How are you? Hard to believe: yesterday marked three years since the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. Looking back, my newsletter for March 2020 made no mention of it. By April, I’d lost four members of my extended network of family and friends―three brilliant artists within 36 hours of each other; the other a visionary businessman.
Remembering them―symbolic of the many; perhaps your friend or loved one?―this week’s news comes with four tributes and a smile.
Bill Withers, a graceful man unpretentious in his eloquence, exited the stage, passing away just as his legacy song resurged—a healing anthem for medical workers, caregivers, and families everywhere. Here he is performing “Lean on Me” with Stevie Wonder and John Legend at his 2015 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Ellis Marsalis, Jr., venerated pianist and teacher, patriarch of a dynasty of six accomplished sons—four of them renowned musicians: Branford (saxophone), Wynton (trumpet), Delfeayo (trombone), and Jason (percussion). For a family that has so generously rallied its talents to give others a proper New Orleans-style “When the Saints Go Marching In” home-going parade, how painful it must have been not to do the same for him in those days of coronavirus containment. Two years later, a private service was followed by a public second line.Didn’t he ramble! Read Wynton’s tribute here.
For decades, since founding the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. in 1985, Roy A. Hastick, Sr. was Brooklyn’s #1 Black business networker. A tireless champion and defender of entrepreneurism (Black economic self-empowerment); he rallied sole proprietors, mom-and-pop shops, and would-be start-ups into a collective that anchored neighborhoods, revived communities, and built bridges across the Afri-Caribbean-American Diaspora. His legacy, CACCI, endures.
David C. Driskell: artist, scholar, gentle man. You can view some of his work here—including his much-lauded “berry paintings.”
Years ago, having gone a while without catching up, David and I ran into each other in South Africa. He, based in Maryland and Maine; me, in New York—and where do we finally chance to meet? A market in Johannesburg: there, in an aisle, between the furnishings and the fruit. Laughing, hugging, we made such a scene that others soon circled. Caught up in our joy, they cheered and cheered. We danced and danced.
* * *
Now, three years since their deaths, as the disease plods on, I remember those early days of the pandemic and a depth of sorrow few could have imagined. I remember the televised scenes of misery and of heroism: how we hung out of windows forming groups of twos and threes; how we hunkered down within our "bubbles" pining for those without; how we took spoons to pots to make a joyful noise—cheering on health workers at home and abroad; how we survived. Struck by the uneasy wonder of it all, I remember a moment in a distant time and place; David, a gathering of strangers, and how we danced. I find joy.
That’s what I want to share with you this week. Whatever the time, the place, this journey, be well dear friend. Make time for joy. And please, please, dance!
Happy Women’s History Month! Did you know that Black women founded the American Women’s Movement? Launching the Female Literary Association of Philadelphia on September 17, 1831; within days, these founding mothers wrote their constitution, published it in The Liberator on December 3, 1831, and changed the world.
Order your autographed FIRST EDITION hardcover copy of SISTER DAYS: 365 Inspired Moments in African American Women's History, and download your bonus copy of that historic document today.
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Guest: Dr. Christen Smith, PhD
Founder, #Cite Black Women
An African American scholar, Christen Smith was sick of having her research, her writings, her work, ripped off by peers who dared think she'd do nothing about it but sulk. Refusing to let the proverbial "straw" break her back, she printed a tee-shirt calling out the wrong-doing. Other Black women knew the feeling She launched a hashtag. The Black Twittersphere sent it trending. Time for a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. (Thank you, Aretha Franklin.) Time to #CiteBlackWomen professors for their achievements and contributions. Time to #CiteBlackWomen everywhere you'll declare—especially after listening to this episode of the show.
THE JANUS ADAMS SHOW airs and streams live Saturdays at noon eastern time on WJFF Radio Catskill, www.WJFFRadio.org. For show notes, VISIT my website: JanusAdams.com/show
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At 20, Ifetayo Ali-Landing is one of the world’s most gifted young musicians. But, you don’t have to take my word for it . . . A child prodigy,here she is performing when she was only 10. Learn more about her and her family, and watch out for her next appearance at a concert hall near you.
* Harambee is a Ki-Swahili term popularized by the Kenyan Independence Movement meaning "let's all pull together!"
Emmy Award-winning journalist, author, historian, keynote speaker, Dr. Janus Adams is publisher of BackPaxKids.com and host of public radio’s
“The Janus Adams Show” and podcast.