June is Black Music Month: Michael Jackson

June has been designated Black Music Appreciation Month. I think with all the sampling out there we should take the time to honor our musical ancestors. The first artist I wanted to celebrate is Michael Jackson.

When he did the Motown special he was already a legend in the making. He started out with the Jackson 5 that became the Jacksons. Michael was a powerful musical entity that could write, sing, dance, produce and create. He showcased the moonwalk and the crowd went wild.

Michale Jackson's Thriller album cover

Michael Jackson’s Thriller was truly a phenomenon. It broke all kinds of music records and is still a classic more than 25 years later.

I loved Michael as a kid. He was the first African-American artist featured on MTV. The music channel started in the early eighties but many of my favorite artist were never featured there. Micaheal’s album Thriller broke so many barriers and crossing the color line at MTV was one of them. Michael treated his videos like mini films.

When he made the video for Thriller he hired a movie director to make a mini-horror flick for about 1 million dollars. It instantly became a hit. The Making of Thriller (the forefather of reality television in my humble opinion) gave us all the behind the scenes tidbits that went into making the video.

Everybody is making a behind the scenes videos but Michael was the first artist to share in this way. This speaks volumes to his generous heart. Michael may be gone physically but his spirit lives on in his music. He never forgot his musical roots.

Michael Jackson is my favorite dancer. He truly was an artist and his music uplifted people. I was never embarassed to play his songs. I hope Michael is getting the respect and credit he deserved now because he had a lot of pain in his life. I salute you musical legends.

In my upcoming posts I will be talking about James Brown, Bojangles, The Nicholas Brothers and Sammy Davis Junior.


Whitney Houston “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”

One of my favorite Whitney Houston video is “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”. RIP Ms. Houston 1963-2012

Red Tails featuring singer/dancer NE-YO

I am a huge Ne-yo fan. I love the way he dances the positive lyrics in his music so when I heard that he was in RED TAILS it made me want to see the movie even more. I was among those who  rushed to see the movie on opening weekend. ImageI LOVEDDDDDDD the movie. The story is about the Tustekee Airmen and the director is Star Wars creator and director George Lucas. I enjoyed Star Wars and all the effects so I knew this would be a great movie. NE-YO, a compelling story and a celebrated director, what could possible go wrong???? It turns out a lot.

When I got tot the theater (Sony Loews, Mountainside) I told the cashier I wanted to see RED TAILS paid my money and went into the the theatre. Only I wasn’t in the theater for RED TAILS but another movie, Sherlock Holmes. I missed 20 minutes of RED TAILS.  I enjoyed the parts of the movie I did see but I wasn’t satisfied.

I went to the manager and explained that I was given the wrong ticket. He was reluctant to do anything because I had seen some of the movie. I pressed the issue because I paid $10.50 to see the entire film not miss the first 20 minutes. This nosy bystander who had no affiliation with the movie butted in and I kindly asked him to butt out. I was give a “free” pass to another showing but I was not satistfaced.


I requested that the ticket be adjusted to reflect RED TAILS and not another movie. The following week 3 PEOPLE SITTING NEXT TO ME ALSO GOT THE WRONG TICKET FOR RED TAILS.  I scalled the general manager the following Monday who explained that ticket wasn’t as relevant as I was making it out to be  because the films are paid for in advance. I kindly pointed out to her that ticket sales are used to determine ratings. I also wrote her a letter. I am writing this entry to let people know that they should always check their ticket stubs of movies. If they notice a mistakes take it up with the manager and have their tickets credit to correct movie. 

African-Amrericans in big budget Oscar worthy films are rare. Having an all-black cast is even rarer. And having a esteemed and highly respected director such as George Lucas sink millions of his own money into this type of film is rarest. 

Why We Dance 2011 on Saturday, March 12 at the Westtfield Y

Dance Workshops at the Westfield Y

Violetta and her won with Why We Dancer Priscilla Hatchett

Why We Dance in conjunction with the Westfield Neighborhood Council will be presenting free dance workshops at the Westfield Y on March 12, 2011. Participants can register on the day of the event beginning at 10:30 a.m.

The workshops are free and open to the public. There will be three hour long workshops starting from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Dancers will be able to showcase their talent from 2-3 p.m. during the share period. This is the 3rd annual Why We Dance event. The first two events drew participants from around the state and featured professional dancers to lead the workshops.

Scotch Plains resident Kathleen McMahon will be teaching the first workshop on African and bellydance from 11-12. McMahon is a certified hospice nurse and teacher specializes in belly dancing. In 2008 she took a humanitarian trip to Burandi, Africa where she danced with hospice patients. She will instruct on the dance techniques that learned while there.

Nick Abreu who lives in Cranford will be teaching a free style hip hop class from 12-1. Abreu started dancing in the late seventies and became active in the club scene in the early eighties and continued to dance until the nineties. He was a dancer with the Funhouse B-Boys, a hip hop dance crew. He danced at the Funhouse and other underground and popular clubs in New York and New Jersey. “We won many dance contests and did many dance battles,” Abreu said. “We wanted to learn the different styles of dance.”

Some of the clubs Nick and his crew danced at were the Roxy and Studio 54. He started a hip-hop/b-boy program which is still ongoing in Pittsburgh, PA. He worked as a choreographer and appeared in a few videos. He is now working on a documentary about the legendary Funhouse night club.

Violeta Galagarza riveted the audience at the first Why We Dance event. She will be teaching a technique and choreography class. She is from Brooklyn and she will be bring her son to class to serve as a role model for other young male hip hop dancers.
Her company is KR3TS Dance Company that caters to children, young adults of lower to middle income families in Latino communities of New York City primarily as well as other communities.

Their goal is to provide an outlet to develop skills and abilities that will enhance their lifestyles and express their talents through dance. KR3TS produces multiple shows and fund-raisers throughout the year and consistently provides professional opportunities for its students by providing dancers for music videos, concerts, photo shoots, events and festivals. Violet’s program has produced a number of professional dancers and choreographers who got their start and their training through KR3TS.

In the wake of all the budgets cuts affecting art, gym and dance classes in the schools this event will meet the need for people, particularly our youth to remain active and learn about the arts says Dance Coordinator Candace Waller.

“Why We Dance fulfills a need and exposes participants to international talent. We hope to encourage youth to stay active and just have fun. Obesity and budgets cuts have hindered some to dance. “

Dancers from the weekly classes that took place at the Westfield Neighborhood Council will be presenting two numbers during the share period from 2-3 p.m.

Please contact Why We Dance at whywedance@gmail.com or (908) 432-2003 for more information.

Funding for this program came from the Union County HEART grant.


Bags of Gold

I was reading the Bible today during my devotional and I found the scripture in Mathew (Mathew 25:14-30) that talks about Bags of Gold. I define Bags of Gold as gift that God gives us to help others. Everyone has at least one but if we don’t use it for God’s will and glory it will be taken away from us.

The scripture says a rich man gave one servant 5 bags of Gold and another servant 2 bags of gold and the last servant one bag of gold. The first two servants doubled the rich man’s profits but the man with one man of gold hid it and basically didn’t use it. How often we as people do the same thing. God has given some the gift of prophesy, singing, dancing, music and cooking. It is up to us to discover how to use those gifts for God’s glory but too many of us don’t do this.

Bags o Gold

God gives everyone Bags of Gold. How will you use yours?

The Bible tells us that there will be an account of what we did with our Bags of Gold. I don’t want to have to tell God that I buried it. I am trying to use my Bags of Gold for His will and glory. Why We Dance came out of this and it is growing.

The organization is able to meet and exceed expectations despite the challenges. As I use my Bags of Gold I got more bags and I interact with more people.

My message to you today is use your Bags of Gold for God’s will and glory.

A Fresh Start

Happy New YearI love when a new year comes in because I can make an assessment of the previous year and make changes. It has been widely reported that most people don’t keep their New Years Resolutions. My belief is that we are excited by the new year but quickly get hampered by the aftermath of the holidays, the snow/cold and feelings of melancholy.

It has been suggested that writing down our goals and putting them in a spot where we can see them helps us stay on track. I am going to share some of my goals with you readers.

#1 Make it my business to learn something new each week. (This could be from a course, free class at the library, an article or another person.)

#2 Network, network, network! Who you know will be so vital in 2011. Networking can help with getting a job, getting information and getting other things. Linkedin is a going to be huge this year.

#3 Taking care of me. This means watching all the sugar, fat and junk I put in my temple. No more stress eating!

#4 Dance, dance, dance! I teach dance once a week but I am going to be doing more dancing. It’s fun. It’s inexpensive. It’s good for the body and soul.

#5 Fast from complaining. We all spend too much time whining about how bad our lives are. Just stop!!! The negative energy is like a body on my back and I am going to release it. I can change things and you can too.

#6 Read something spiritual every day twice a day. I love reading my Bible and I am going to do more of it. I am encouraged by what the prophets went through and the promises God made to his people. This will be a part of my prayer life.

#7 Give, give, give. This is the year I am going to help somebody. Things aren’t what I want them to be but I can do my part to make them better for someone else. I don’t have to know them or like them.

#8 Forgiveness. That one word says it all. I am guilty on holding on to things that I have done and what has been done to me. Enough already! Our time is so limited here and anger is a prison sentence I don’t want to have. Forgiveness frees the mind, body and soul.

#9 Enjoy my life, friends, family and jobs. I am going to find something good about my world each day.

#10 Take a day of rest. God created the world in 6 days but on the 7th day He rested. I am going to take that day to rest and rejuvenate my mind, body and soul.

I would love to hear from readers their goals for 2011.

Color blind: The life of Teena Marie

Teena Marie and her daughter Alia Rose

Most of you have heard that Ivory Queen of Soul Teena Marie passed away yesterday. I loved her music and what she represented. Teena believed that people should be evaluated by what was in their hearts and not by how they looked. She was a white singer that sang soul music. She was a believer in Jesus and mentioned her love for God in interviews.

A good friend of mine Saideh Brown who is Impact Speakers Burreau did an interview with Teena that you can listen to here. Teena was in a happy place during the interview. She quoted scripture and sang a hymn. She gave credit for a beautiful voice as a gift from God that she was charged to share with the world. She mentioned working on an inspirational album that I hope we all get to hear. I thought about that as I read her obituary.

This woman was not ashamed to proclaim the word of Jesus. She was able to look deep in the soul instead of being caught up in color and outward appearances. At one point during the interview she illustrated forgiveness. She talked about growing up in a rough neighborhood in California. She had started high school and a Black female student slapped her in the face. She was able to get past that incidence and the two girls became friends.

I love hearing about people’s experience with God who are not necessarily ministers or evangelists. I often find their experience more honest and pure. I was encouraged by Teena because I felt that God used this woman to be a bridge. She didn’t let the negativity of things that happened to her stop her from reaching out to all people.

Teena was only 54 when she died. She was young but God called her home. She leaves behind to mourn her death her beautiful daughter Alia Rose (stage name Rose LeBeaf) also a singer.

None of us knows how or when we will die. It is my hope that I will be proclaiming the love of Jesus to people and still reading his word. God used Teena as an instrument to show us that we should be colorblind in the body.

God doesn’t look at the outside he looks at the heart. [I Samuel 16:7 is the scripture that God admonishes Samuel the priest of how He looks at people.] I strive everyday to do this. I thank you Teena for helping me to understand that we should connect by looking at the heart and not the skin.