Thursday, January 26, 2012

My 5-Year-Old Gets "The Message" in Hip Hop Music Class

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

"Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge / I'm trying not to lose my head," sang my kindergartner as she was preparing for bed tonight. I was in the other room. After I heard her sing it again, our conversation went like this:

"Baby, where did you hear that song?"

"In music class today. Have you heard it before?" she asked, and sang the part she knew.

"I'm trying not to lose my head ah ha ha ha," I chimed in. "It's like a jungle sometimes. It makes me wonder how to keep from going under huh huh huh huh huh...."

"Oh Mommy, Mommy, he didn't sing that part!" Her face lit up like it was Christmas.

"And we saw a picture of him!"

"Who, baby?"

"The boy who sings it."

"What did he look like?"

"He was sitting outside on a bench - resting."

"But what did he look like?"

"His hair was like mine."

 Check my baby's hair - mirror image of GMF's Melle Mel (far left in the top picture), who ripped it in the group's blazing 1982 single, "The Message." I was 11 years old when this dropped and since radio stations in Atlanta weren't playing hip hop at that time I probably heard it on a mixed tape - several years later.

"And we saw a man with a big Afro. And do you know who the first black person was to play baseball?"

Huh? I thought.

"I think Hank Aaron was the first to..."

"Yes! That's him. We saw a picture of him, too!"

"And all this was in music class?"

"Our music teacher was not there, so we had a substitute. And he played the accordion. And he made a drum sound with his hands!"

I'm totally confused now, but really engaged.

"How did he do that?"

She cups her hands around her mouth like a beat boxer and, of course, beat boxes.

The Fat Boys ran through my mind.

"He did this and then blew through his hands."

The Fat Boys are back / and you know they could never be wack....

It was a very enlightening conversation - especially because my daughter goes to a somewhat diverse school, which is more mainstream than anything else.

I feel some kind of way - not bad, not ecstatic. But definitely some kind of way.

I've been a lover of music (hip hop included) all my life, and have been an entertainment journalist for more than 15 years. Just today I was at a video shoot at a mega-producer's house interviewing a wildly successful 90s R&B group about their comeback. I get it.

But is "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five age appropriate for 5-year-olds? I've been trying to sing the song to myself, but I think I'm gonna have to YouTube the video to get all the lyrics.

Am I over thinking this? I can't front - I did smirk when I realized what she was singing. As the conversation went on I also sprang forward about a decade in my mind relishing when we'd be able to enjoy the exploration and discussion of all types of music. The way things are going, it'll probably be much sooner than that.

And just who was this substitute? Although he apparently only used two lines of the song, you know how kids are: They sniff out and latch on to the things that may not be appropriate for them. And it is an extremely catchy song anyway - for anyone from 5 to 75.

So it's late. I'm tired. I don't think any harm was done. Clever and intelligent hip hop is out there. And its not like she was listening to Lil' Wayne.

I'll probably just let it go - unless I bump into the actual music teacher in the hall one day soon, when a little clarification may be warranted.

Hope you're Enjoyceinglife....

Who knew this song was more than seven minutes long? That's a lot of pop locking....

Monday, January 16, 2012

Explaining Dr. King's Dream to My Kindergartener

I've been struggling a bit this week discussing the importance of Martin Luther King Jr. with my 5-year-old. She came home from kindergarten talking about how her class watched a film and read a book about him. After describing the picture she colored of Dr. King ("Mommy I made his eyes tan!), she told me that he was the president of the United States.

It wasn't until a few days later that I saw the posted picture of her Dr. King, which was directly opposite a posted picture of George Washington, which she'd also colored the same week. I'm sure the close proximity of the coloring of those images as well as the constant presence of President Barack Obama in her life led to the confusion.

That same week I read Patricia Pingry's "The Story of Rosa Parks" to her class as the mystery reader. I'd read the story to her numerous times at home. We've visited to the King Center and attended services at Ebenezer and we talk about Dr. King and his dream several times a year. But I've been wondering just how much she understands.

We've been watching the Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Service at Ebenezer Baptist Church today and I just asked her what she knows about Dr. King:

"He was the president."

"No, baby," I say. "He was a civil..."

"A civil rights leader, that's right," she interrupts. "He was a civil rights leader and he told everybody to get off the bus because Blacks had to ride in the back of the bus. Only Whites could ride in the front of the bus. He tried to help people and they tried to kill him. So he died." And she went right back to beating herself at Connect 4.

She was so matter-of-fact and her thoughts about his death struck me as a little nonchalant, if not gruesome. But I guess I feel okay about what she understands at this point in her life.  Moving forward I'm going to focus more on teaching her about Dr. King's dream and his messages. Those teachings that I received from my parents are what I remember most in terms of learning about Dr. King.

Of course at my age, I also remember the hard fought campaign to make Dr. King's birthday a national holiday. I'm appreciative of how my parents educated me about not just Dr. King but also the many unsung activists (some they knew), as well as their own challenges with civil rights.

In reflecting on my family's legacy of civil rights, I remember fondly my grandfather, Detroit Lee, who just didn't take no for an answer very often. A righteous rabble rouser, he spent years knocking down doors for all of us, suing for jobs they wouldn't let a black man have. He brought a lawsuit in the name of his children (Lee v. Macon County, 1963), which profoundly changed the state of education in Alabama. Below are the outcomes of my family's bravery, according to Fred Gray, the attorney who filed the suit.

"Lee v. Macon started as a simple desegregation case against the public schools in Macon County, Alabama. It has resulted in the following:

1. A statewide order requesting that all of the public elementary and secondary schools in the state of Alabama be desegregated.

2. The desegregation of all trade and junior colleges.

3. The desegregation of all institutions of higher learning.

4. The merger of the Alabama Athletic Association (Caucasian) and the Alabama Interscholastic Athletic Association (African-American).

5. The integration of faculty and staff members of the public schools of the State of Alabama."

Now that is change for you. Detroit Lee was a change agent. I can only hope to instill the vision and fortitude of my grandfather and Dr. King in my daughter.

I hope whatever you are doing on this day, you are appreciating the freedoms won by many who fought hard battles on your behalf. I'm doing my best to live in honor of those freedom fighters and keep their legacies alive.

Keep on Enjoyceinglife!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Word Love - Intrinsic or Organic?


I just had an interesting discussion in the office about the difference between the words "organic" and "intrinsic." Oddly enough in the last three days, I've heard the word "intrinsic" used in three different conversations when I was in totally different environments. And each time it was used, I always wondered why they didn't use "organic."

It actually bothered me enough to ask the question aloud in my office, which propelled my equally-interested co-workers to the dictionary and to their memories of college English classes. The conversation was stimulating even if I was not satisfied with the outcome.

Thoughts ranged from "organic" becoming played out (even the citing of a New York Times editorial about "organic" being misused) to "intrinsic" being more closely linked to "inherent."

So I haven't decided if I want to start using "intrinsic" more than the pop culture-oriented "organic" because it just sounds weird to me. But don't all words used less frequently initially feel that way?

I'll probably end up on Team Intrinsic because I have so few other outlets in my life now to indulge my natural rebellious nature. If you're striving to parent to the best of your ability, raising another person keeps you in touch with the characteristics in yourself that are the most beneficial for your offspring. That responsibility also makes you temper those personality traits - like rebellion - that might not always work in parenting situations.

Okay, so I'm getting too deep for myself. Back to work.

One more thing: I have to acknowledge that living as a life-long learner may be the best gift - outside of being a parent - that God and my parents ever gave me. Thanks y'all!

Keep on Enjoyceinglife!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hobby Jones....

When you're a writer, why is it SO hard to develop a hobby that has nothing to do with your paid occupation? I want to do something that doesn't involve media, reading, writing or the Internet. So I exercise (necessity) and I'm a parent (all consuming), but I can't let any of the writer stuff go when I do happen to find some fake-spare-time. Anyone got any suggestions?

Honestly, I'm a wanna be scrapbooker. I lurk around scrap-booking websites and even belong to a scrap-booking e-group (Scraps of Color). But I've never posted an example of any of my creations - because I don't have any that aren't on yellowed pages! I just lurk and yearn and lurk and yearn. I used to scrapbook my writing journals - years ago. Maybe I'll get back to it one day...sigh....

I've got a few important goals on tap for 2012, but I'm still finalizing my short list. Clearly I should focus some time on a non-media hobby. How do y'all do it? I'm wide open to all suggestions. Thanks and keep Enjoyceinglife!

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