there. I know what that something is, but it’s still amazing to me. It doesn’t take much to fall in love with the Festival. It only took one shot for me. But what became abundantly clear for me in light of these events, is how much we are family. I know fundamentally that these women are a part of me, but now I’m a super clear. I have no doubt in my mind that if the ship is going down, one of these ladies is going to throw a lifeline or better yet, bust a flaming arrow in someone’s ass! LOL! I’m not saying that Michfest is utopia because like any other family we have our squabbles, but at the end of the day, when the shit hits the fan, folks show up!

From Thursday to Sunday I was riding a love wave. Before all of this happened I went to see Nona Hendryx at Joe’s Pub on the 9th. She has a song that I LOVE called “Let’s Give Love a Try.” I downloaded that joint and listed to it every day, many times a day during that week. It really kept me going. Simple words, but very powerful. A simple thing to try, but many of us don’t give it a shot. Remember love does not mean backing down, it means showing up. Love is a verb!

Friday March 14th
The word was spreading fast and the love was rolling in spiritually, physically and monetarily. Then my girl Nedra asked me about streaming the event live for people who wanted to see it who were not in New York. I didn’t have the energy or the head space to make that happen, but then in walked Leo. She saw Nedra’s post and said she would come to the show and cover the live stream! What??!! When I said these women show up, I was not playing! Houston, we have live stream.

When Sara (another woman from Fest) found out that we were going to stream she set up a PayPal account specifically for people who wanted to “buy tickets” to the show to support the band! Genius! So many people were sharing the invite on Facebook! It was a true community effort. We can’t do this alone people. We really can’t.

Saturday March 15th
That morning I woke to a full list of errands to run before the show. I didn’t have to teach that day so I was free to take care of myself.

First things first, I got my hair cut and then got my brows done. I had a few other errands in between before heading to Kelly’s for my final outfit decisions. After that I actually had time to go home and chill. I did a final push for the show letting people know that there would be a ustream link coming soon, but it was really time to clear the mind a bit an reflect on the week.

When it was time to head to the venue I packed all my things and began my walk to Freebrook, which is not far from my house. It was a pretty nice night so I could take my time getting there and take those final moments to get clear about what was about to happen. I have played a lot of shows, but I knew that night was going to be special. Also anytime you play a show that intimate it has to be special. Freebrook is a mansion that has been converted to community space. So we were basically performing in the parlor.

Set up was coming along and slowly people were rolling in. I left everything in Dexter’s care and went upstairs to change my clothes. Everything was in order.

Right before I took the stage I came downstairs to see Vernon Reid at the door. I gave him a big hug and then almost right behind him was Toshi! She said she couldn’t stay, but came to support. Yes! When I came downstairs the room was packed! It was overflowing really.

I took the stage and looked around the room and the diversity was amazing. Besides my friends and fam there was a whole Japanese contingent that came to see Shin and Zabu! It was the United Colors and Flavors up in there.

We kicked off the show with “Go Head & Rise” as there was really no other way to begin. The song says, “Most times you gotta go through to get to the other side/sometimes you gotta dig deep pull out what you’re trying to hide/sometimes you gotta look up and let the sun on you shine/dry your eyes child, go head and rise!” That’s what I had to do that week. I had to go head and rise because I was not gonna to let nobody turn me around. As my other song, “I am American” says; there’s “too much blood under my feet!”

The show was amazing if I do say so myself. Shin and Zabu ended up dancing to “In Your View” and our uptempo version of “Long Train Running” by the Doobie Brothers. It was killin’! I even danced with them a little bit. Just a little bit. LOL. I didn’t do a whole lot of talking about what got us to that point; I just let the music be my press conference.

We closed the show with “Power on the Floor,” which was also very appropriate. The chorus says, “If you recognize you’re on the ground, you can get up.” What that means is that if you are present to the fact that you are down then you can get up. It’s about being present. So nothing can really hold you down if you are present to what is happening around you or what is coming at you. I danced by myself to that song for a while. I talked for a while. It was a bit of a Holy Ghost moment. Give thanks.

When the show was over I got to love up all my folks who came out to support me in person. It was really a house of love. It was hands down one of the best nights of my career, and something changed in me after that day. I have always been a push through kind of chick, and though it looks like that is what I did here as well, it was actually something different; a different spirit riding me. Yes, I kept going in the face what could have been a really sad situation, but it hit me a little bit deeper than that. I’m not quite sure how to explain it all here, but I’ll just say that I’m changed for the better.

Today, Tuesday April 15th
It’s now been exactly a month since the show happened. It’s been a month of triumph and joy. It’s been a month of deep conversations about Festival, trans-inclusion, safe-space and gender issues in general. It’s been a month of waking up almost every morning and going to teach yoga, working a freelance research gig, going to shows, playing shows, witnessing friends get married, lose children and husbands. In other words, life goes on.

One of the many wonderful things that came out of the Boycott Show was a fund set up by Sara for artists who are being harassed about playing Festival. Turns out I am not the only one. In fact some artists have backed out of the festival under pressure or other reasons not known to me, but most of us are staying and playing. Most if not all of the artists who play the festival are independent and as there are people trying to disrupt the livelihood of these artists, we need your support. Sara set up this fund so that artists who are being or have been bullied or harassed can continue to do their work. If you are so moved, please donate to any of this year’s Michfest artists so that we can continue to work with a bit more ease. You can support the artists by sending your donation(s) through PayPal to and specify which artist(s) you would like the funds allocated. You can see a list of artists at www.michfest.comIf you would like to support me and my band you can donate that way or by going to my site


Taking a slight turn in the topic I pleased to let you know that I am finally looking at studios and we will be going in to record very soon. There has also been a change in production personnel. I am so excited to announce that Vernon Reid will be producing the new project! If you are not familiar with Vernon please go to my page and read about him and if you are moved please donate  as we still need all we can to make this project happen.

I know this blog was extra long (much like my festival blogs) and my apologies if it took a lot out of you, but it took a hell of a lot out of me. LOL! Thank you all for reading and listening. I can’t wait to share all the wonderful things that are on the horizon. Twenty-Fourteen is shaping up to be epic! I’m about to go on tour with Rebellum and we are rolling though the midwest so come see us! I’m going into the studio with blaKbüshe shortly and then I will be on the land.

Thank you for your support and keep supporting independent artists of all kinds. We chose this life, but it’s nothing without you.

One Love!

Thank Yous: My Band (Achuziam, Ki Ki, V. Jeff, Jerome, Matsu, Jeff, Ganessa & Shawn), Shin, Zabu, Kelly Horrigan, Dexter Taylor, Lionel Sanchez, DeeArah Wright, Steph Wiley, Leo Wamsley, Nedra Johnson, Sara St. Martin Lynne, Ashley B, Jimmy, Hemamset, the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival community and all my friends and fam! 

Monday, February 3, 2014

My Top 13 of 2013: For those with a short attention span!

As you know I always write a stupid long Year End Review, but for those of you who have lost your desire to read I have compiled My Top 13 of 2013.  So check it out and if you are curious about more you and always check out the entire 2013 Year End Review: Musicga!  Thank you for sharing the year with me. Big things ahead!


My Top 13 of 2013

1. I wrote over 356 Haikus! (I will post some soon!)

2. Attuned two more students to Reiki!

3. Was featured on the Sony Christmas R&B Hits Compilation.

4. Rocked Michfest with my rendition of "Invincible" by Pat Benatar.

5. Played Mamapalooza and Pussypaolooza.

6. Hosted two blaKbüshe Wellness Days.

7. Shot a video with Rebellum for "Heart Seed."

8. Taught lots of yoga and hosted a yoga workshop/show with M'Balia (MB) in Philadelphia.

9. Wrote and directed my first comedy sketch with American Candy.

10. Was part of the "Medusa/Asudem" video with Kelly Horrigan and Lee Free.

11. Played at BAM Café two times (blaKbüshe and American Candy).

12. Debuted Phellatio Gonzalez feat. Jeff Jeudy, Jerome Jordan, V. Jeffery Smith, Matsu, Akie Bermiss, Sharief Hobley, Shawn Banks and special guest Garrett Shider, Jr.

13. "blaK Girls" is featured in the independent film Homecoming directed by Eugene Ashe.

Click HERE to Read the full 
2013 Year End Review: Musicga!

2013 Year End Review: Musicga

Year End Review 2013: Musicga

Often when I come to the end of the year I can’t believe that it has gone by so fast, but I actually feel like 2013 took its time. A lot of things happened in 2013 for sure. As you know, I graduated from Kripalu in 2012 so 2013 was all about getting my yoga teaching going. So without further ado here is my 2013 Year End Review:  Musicga (Music & Yoga)!

I kicked off the month writing my first Haiku of the year. I gave myself a Haiku a day challenge, which turned out to be lots of fun and insightful to say the least. I will post them all on my blog so you can see them ASAP!

I began the year teaching at Shambhala Yoga & Dance Center and Hip Dhamma. I also started taking aerial class with my girl Kiebpoli aka Black Acrobat, which was amazing! If you are thinking about trying it out I highly recommend her. That lasted through May, but I really hope to be able to get back! The rope and silks are no joke. The power involved in making that look effortless is not a game. I had so much fun!

This month I also played with Burnt Sugar at the Million Man Mosh. It was a great night to raise money for Donovan Drayton who was battling for his freedom. Donovan was in the house that night and I’m happy to report that he has been cleared of all charges! Give Thanks! That night we had the pleasure of sharing the bill with 24-7 Spyz, Nona Hendrix, Living Colour and Ronny Drayton. Also Big Mike from the Sugar Hill Gang and Melle Mel from the Furious Five were in the house and graced the stage as well.

At the close of the month I stared to feel a little under the weather, but I had no time to be sick because Burnt Sugar was heading to Paris on the 31st. So I boarded a plane to Paris with one of the worst head colds I’ve had in my life. Before we all got to the airport we found out that our original flight had been cancelled and our new flight was moved up! Not cool! Well, we all made it, but I was not looking forward to that flight with the head cold. My saving grace was that the flight was empty so at least I could spread out and really lay down. Next stop, Paris!

Although I spent most of the Paris trip in bed trying to get myself together to perform, it turned out to be really fun time. The only downside was the Gestapo at Heathrow that took my coconut oil when we had to change planes in London. So the only thing I did in Paris besides, eat, sleep, soak and sing was get some lotion! Anyway, for the show we did the Steely Dan Songbook conducted by Vernon Reid and a few Bowie tunes conducted by Mikel. Thank Goddess I was able to pull it together and give the best show I could give. [Blog: Next Stop Paris! ]. We didn’t get to stay in Paris this time as long as we did last so there was no sightseeing for me, but I’m still so thankful for the time spent there. I love traveling with the Sugars!

This month I began teaching yoga to the kids at Little Sun People a pre-school where a lot of my friend’s children attend. That went on through May and was a great experience.

I rounded out February by attuning my fourth student to Reiki! That is something that I’m going to do much more of in 2014. Congrats to my girl Po-Hong on becoming a Reiki I practitioner. It makes me feel go great to be able to teach people this healing tool. It’s such a blessing.

Looking back at this month, a whole lot happened. I went to Buffalo and Canada with Burnt Sugar. That was really an amazing trip and one of the best parts was finding Betty’s restaurant. That food was amazing! We are still talking about that food and how we can get Betty’s downstate.

Early in the month blaKbüshe played at Mamapalooza, which was my friend Rick’s 50th b’earthday party. We did the show as a 4-piece so Matsu, Jeff, Ganessa and I hit it. The place was packed and we had a blast. We made a few blaKbüshe converts that night and we also met another Jeff who would be instrumental down the line. Jeff James, a friend or Rick’s, works at Sony. That night he asked me if I had any holiday music and as you may or may not know, the answer to that is yes! If you recall I made a holiday album for my mom a few years ago, so I have music. He asked me to send him a couple of things because he was putting together Sony’s holiday compilation. I sent the tracks, but I have to admit that I didn’t think anything would come of it. Silly me.

We played Mamapalooza on the 11th and then played BAM Café on the 16th. It was another packed house at BAM and we had a lot of fun as usual. I tried out a new song that night and it seemed to go over well. Win or lose it’s great to have the audience feedback. [Blog: BAM Café Show Recap]. I really live for that!

I think the highlight of April, which has nothing to do with music, is that I got my stuff out of storage. That was nothing short of a spring miracle. I am so glad not all that stuff in my life anymore. I kept much of it, but I also did a huge book and magazine giveaway. It felt so good to lighten my load. Try it!

This month I also started recording the Rebellum project with Greg Tate at Luqman’s studio in Harlem. At the time I thought it was another Burnt Sugar project, but I later found out differently. I now it must sound strange that I didn’t know the project I was recording, but many of the same people in Burnt Sugar are in Rebellum and at that time I’m no sure the new band had a name yet. When you are rolling with this crew you just have to be open to the changes. LOL!

This was a pretty big month. I had my first blaKbüshe Wellness Day on the 19th. Thanks to Po-Hong, my partner in Scorpionic magic, it was a great success. My mom and aunt Helen also took the drive down from MA to support and my cousin Ashley and his girlfriend Emilie came though. It was a rainy day in Brooklyn. So rainy that they even cancelled one of the days of the Great GoogaMooga concert in Prospect Park. But a little rain didn’t stop our show. It was beautiful day.

Po-Hong & I! Scorpio Power!

Earlier in the year my girl Nucomme asked me if I wanted to play at the Williamsburg Music Center. When I agreed it was going to do a blaKbüshe show, but Ganessa couldn’t make the date. So instead of cancelling it I had another idea. I have so many wonderful men in my life that I thought it would be great to play with all of them, or as many as possible, in one night! So I called on Jeff Jeudy, Matsu, V. Jeffrey Smith, Akie Bermis, David Pilgrim, Sharief Hobley, Jerome Jordan and Shawn Banks who collectively became Phellatio Gonzalez. Then as a cherry on top was, Garrett Schider, Jr. who happened to be in town and in the house! He happily sat in with us! Whoa!

The night was a kind of round-robin type of evening and everyone was really amazing. All the fellas took a turn and then I chimed in with a couple of my tunes. Fun, fun! I was hoping to make that happen again in 2013, but clearly the year was packed. But stay tuned because Phellatio Gonzalez will ride again!

The men of Phellatio Gonzalez!

This month kicked off with me joining the Soulfolk Experience at Le Poisson Rouge for a Prince tribute on the 7th and since there is so rest for the wicked, the next night I hit with Burnt Sugar at Ginny’s uptown. We had lots of friends and fam in the house for that show. It was great to see Helga Davis, Daniel Carlton, Somi and Vernon who sat in with us that night.

Soon blaKbüshe was back in action as the musical guest for the African Voices 20th Anniversary at the Schomburg Center in Harlem. The event was also in honor of author/poet/professor Tony Medina. He was in the house along with Bonified Rojas, Willie Perdomo and Asha Bandele. I was also surprised to see Mike Ladd in the house, in from Paris. One of the highlights of this event was Willie mentioning The Tea Party. For those of you who know don’t know, before that name was taken over by the far right, it was an amazing arts organization in Brooklyn.

Post Schomburg show glow

The ladies and the gentleman of honor

I had to hurry home from that event to pack to hit the road with the Sugars the next day. We were heading to Cleveland to play for the Summer Solstice event at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Trevor, V. Jeff and I took the long journey with Ben and met the rest of the crew in Cleveland. I got to see my sands Shay while I was there and also my friend Katrice and her family, which was great. But the highlight for me was going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! [Blog: NYC to O-HI-O ]

Beam of vocal light in Cleveland at the Summer Solstice jam

Soon we were headed back to New York and I had to get ready for two more shows just a week later. The first was Burnt Sugar at Marcus Garvey Park for the Harlem Arts Festival. It was ok, but the person who went on before us went way over and there was no stage management so no one stopped her. It takes us a “minute” to set up so between the pervious set ending late and our set beginning late I think we only 20 minutes to play. For Burnt Sugar that’s about two songs. LOL! That show was on the 29th and then Pussypalooza was on the 30th. I have a lot to say about this show, but I’ll just let you read the blog. Well, I will say one thing. I was really excited about the show and then quickly disappointed. It was an amazing show. One of those nights where I was so angry before I went on that the show was EPIC! But it was also the show that made me take a break from doing any full band shows for the rest of the year. [Blog: Pride and Prejudice]

I love to make music. I love to play shows. I love it so much and I’m sure the artists out there can relate, but sometimes you have to pull back and take a look at how things are going. Regroup. Pause. That’s what I did after this gig and I’m glad I did.

This month I started my second to last fundraiser of the year. It was a silent auction, which brings us to July.

I kicked off the month with the Silent Auction fundraiser show, which featured Ganessa, Chaney Sims, Ashley Phillips and myself. We rocked out the Rockbar and helped me get that much closer to reaching my recording fundraising goal.

This month I also found that that I had been selected to be on the Sony Christmas compilation. I was so shocked! Although I had been contacted about possibly being on it I never had an attachment to it. So when I saw Jeff from Sony at the fundraiser and he told me he was going to make it happen, I don’t think really heard him. Soon there after I got the email! It was great news, but I needed to re-record the song. Jeff gave me two weeks to do it, but my Jeff (Jeudy) was going to be out of town for one of those two weeks! So I really had a week to do it, but we got it done. Matsu, Jeff and I recorded “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” with Lionel at his place one evening and the rest is on the CD!

Another highlight of the month was shooting the “Medusa/Asudem” video with Kelly Horrigan and Lee Free. That was so much fun! Kelly is an amazing designer and stylist and Lee is an awesome musician. Together they make a great team and I was honored to be the first artist to do a video for their Seen & Herd blog. Artsy videos! Yeah!

In my Medusa gear ready to shoot!

Finally I closed the month teaching yoga at Socrates Park in Long Island City. I was subbing for my friend Monique who was doing an art fellowship out of state for a few weeks. It was so wonderful to teach yoga in the park by the water. It was hot as hell those weeks, but since class was early and in the shade it wasn’t so bad. It’s kind of tricky to get to that park so I decided to bike from Brooklyn to Queens. In the morning, which was great, but by the afternoon it was literally hell on wheels! I think I damn near melted on the way home.

What was supposed to be one of the big highlights of the month was swiftly postponed and then cancelled. That was D’Angelo and Williamsburg Park. Something told me I should have went to go see him in Philly in July during the Roots Picnic weekend. I had seen him in March at Brooklyn Bowl with Questlove and it was off the chain! They did it again in July in Philly and I really wanted to go, but I didn’t. Then the show came up in NY. I was excited, but honestly something was nagging me. Then it happened, the show was postponed. It was supposed to happen on August 1st, but when it was postponed I wondered if I would be around for the rescheduled day. The original plan was to go to the show on the 1st, then home to MA for a couple of days, come back to BK and head to Festival for a week and then to my friend Shirley’s for a week. Well, it turned out that they cancelled the show and a bunch of others due to D being “ill.” Honestly when I heard that reason it scared me. Notice we haven’t heard a word from him since. There was all sorts of talk and speculation about what really happened to D, but let me tell you that I am still convinced that a brotha needs a hug…from me! Look out for Shelley’s Celebrity Hug Healing Program. Coming to a town where celebs live near you. I also need Kanye's number immediately! [SoundCloud: Quest & D'Angelo at BK Bowl]

At the Brooklyn bowl show Quest said something about D that has really stuck with me. When we were all clapping for an encore Quest said that we better keep clapping because he “gets love every day, but D needs to know that ya’ll really love him or you may not see him again till 2042.” We all laughed, but I totally got what he was saying. Although we were clapping and cheering for him to come back, the real deal is that D’Angelo needs to know deep within himself that he is loved. It makes me sad because the brotha is a genius and I don’t throw that word around at all, but he is truly gifted beyond measure. Sending much love to my brotha. Love and peace within.

August is always about Michfest and this year was no exception. This time I went to the festival as part of the ladies version of Hanifah Walidah’s band St. Lô, which included Hanifah, Julie Wolf and I. Of course you know there is a blog all about it. So if you missed the Michfest update, give it a read [Blog: Michfest 2013].

When I finally got home from Michigan I had to jump right into gear and get ready for Afropunk After Dark. I just did a broken down show with Jeff and Matsu at Putnam’s Pub in Brooklyn. We had shared the bill that night with Shae Rose and Adam Falcon. Thanks again to Trevor Gale at SESAC for inviting us out that night. If you haven’t read the Afropunk blog [Blog: Afropunk: Put Down the Hate] now is your chance.

Somewhere in the middle of all this I took a break and went to see Pete Rock vs. DJ Premier in one of the last Summerstage shows of the season. They were battling at East River Park by the FDR Drive. It was a serious trek to get over there, but worth all the trains, buses and footsteps that it took me. The place was packed and it was just an all out good time. They were spinning the music of my youth and clearly that of many others, but it wasn’t just a bunch of grown folks reminiscing, there were people of all ages there. People who really love hip-hop and respect the pioneers. We sang and danced together into to the night. It was probably one of the best days I had of the summer. There was so much love was in the air.

Closing out the month, the newly formed band Rebellum had our first photo shoot at the Village @ Gureje in BK. Thanks to photographer Nisha Sondhe, we took some great photos and set the group on its way. I know it might be a bit confusing because many of the members of Rebellum are also in Burnt Sugar, but trust me it’s a different band and a different sound.


This month saw the official release of the “Medusa/Asudem” video and the opening of the exhibit at Pratt Institute. Yeah! I can officially say I’ve been part of an art show! I know that doesn’t seem so huge, but stand by and see what happens next.

I also hosted my final blaKbüshe Wellness Day/Album Fundraiser. I’m sure I will do another wellness day because people really liked them, but that was my last fundraiser of the year. I want to thank Freebrook Spaces for allowing me to host my event there. I also want to thank Julie Brown and Dayanra Marte for coming to speak to us on the Fall Equinox. It was an amazing way to jump into the new season. I’m very thankful.

Rebellum closed the month for me. We had an album release show for our debut album The Darknuss at Joe’s Pub on the late night tip. Ronny Drayton sat in with us and Vernon Reid stopped by with his axe, fresh off the road. We a rockin’ good time that night. The fall kicked off lovely.

I took a big leap of faith in October and kicked off my yoga workshop/show in Philadelphia. The workshop and show were happening on a Saturday, but I arrived in Philly on Friday to do an interview on WRTI radio with M’Balia whom I was sharing the bill with.

M'Balia and I ready to Chill & Burn

When I got to the radio station I ran into artist Sherman Fleming who I had been on a Full Spectrum panel with in New York about a year or so ago. It was great to see him and hear about what he’s doing on Philly. We had a wonderful and fun interview that night with J. Michael Harrison host of The Bridge and I’m sure we’ll be back to WRTI in 2014.

Live at WRTI, Philadelphia, PA

The workshop on Saturday happened at Soft Illusions Fine Art Gallery and included a yoga class and an artist talk with Diane E. Vaughn, whose art was hanging in the gallery. We had a small turnout, but big energy so for me it was a huge success. It took a short break in between and then had to get ready for the show in the evening.

After my yoga workshop in Philly

MB’s (our nickname for M’baila) husband went to get Jeff from the train while we finished getting ready. My friend Damon had arrived earlier with the sound so that was good to go. Soon MB and I arrived at the gallery and the gang was all there. We set up the evening in a round robin style with MB and I going song for song, or maybe it was two songs and then two songs. We also sang our old Women of Bogolan anthem “What Can You Do For Me” by Labelle, which was appropriate being in Philly and all. All of the weekend’s events went so well that I, as well as MB and I, have been asked to do it again. Also MB and I were reminded of how much we love singing together so this year that will be happening again. I’ll keep you posted for sure!

The end of October was a busy one. Burnt Sugar played for three nights at the Apollo as part of the James Brown Dance Tribute by Philadanco (Philadelphia Dance Company) and right smack in the middle American Candy did our Silly Song Show at BAM. So I did the Tuesday and Saturday show at the Apollo and Friday night played BAM. That is really the way life should be all the time. All of those shows were really fun. We had a packed house in BAM on Friday night, which was amazing. It was the first time American Candy did those songs with a band, which was special. Nice way to close the month.

Note: I just found out at the end the year that Homecoming, an independent film directed by Eugene Ashe, came out in October. Why is this key? My song “blaK Girls” is featured in the film! So if you would like to check it out click the link here [Purchase Homecoming or Watch on Demand] to see how you can purchase or view the film. This is the first release from Seven Letter Word Films and is distributed on digital platforms and Video On Demand through RLJ Entertainment. Check it out!

November started off so great. I had two b’earthday hangs on the 6th with Po-Hong and on the 7th, and had the nerve to get a whole lotta tipsy at the former. I had dinner with my good friend Rha who I hadn’t seen in a LONG time on the 8th and then played at BRIC with Rebellum on the 9th, which was also a mini Wonder-ful (Stevie Wonder) party with DJ Spinna.

On the 14th the Sugars became the Sun Ra Arkestra for a staged reading of a play that’s in development about his trip through space and then on the 20th Rebellum shot our first video at Paris Blues in Harlem. Things were going really well and then I got the call.

On Friday the 22nd I was working in Harlem with Greg on his book. My plan was to go to his place, work for a while and then go to see my vocal coach Jeremiah, for a lesson, and then go to see Danni Gee at the Blue Note late night. Greg said he would come with me to the Blue Note so after my voice lesson I went to back to his place.

Shortly after I arrived back, my phone rang. It was my girl Saba telling me that she was planning to go home to see our friend and my cousin Kim who was batting cancer. It sounded urgent. She had a feeling she needed to go now. I asked her if she needed me to go with her. I really needed to see Kim myself anyway and she said if I could come she would want me to be there. So that’s what I did. Greg and I still went to see Danni and strangely enough before going into the Blue Note we ran into Ian Friday in the Village. We all chatted for a while and then Greg and I went into the club.

Danni gave a great show, but I couldn’t stay till the end. I knew I had to get up early to get on a train to Connecticut and I had to take the subway home that night.

The next day I took the Metro North to CT and then Saba, Michael, the twins and I drove to MA. No big announcements. I didn’t even tell my mother I was coming. We drove straight to Kim’s place. We called shortly before we arrived just to let someone know we were coming and to give Kim time to get ready if she needed, and that was it.

When we arrived my cousin May was with Kim and they were both surprised to see us. May stayed for a little while longer and then it was just Kim, Saba and I for a while. We had a great time! We laughed and joked. I gave Kim Reiki and let her hold my crystals. When I went upstairs to use my phone she joked with Saba about dying, which was crazy and hilarious! She also told Saba that when I was giving her Reiki she didn’t feel anything, which I also thought was hilarious. I can see Kim thinking, “This ain’t doing a damn thing!” LOL!

I talked to Julie, Kim’s sister for a while, then her other sister Priscilla showed up and we all laughed some more. JT, Kim’s brother in law, came by to visit somewhere during the day and then soon it was time for Saba and I to head back home. We couldn’t spend the night, but it was one of the best days. I could see Kim was in pain while we were there, but she was in good spirits. It was a blessing.

I ended up spending the night in CT with Saba since I was taking the train back to New York Sunday the morning. As Saba drove me to the train that morning we were just talking about the day we spent with Kim when I got a call from my cousin Donna who told me that Kim was found on the floor that morning and rushed to the hospital. As far as we knew she was still with us, but then about 20 minutes later Donna called back crying. Kim was gone.

By this time I was on the train and it was all I could do to contain my tears. I cried. I cried long and hard and I thought I wasn’t being loud, heard or seen, but the woman across the row from me sweetly checked in with me to make sure I was all right. Give thanks.

All of this happened the weekend before Thanksgiving. So I went back to NY for two days and then headed back to MA for the Thanksgiving holiday. Besides being Thanksgiving weekend, it was also the weekend of my high school reunion and now it was also the weekend of Kim’s funeral. It was a lot to take in and take on for sure, but I did it.

I have to say that Kim’s going home service was one of the best I have ever been to. Kim had cancer and knew that she was leaving us for a while. So she wrote out her funeral program and asked certain people to speak when she was still with us, which was a blessing for her sisters. I read Romans 8: 1-8, and I wasn’t sure why at first, but the first verse reads, "There is no condemnation to them who walk in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." One of the first songs that the Fifth Sunday Singers (a group that Kim and I sang in together) learned was called “Walk Not After the Flesh.” Uh huh.  Oh Kim, even in death you are hilarious!

I miss her all the time. Sometimes something funny she said will pop into my mind and I’ll laugh. I can still hear her beautiful voice singing the house down. When she got sick I was honestly angry, but that’s another story. No matter what I always had hope. After her diagnosis she was here 10 short months, but she was beautiful and brave. I know she was scared, she told me so, but in the end I know she’s all right and as cliché as it sounds, she’s not in pain anymore. Give thanks.

Thanksgiving weekend, in honor of Kim, I went to my high school reunion. Kim asked me to take her in October, but she left before the event. It was a good time and I’m glad I went in her honor. Soon the weekend was over and it was back to Brooklyn and back to life.

Kim Nicholas (1970-2013)

Once again, in spite of everything, the top of the month was good. Sony released their R&B Christmas Hits compilation that I’m featured on, my Kirtan group Soul Sangha also released our album Sacred Geometry. Well actually it came out in November, but so much was going on that I didn’t get a chance to let folks know. Sadly you can’t get the holiday album anymore, but it will be back next season. In fact Sony is putting it out for the next 5 years! Holla! As for Sacred Geometry, you can pick up a hard or digital copy on CD Baby and of course on iTunes, Amazon, etc. [Purchase Spiritual Geometry].

I was barely back in New York after the holiday weekend, when I had to jump on a bus to DC to go to a Sacred Business Woman’s Retreat. Although it was called a retreat, it was far from relaxing. We had to do a lot of personal work, which is never easy and I was totally full of emotion from the previous week so it was hard. I had a great time though and I got to spend a little time with my cousin Kwabena and some great Ethiopian food when the retreat ended.

I was only home for three days when I got a call from my girl Yolanda in Atlanta. She sounded serious and told me that she heard that our friend Zook died. I immediately told her that was not true. Not because I knew it wasn’t true, but because she was calling me from Atlanta and I was in New York where he lived and I hadn’t heard from anyone here anything of the sort. So I told Yo that until I heard something from someone in the area then it wasn’t true. She laughed at me and said, OK! So I hung up the phone with her and called Zook. His phone went to voicemail, which didn’t immediately alarm me. Then I called Mechelle who lived with Zook and I got her voicemail too. So I waited.

Let me also tell you why I was not quick to rush to judgment. Besides being in total denial, my friend Greg been falsely reported dead just a week or two prior. How you ask? Well someone else named Greg Tate was killed in his neighborhood. How crazy is that?! When the word got out that Greg Tate had been killed the media, of which Greg has been a part of for about 30 years, started calling colleagues and asking for comments. Of course folks were confused and that’s when they started calling Greg who quickly informed them that, Goddess Bless, he was alive! So, with that so close I was not going to believe anything too quick.

I sat in my living room waiting for Mechelle to call back and praying for it not to be true when the phone rang. When I answered Mechelle was in tears and then I knew it was true. I wanted all the answers right then and there, but the particulars would have to wait. Zook had a heart attack and died the morning of the 12th. Craig Davis aka Zook was gone. I was nothing short of devastated. How could this be happening? Two people that I loved so much gone in a matter of weeks. With Kim the possibility of her passing was much easier to understand, yet still tragic, but Zook? I just don’t get it. There are things that I know about life and death. Things that I understand fundamentally, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. So here it is that I was still mourning Kim and I had to start all over again. The pictures, the phone calls, the confusion, the shock and the sadness.

I called Yo back to tell her it was true; then the next person I called was Ian. He was devastated. Then Mechelle called me back and I knew I needed to call Larry, so I did. Soon my doorbell buzzed and it was Ian coming to check on me and also share in our shock and sadness. Then I called Fahiym and Brad and Hakhi and then I couldn’t make another call. My heart was broken. So Ian too up the mantle and called Dawn and Brian and Wil and Mert and Mia and Micah and Derrin and the fam was getting the word.

That week between Zook’s passing and his funeral was a long one, but it just reaffirmed something that I have been saying for a while now. All of this time we spend on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram is nice, but we need real face time with people. Real time to touch them and look at them in the face to see what is really going on. You can never know what’s really happening with someone in 140 characters or even in the novellas that some write on Facebook. We need to feel each other’s breath and look into eyes. That’s the only way to really know. I know that these mediums are great for keeping in touch with people far away, but how about trying to budget in a trip to see these folks? That’s what I’m doing this year. No more excuses. I need to see my people.

Losing Kim and Zook has reignited something in me. I wish they were still physically here, but I am clear that their essence is still here. Their spirits are still here. I feel them all the time. Sometimes I’ll start laughing for no reason and I know it’s one of them. They both had great laughs.

So we laid Zook to rest in the traditional way, but a couple days later, before I headed home for the holidays, I attuned one more student, my friend Peta-Gaye, to Reiki level I, which was wonderful. That same evening I also went to my voice teacher’s holiday party and then had one more intimate service for Zook and Pep (another friend who passed in 2006) on the Brooklyn Bridge with friends.

Craig Davis aka Zook (1968-2013)
I spent 5 days at home with the fam, which was right on time and then headed back to NY to get ready to go to Cleveland for New Years Eve with Burnt Sugar. This would be our second time in Cleveland at the Art Museum that year. I guess they like us.

I had one of the best New Years of my life. I never work on NYE and I can’t remember the last time I really went out and did the party thing, but this year it felt really good to be doing both.

I rang in 2013 on stage with a glass of champagne in my hand. I took a selfie with my girl Karma, toasted up with the museum muckity-mucks and it was all good in the hood. Snow was falling outside, but we were warm and some of us toasted on the inside. My friend Hank has his artwork up in the museum and I snuck another selfie before being busted by museum security. Oops! LOL! It was really a perfect evening.

Getting down in Cleveland town. 

The next day we took the long drive back to New York. I closed the year officially by writing my last Haiku of the year. In the end I wrote over 365 Haikus! I loved it so much that I kept going. By next year I’ll have over 700. It’s officially 2014 and it already feels good.

Since the year jumped off I have had two interviews published. Sorry I didn’t shout them out right away, but a girl needed to take a real break. So here they are. One is with Kim Kirkley for her Good Energy Entrepreneur Show  and the other is with Abhita Austin for her Monday Motivation. Big love and thanks to both of these women for showing me so much love.

Thank you all for the continued love and support. Although blaKbüshe was very quiet toward the end of the year I promise you will see us soon. Here’s to an amazing 2014! May this New Year fulfill your Champagne wishes and caviar dreams!

One Love!

Year of the Horse!