“Ya’ll gotta keep the blues alive”

b.b.

Mercy Morganfield didn’t have what you’d call a traditional relationship with her famous godfather. “He was just in my heart,”  the Washington D.C. woman said this week.

The 54-year-old daughter of blues man McKinley Morganfield — known to the world as Muddy Waters — didn’t get to know her father well until she was a teenager.  When Mercy’s mother passed away at the age of 33 in Mississippi, she began spending summers with her father in Chicago. It would be several more years before she met her godfather. B.B. King, the legendary “King of the Blues” who died last week at the age of 89.

She, her siblings and other relatives want to preserve the history and tradition of the blues played by her father and godfather.

“I remember my mother saying to me, ‘Well you know B.B. King is your godfather; but again my mother would say, ‘You know your father is Muddy Waters,’ and I would say, ‘Well I don’t know either one of those people,’ ” said Mercy Morganfield.  “Then I got to know Daddy and he would say, ‘You know B.B. King is your godfather.’ ”

Mercy Morganfield first met Riley B. King at her father’s funeral in 1983. She’s not sure she will make it to her godfather’s funeral later this month but she will always remember his kindness.

“At Daddy’s funeral, B.B. King was there and he was looking for me. He came over and said some things to me but I was too distraught to register anything. Then I met him later on in Chicago and he took a picture with me backstage.”

She met King again at the unveiling ceremony of a postal stamp featuring her father’s image.

One of her fondest memories shows Muddy Waters’ humble side.  His baby was graduating magna cum laude from Jackson State University in Mississippi and despite being ill, he insisted on attending the ceremony. The man with a third grade education truly enjoyed seeing his daughter graduate third in her class.

Sick with lung cancer, he came with his oxygen tank in tow. When people found out Muddy Waters was in the audience, they wanted to recognize him. He wouldn’t allow it, saying this was his daughter’s day. Later, he pulled her aside and said,  ‘Mercy D., you were smart weren’t you? You are going to be alright.”

On his death bed, he asked Mercy and her musician brothers to preserve their family history, which is also American history. “Ya’ll gotta keep the blues alive,” he told them.

Mercy and her cousin Robbie Morganfield are rightfully proud of their family legacy and the rich tradition of Mississippi Delta blues musicianship. Robbie’s father and other Morganfield brothers were musicians with a gift for making their music universal,  he said.

What originated in their tiny hometown of Rolling Fork, MS. — with the guitarists and harmonica players in their family and with B.B. King, who grew up in nearby Indianola, MS as the son of sharecroppers — should be preserved and celebrated.

Mercy Morganfield recently became executor of her father’s estate, which was previously managed by Waters’ longtime manager, Scott Cameron, who died in February.

She wants to work with PBS and HBO to dig more deeply into the history of the blues, “and how it impacted not just music but our identity and the way we see ourselves.”

The movie “Cadillac Records,” which told the story of Chicago record producer Leonard Chess, and prominently featured her father, Etta James and Chester Arthur Burnett (aka Howlin’ Wolf)  barely scratched the surface, she said, adding that she is glad the movie was made because it helped introduce the blues to some people.

“The blues are so much more than music,” she said. “It’s Americana, it’s history, it’s origin.”

Watch Muddy Waters and his band perform “Got my Mojo Workin’ “ back in 1966.

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A bittersweet graduation offers hope and healing

Originally posted on LOVE MY PEOPLE:

bfam

As we drove to Augusta for Bernard Charles McNair Jr.’s graduation Friday, everything was perfect. His mother was in good spirits, wearing her cardinal pin and the beautiful pearls her dear son gave her last Mother’s Day. The sun was shining and we prayed for God’s strength as we departed.

Joanne McNair still doesn’t know how he pulled off the best Mother’s Day ever. She just knows it was wonderful, like her son. Bernard Jr. must have known it would be their last Mother’s Day together. At 24, he nearly always had a big smile, personality for days and wisdom of the elders. On last Mother’s Day, he presented Joanne with a pearl necklace, a card and other gifts.

He orchestrated all of this from his hospital bed at Emory University, where he’d had dozens of surgeries and was preparing for a small bowl transplant at Georgetown University Hospital. Over…

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A bittersweet graduation offers hope and healing

bfam

As we drove to Augusta for Bernard Charles McNair Jr.’s graduation Friday, everything was perfect. His mother was in good spirits, wearing her cardinal pin and the beautiful pearls her dear son gave her last Mother’s Day. The sun was shining and we prayed for God’s strength as we departed.

Joanne McNair still doesn’t know how he pulled off the best Mother’s Day ever. She just knows it was wonderful, like her son. Bernard Jr. must have known it would be their last Mother’s Day together. At 24, he nearly always had a big smile, personality for days and wisdom of the elders. On last Mother’s Day, he presented Joanne with a pearl necklace, a card and other gifts.

He orchestrated all of this from his hospital bed at Emory University, where he’d had dozens of surgeries and was preparing for a small bowel transplant at Georgetown University Hospital. Over two years, Bernard Jr. had undergone multiple surgeries as he battled complications from Crohn’s Disease. The disease and its complications caused him to lose weight, have difficulty holding down food and suffer with frequent pain.

Last July, Bernard Jr. lost his battle with the disease and its complications, but he won the war. He touched more people in 24 years than many of us do in a lifetime. He was strong in his faith and his parents believe he got a glimpse of life on the other side and prayed for an end to his pain.

His parents believe God chose to answer Bernard Jr.’s prayers. They have accepted God’s will and maintained their faith, as has Bernard’s sister, Brianna.

The McNairs entered the James Brown Arena Friday filled with emotions and unsure what to expect. They were escorted to their seats by a representative of the political science department, where Bernard was a student, He made the most of his years at Augusta State University, now Georgia Regents University. He was a resident assistant, gave advice to his schoolmates and pledged Kappa Alpha Psi, the fraternity of his father and best friend, Bernard McNair Sr. One of his co-workers named her son after him, and a department award was named in his honor last month. Bernard Jr. planned to attend law school after graduation.

God had other plans. In reality, Bernard Charles McNair Jr.’s graduation was on July 8. That’s when his commencement — his new beginning in Heaven — began.

When his parents walked across the stage to receive his diploma, the crowd erupted in a standing ovation for their son. It was the perfect end to Bernard’s time in Augusta. Continue to rest in heaven my friend. We feel your presence daily and thank God for your life.

bernard joannebernard jr. and sr.brianna

Obama as lame duck president speaks truth about race in America

angelatuck:

My latest blog post on Obama and race

Originally posted on LOVE MY PEOPLE:

obama fam

Watching and listening President Obama now vs. when he first announced his run for the presidency, several things are apparent. He has a lot more gray hair, he has many enemies in Congress and he no longer dances around “the race talk.”

Seven years into his presidency, with little to lose, some of his idealism has faded. He wouldn’t be human if it didn’t. He seems weary from the constant battles in Congress, some of whom show him nothing but utter disdain.

Despite all that, he is taking a lead role on the issue of race, as he did with health care reform and other issues. The problem is, you can’t legislate decency.

As he did in Ferguson with the death of Michael Brown and in Sanford Florida when Trayvon Martin was killed, Obama has taken these acts personally. When Martin died, he said if he’d had a son, he…

View original 177 more words

Obama as lame duck president speaks truth about race in America

obama fam

Watching and listening to President Obama now vs. when he first announced his run for the presidency, several things are apparent. He has a lot more gray hair, he has many enemies in Congress and he no longer dances around “the race talk.”

Seven years into his presidency, with little to lose, some of his idealism has faded. He wouldn’t be human if politics hadn’t made him weary. The bruising battles with members of Congress, some of whom show him nothing but disdain, are never-ending.

Despite all that, he is taking a lead role on the issue of race, as he did with health care reform and other issues. The problem is, you can’t legislate decency.

As he did in Ferguson with the death of Michael Brown and in Florida when Trayvon Martin was killed, Obama has taken these acts personally. When Martin died, he said if he’d had a son, he would have looked liked Trayvon. He knows what it’s like to raise two beautiful daughters he and his wife are intent on protecting from hurt, harm and danger. He can relate to the parents’ pain because he is a husband and father. Say what you will about Obama, it is clear he cares deeply about his family and all American families.

To show how serious he is about young black men dying in incidents with police and authority figures, he brought in former Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate claims that Ferguson, Mo. officers were disproportionately ticketing and arresting black people. The results of that investigation showed a widespread pattern of abuse of residents in the suburban St. Louis town and emails from city officials that read like they had been written in the 1950s.

Yesterday, it was announced that the Justice Department will open an investigation into the practices of police officers in Baltimore. That is a good move. The officers charged are black and white, so it will be interesting to see what happens as their cases proceed.

We may have a black president, but I’m still not convinced we are living in post-racial America. If only that were true.

It’s winter in Baltimore: “Makes me wanna holler…”

Originally posted on LOVE MY PEOPLE:

I can’t wrap my head around what is happening in Baltimore.

On the day of Freddie Gray’s homegoing — and despite his family’s pleas for peace — some people turned a protest into burning and looting businesses. These people set fire to a structure that, when finished, would have provided affordable housing to 60 senior citizens.

Misguided people took what started as a protest about 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s death in police custody and turned it into an opportunity to destroy property, steal and attack the police.  Come on people, do you really think this will help anyone? Do you lack the discipline and self-control needed to refrain from making a bad situation worse?

If you think these acts will assist in unraveling the mystery of Freddie Gray’s death, you are delusional. Why not channel your anger and frustration into something positive, like rebuilding that senior center? There is no excuse…

View original 414 more words

It’s winter in Baltimore: “Makes me wanna holler…”

I can’t wrap my head around what is happening in Baltimore.

On the day of Freddie Gray’s homegoing — and despite his family’s pleas for peace — some people turned a protest into burning and looting businesses. These people set fire to a structure that, when finished, would have provided affordable housing to 60 senior citizens.

Misguided people took what started as a protest about 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s death in police custody and turned it into an opportunity to destroy property, steal and attack the police.  Come on people, do you really think this will help anyone? Do you lack the discipline and self-control needed to refrain from making a bad situation worse?

If you think these acts will assist in unraveling the mystery of Freddie Gray’s death, you are delusional. Why not channel your anger and frustration into something positive, like rebuilding that senior center? There is no excuse for this nonsense.  Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that riots are the language of the unheard. If that’s true, then the jobless, the under-educated and the hopeless need a new vocabulary. When Dr. King and his associates protested, they were respectful, strategic and most importantly non-violent.

Rioting, to my knowledge, has never worked.  The First Amendment, which guarantees free speech and the right to assemble, does not cover arson and looting. Those are crimes that will land you in jail. Further, these acts will only serve to distract from getting to the bottom of what happened to Freddie Gray on April 12.

Gray’s death needs to be investigated and the cause of his death should be resolved truthfully. Let’s pray that fact won’t get lost in the streets of Baltimore.

Thankfully, God always has a ram in the bush, as was the case in Ferguson, Mo. after the death of Michael Brown.  The Baltimore ministers, Nation of Islam members, Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers and others who are helping to restore calm are standing in a dangerous gap.  Some of these men and women live in the community and are aware of its problems and what it will take to fix them.

One such man is Pastor Donte’ Hickman of Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore. In an interview with CNN last night Pastor Hickman said the burning of the church’s senior center caused him to hit the reset button.  “We were seeking to restore people while we bought property,” he said of the building project.

“I see revival…..I see us now coming back bigger and better than before,” he said. “I am a man of faith. Every negative is just our opportunity to fight back with another positive.”

Finally, a voice of reason in a sea of despair.

And speaking of boldness, how about the mother who saw her teenage son on TV taking part in the riots? She went down to the scene, slapped him across his head and pulled him out of the crowd before the police had a chance to put her child in jail. I could see my mother doing that. In fact, one time she did something similar — but that’s another blog for a different day.

That’s what’s missing in Baltimore, in Ferguson, in New York and all cities where unrest has taken hold: adults who care enough to snatch some kids up and put them on the right path before the next riot begins.