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!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Tina,

Comments from Sunita: It is a good time when people can come together and have positive memories that will last a lifetime. It sounds like there was much fun to be had and it is good to know that there are still people in American that have not given up on those that are still in New Orleans and it was even better to show that type of support with an extravagant event that can pull in local money as well as a spiritual awakening that does occur when people with a unified cause join together to go forward as one.

Tina said...

Hey Sunita! Great to hear from you & many thanks for leaving a comment :-) It was a good time and quite spiritual. And of course I ate...a lot!

Anonymous said...

Greetings T-, Good looking out. I have never been to an Essence Festival, but your description made me long for the type of contradictions/unity that you talked about. I think your analysis about Obama and youth mobilization is on point. I think the fear factor is undermined a little to much though it is the greatest task master in our history. I am hopeful that people, and our people in particular, don't get sucked into the so-called "Christian Vote"--as if there ever could be such a thing. Studies show that African Americans are being targeted more than ever by the evangelical right on the grounds of moral conservatism. The problem her of course is that while Black people may be religious and morally conservative, they have historically been fiscally liberal. This will be critical in the next four months--and you are right--only the youth vote can counter this. Love your writing. Talk to you soon. Peace....

Ayo

Tina said...

Thanks Ayo for taking the time to read my blog and post up a comment :-) you also make a good point cuz i was just listening to the news this morning and sure enough one of MLK Jr.'s daughters said that although she would love to vote for the first black president she can't vote for Obama because he is not pro-life. The news went on to say that there is a small but activist segment of the black community that agrees with her sentiments...yep, you def. are right on point. and yes...Obama can ONLY win with the youth. period. later A...see you soon :-)

youhave2live said...

I think this sounds like a really awesome experience. What is so appealing to me is the sense of unity that you describe. It must be one of the best experiences in life to be with a group of people in unity to celebrate you who are. I contemplated this for a while, and I tried to think of a time/experience/moment when I felt really connected to a group of some sort. I couldn't really think of one. So, I decided to ask my dad when he had felt the most united with a group of some sort. He said, "I think maybe when I was working at Basic Four. That was kind of fun." I thought that was kind of sad. He wasn't very excited about it and it didn't seem to mean all that much to him. It was just a pleasant experience - but not all that meaningful. Furthermore, the time he mentioned was approximately 30 years ago - back when he was in grad school. I expect that I might get a similar response from a lot of people - times when they had a pleasant experience with a group - but not really times that were deeply meaningful. I'm not really sure what can be done about that. Of course, it's probably not enough to simply WANT an experience like that. One has to seek it out - like you did. The Essence Festival didn't show up at your doorstep. You sought it out. So, now I am curious. I am wondering if people don't seek out experiences like that - if they don't know where to find them - if they don't care to find them - or something else. At any rate, I'm really happy for you that you had an experience like this! :) And I thank you for sharing it with us. You have inspired me.

Tina said...

Greetings! first let me say I really like your screen name youhave2live. on point. i just wanted to quickly reply to thank you for taking the time to read my blog and post your thoughtful comments. The Essence experience is amazing and it is hard to find that type of connection these days. It really is spiritual. i do think on some level you have to seek those type of events out, but one example i thought of that more people might relate to is sports. I think that's why so many people love going to games because a bond (team spirit) is formed among strangers. i remember walking thru an airport and had on a team shirt and a man cheered me and the team and started a conversation about it. we ended up being on the same flight too so he then told his wife how he saw me earlier and spoke to me about my shirt. lol. I think most people want more meaningful connections with people...When we do find connections, I think most of us embrace them...or try to...if fear doesn't get in the way.