Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Who is Lena Horne?:And other Sentimental Journeys'

Ella Fitsgerald

Ah finally a full night sleep! Just in time to meet with the film maker for my interview for the documentary. We will wander around "herstory", my stories allowing her for a moment to peer behind my eyes to see my world for her documentary.  We had a great time, not realizing 4hours whirled by stopping only when she ran out of memory.  Tomorrow she will be off to Austin to record other ways people tell stories.  Thus far she has interviewed ones who are politically savvy, punkers, professors and now me.  Her travels are far from over as she will circle the country learning more & more how people gather their words together.

My herstory is an interesting one as in most people there are holes something gaping, but mainly small, of my family's story. I will tell her in part as we walk down the road, turn on a boulevard, swing through an avenue or a dead in. I am one of the family's griots, as of now the eldest of the griots. But my story is not only about my family, but the art, about New Orleans, about me.

It is my song to sing & being recorded.  

I had to tell her of something that just happened yesterday when someone commented on "Who's Lena Horne?  I mean say what? Who is Ms. Lena?  Their question was in regard to Halle Berry's Oscar salute to Lena Horne.  I did not see the program;I looked it up online and for whatever reason everyone I saw on You Tube someone cut out the tribute outside of Halle's introduction.

Dress Rehearsal

By Jacquelyn Hughes Mooney©03

Ladies’ sounds in dress rehearsal…
Showering the room with spherical tunes.
A bounty coming forth from luscious lips.
Crooning pearl drops, shadow of times yore.
From the ladies’ sounds in dress rehearsal.

Shall the universe be in a repast?
Engorging on this poetic parade? A soul serenade?
Twinkling lights caught up in the moment
The soul timbre swept in from the waves on the oceanic side of the muse.
Bell tones…
Work those bones!
Midnight hands’ serving the backdrop and candlelight’s dressing the ambience.
A staging so grand that even the sun…
And the moons…
And the stars must stand in rapturous wonderment.
For the ladies’ sounds in dress rehearsal.

All rights reservedJHM©03

Her classic"Stormy Weather" featuring Katherine Dunham Dance Company 1943



That was something I was highly disappointed in not seeing...

1978  As Glinda in The Wiz (audio isn't the best):


For those who don't know what a griot is, in West Africa, a griot is a highly respected member of a community, the keeper of the stories of the ties that bind not only families but communities. This tradition is by tradition and oral history but as vital as as strong today as it always been. 

I didn't plan on being my family's griot; just turned out that way. I now know there are a few in the younger generations who have been searching our family's story and I am delighted to tell them what I know and watching there face light up when their holes are filled in. Often times they tell me they had wondered one too many time & could not get answers. 

I know... 

Sometimes it is difficult for elders who have not yet become ancestors to what revelation of their life's experiences, their passage of time as they may fear being judge too harshly or perhaps it is that people will KNOW. 

The bizarre thing is as the adage goes "The best kept secret is the one everybody knows". The griot's job is NOT passing judgement simply recording what is. If you will render judgement say of 1865 by 2011standards, you've done yourself and them a huge disservice. And by learning of the peripheral, intertwining history of the area, the community the world for that matter, you then get it the things that shape the world of that time. 

If you do your job well, you will see their story through a different scrim a different lens. 

The more I learn the more I care... It is simple for me now. 

Not everyone gets to be fortunate to have family that often lives to the early triple digits! And everybody has a story and why I appreciate this woman who not only wants to record iiammoon's story but many around the country. It makes it easier for the ones coming behind me to find information, they won't have to fill in as many gaps and the holes won't be larger. 

Truly although some dismiss it, one must see there past before going off to the future. What happened or not happened is not an indictment; it is not always an indicator of a unbreakable sentence on what YOU will come. 

One does have choices. 

I want to throw in here right now I am not a fan of the word "journey". It has been so over used today it has little value for me. Every thing we do is NOT, I repeat, a journey. It might be an act, a point in time, a milestone, it might even be an trip but as usual in modern culture we beat up a word, squeeze every bit of what it means out, suck dry the richness of a word until it isn't even a reasonable facsimile of its original form. 

This is by no way a condemnation of those who use it to describe their experience. It is all good, just my own bugaboo. 

OK as I go off with this woman today, I will carry with me my family story. I will carry in my right top pocket those who proceeded me as well as the ones who are still with me. Of telling some of their story with grace, dignity and their humanity. 

Make no mistake, telling one's story does not have to be a bad one. 

It is simply their story and I hope to do them justice and in doing that I will tell my own story. My children & to some degree my grandchildren are fortunate to have their mom as the family griot. 

One advantage is when they were all pregnant my daughters and my son was able to tell the gynecologist their family medical history for over 100 years. I've heard them comment more more then once their doctors were amazed they were able to do that, that it was uncommon even in their practice to have patients who barely new ONE generation back let alone several. 

It is particularly important for African Americans because far too often, we are lumped into the "one size fits most" medical/health/wellness approach. We are not even looked at in our individuality. Whether it makes folks uncomfortable or not, it is the truth and from a health/holistic standpoint we can be misdiagnose, medicated needless or medical people have an expectation not based on real facts for that family that could be detrimental. 

It could apply to anyone, but then well, this is my story. emoticon 

We just left Black History Month and entered Women's History Month & the stories of women of color are almost invisible and when it is sung , the orchestra is singing a sad song. That does not benefit any of us. I started 20 years ago learning of my family's stories in part of understanding in a larger context that women "herstory" is not always told. Well add into that gumbo women of color, we are almost non-existent! 

The more I've learn, the more I am fascinated. The more fascinated I become the more I am proud of not only being a woman, but an African American woman... 

No one will be able to tell my story as well as I can. No one will be able to discount me or my women that well come after me. They will not have authority to do such as our story is the one that we will sing. 

I hope the best to for you. 

Coming Back South 
By Jacquelyn HughesMooney©03 

I came back South, not to pick wildflowers… 
I came back not to see butterflies, clovers nor drink mint juleps. 
I did not come back South for overly romantic, haunting reminiscing… 
The mysteries that continue to tug at my heart. 
Or to untangle the 19,228 yesterdays that laid up in the marshy soils. 
And under the weeping willows or anchor itself in the marrow of faces… 
Of ones who were not mercifully taken away from here. 
I came back south to fathom the unbelievable… 
The seemingly unreachable… 
Persnickety tumbling on those back roads… 
A paradigm on surface appearance seems to have no rhyme or reason. 
I came back south to listen to wind sounds intertwined in trees at dusk. 
And high moons at noon in June that shouldn’t be there. 
Ancient winds of times blowing to unveil shield treasures… 
To unfold secrets too many folks try to cover up, cover over 
So for once we can all stop pretending 
And that is why I came south. 
All rights reserved JHM Colored People & da Motherland 3-24-03© 

Coming Back South (Epilogue) 

By Jacquelyn Hughes Mooney©03 

And now I know… 
Why things are as crazy as they are. 

Folks just be a’moaning, just a’groaning… 
Because they don’t know what they can’t see, 
It can’t be my reality. 

I ponder the paradox of a parasitic course. 
Crushed souls crushing others into pulverized matter. 
131,400 days of loathing. 
And the monstrosity that grew, bathing all it came into contact with (even today).
Drenching everything and everybody that dared to be born. 
Or challenge their right to live or perchance to dream. 

Now I know the what’s… 
And the why’d that you did to mothersfathersunclescousins and others. 
Operating this carousel of delusions, a mirage for all the mismashed… 
That was supposed to pass for living. 
This is your reality. 

Then the involuntary participants engaged themselves by becoming willing partners… 
In this madcap twist. 
Now I know what pounded all my days, all 18,245 (not counting leap years). 
Folks just be a’moaning, just a groaning, ‘cause they don’t know what they can’t see. 
It will not be my reality. 

But watch those that have an elaborate scheme just putting on a show! 
Pretending that everything is all right (when it ain’t). 
And you go grazing through numbed motions feeding on the craziness. 
If you must lie to the world, do not lie to yourself. 
Folks just a’moaning… 
Because they don’t know what they can’t see. 

There is a life larger then this. 
And you are larger then that! 
Life is so plump and rich that it dares to swell you beyond capacity. 
But will not delay or destroy all what you have to give. 
See the doves flying over the valley of 1,000 hills, no longer crying 
“I don’t know why, its too late, too late, too late”. 
It will continue to be crazy as long as you want. 
Folks be a’moaning, just a ‘groaning because they don’t know what they can’t see. 
It is not my reality. 
All rights reservedJHM6-16-03© 

And for those who do not know..This is Ms. Lena.1917-2010

Set to Billy Strayhorn "Star Crossed Loves"


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