Friday, July 11, 2008
At our Essence...We are ONE
I wanted to reflect a bit on my trip to Essence Festival last weekend. It was the first time I had returned to New Orleans since Katrina and my 4th or 5th Essence Festival. I thought I would feel weird..and maybe even a little sick being at the scene of the (national) crime, but instead it felt joyous and life fulfilling. It's always an interesting experience across the spectrum. I'm a bit old for the drinking and partying on Bourbon Street, and the corporate sponsorship is no doubt problematic. But on the positive side, it is a weekend of unity...of good music and good times with my people. It is also a time of firsts. Going to the Essence Festival is the only time I've ever been on a plane where every single passenger on the flight was Black. It is the first time I've seen thousands of people doing the electric slide in unison. It is the first time I went to a show that included both Maze and Common....or Grandmaster Flash and Patti Labelle...or Mary J. and Gil Scott Heron (this was my first time seeing him perform live although I talk about him all the time in my hip hop class). It is a time where all black people are represented from the street hustlers to the big ballers..the Nubian bohemian queens to the ghetto chic...community organizers tabling at the empowerment seminars to street hustlin' entrepreneurs selling CDs, t-shirts, and water...and everything in between. All regions and classes are represented. Obviously all Black people can't afford to go to Essence Festival...and many have no interest to, as we are no monolithic group, but folks from all cities are represented, and local folks also hold it down. And what it provides me with most is a spiritual rejuvenation. Yes, we talk about the issues that affect our communities during the day...and try to also talk about solutions...but then at night, we have a good time....together as one people. The music takes over. Music has always been a tie that binds...and is a connection that we can trace back to our roots despite the forced separation and seasoning process. We dance and call and response....and sing! And there is no better example (and no better time) than a Doug E. Fresh party! The club goes wild and sings along to everything the DJ drops...from classics like Aretha's Respect to Michael's Jackson's entire catalog... to old school hip hop joints like La Di Da Di, O.P.P., The Message, I Got Soul and countless others...and new school club joints like Wipe Me Down, Hi Hater!...and yes, even Crank That, Soulja Boy...lol...it's all good at a Doug E. Fresh party :-)
And when Maze closes the weekend out, there is no better feeling then being in the packed Superdome holding up our index fingers in unison and singing we are one...yea...I love being black.
Yes we have differences...and come in many packages...and have serious generational, political, ideological and class differences that sometimes divide us...but at Essence...and at our essence...WE ARE ONE!