A crowd watches and dances as MJ’s Brass Boppers performs at the Black-Eyed Pea Festival in 2016. Photo courtesy of Omnira Institute.
“Laughin’ to keep from cryin’”
That’s what the old folks, a.k.a “OGs,” taught us to do—even in the worst of the bitter travails of our people. As the travesties of the Trump era pile up day after day, week after week, I was doing my very best — Then Aretha Franklin died.
SMH. Shaking my head. Now what?
And I remembered: We will have church.
Like we did when Michael Jackson, James Brown, Whitney Houston and Prince left us. Like we did with Rosa Parks, Michael Brown and Dr. King: we watched their televised home-goings and mourned. And then we ate. And then we laughed.
Church. Not necessarily in the religious sense, but a sense that I think is both African and African-American at its core. When our ancestors were troubled in mind, they took a leave of absence from slavery and sneaked off to the woods seeking refuge and solace in each other, affirming humanity in prayer and song and laughter.
So, I am inviting the Black community to church in its broadest form, gathering together in our name, celebrating blackness with food, music and art.
The first, Pan-African Family Reunion, sponsored by Afrocentric Oakland, invites black people to come out and have fun on Sunday Sept. 2, 2018. From 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Oakland’s Mosswood Park enjoy a variety of music, arts and crafts, dancing and games for children and adults alike. There will also be holistic health workshops.
The second, The 5th Annual Black-Eyed Pea Festival, on Sat. Sept. 15, 2018, is a celebration of African American food, music and art, with the black-eyed pea as the star of the show—a metaphor for resilient African-American culture.
On stage on the front lawn of Oakland Technical High School will be jazz and R&B artist the Dynamic Miss Faye Carol, Harpist from the ‘Hood Destiny Muhammad, New Orleans traditional band, MJ’s Brass Boppers and a group of young OGs, The Jamming Nachos, who will pay tribute to Aretha Franklin. Maybe the Queen of Soul can ‘Say a Little Prayer’ for us. Maybe it will be church anyway.