I Am Black Gold


I Am my natural resource.

I AM renewed by my heritage.

I AM enriched by my self-cultivation and rooted in my ancestry.

I AM the richness of the world. I AM Black Gold.

Shawndel Fraser 2014

Esperanza Spalding, Radio Music Society

This song and video remind me of my childhood in Harlem and my adulthood in Brooklyn New York. My New York childhood was full of teachers who embraced and espied the fullness of our African heritage. My family reveled in our Caribbean ways, and my adulthood is chock full of friends and peers who expertly interweave identity rooted in a self-love so deliciously chocolate that neo-soul is but a watery description of the depth and richness of our “Negritude”. I have gloried in Harlem sunrises, Brooklyn BBQ’s, mid-day Guyana rains,  Ghanaian Sunsets,  family dinners in Mexico and basked in Costa Rican love songs. In each place I was made aware of just how golden my Blackness is by immersion, contrast or just plain awesomeness. I adore this song and video for reminding me of my path, my people and my home-place. Thank You Esperanza and Algebra!

Ashe.

As I awaken from my multi-year cocooning, I emerge to Esperanza’s ode to and celebration of cultural richness and historic significance.

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Musical Monday::One Chorus, One People


Bobby McFerrin may very well be on of America’s National Treasures. His approach to music shows his total immersion in the craft of music from the world of sounds, and he seems to have honed the ability to transform instruction into entertaining activity.

This video shows Bobby McFerrin leading the audience (at the World Science Festival ) in a song based on the pentatonic scale; he uses mime and vocalizations to teach the audience to sing the song. McFerrin begins by demonstrating the interval between the mid-tone and the next higher tone, as well as the tone below. After the minimal instruction, he pantomimes to lead the audience through the rest of the song. Amazingly, the audience sings as if they already knew the tune, or at least the pentatonic scale. At the end, Mr. McFerrin returns to his seat and discloses that everywhere he’s visited, all the countries with different languages, cultures and musical traditions, people everywhere are able to intuit, discern and vocalize the correct higher and lower notes for the pentatonic scale, beyond those he initially demonstrated.

This demonstration suggests that our brains are hardwired for harmonics. As an intuitive person with a holistic understanding of nature, this makes sense to me given that all life forms make music. All Life Makes Music; Sound and music is a condition of life. When we use our voices we add to the chorus of the world, whether we sing, speak, yell or cry, we add to the ambient soundscapes of birds, rushing water, rustling tree leaves, whooshing wind, car honks, dog barks and on and on.

think:: If you were an observer /listener who detached from the emotionality of the scene or activity of the actors, let’s say you recently landed from Neptune, would you be more likely to perceive “noise” or be able to discern human language versus birdsong, versus rainfall, thunder or the rev of a motor? Probably not. If you were new to the earthly soundscape, you would be more likely to orient yourself to the underlying rhythms which pattern the swells of noise, eventually noticing similarities or dissimilarities in tones before you could identify where the tones / sounds / pulses or rhythms emanate from. If our humanly sounds add to the chorus of life, even our technological wonders become a part of the greater soundscape, are we really so different from a woodpecker, dragonfly, rooster or any other animal? We are ONE.

Feel:: What emotions come up for you as you listen to the non-musical audience of strangers who engaged in a perfectly orchestrated impromptu song? Remember, these people don’t represent a cohesive group, they all flew / drove / swam / walked 🙂  to the World Science festival to attend that lecture; they were from as many walks of life, and represent as many different experiences as there were people, however harmonically they were all in tune. Complete strangers expertly sang a new song in unison. When I watched this video, I felt an overwhelming, beautiful sense of joy and expansive ONENESS. The people may not have known each other individually, but they essential humanness asserted and recognized itself to show that they, WE come from the same proverbial root.

The harmony created in a room of strangers poignantly illustrates an ultimate truth: there is no separation between you and me. If we can tap into the greater chorus at will, then maybe, just maybe we  are all creating a symphony composed of the sounds, words and expressions we make in our everyday life?

Grow!:: What sounds do you want to contribute to the chorus of life? Identify the most recent time you felt alone. Not lonely, but alone. Where life seemed as if it were coursing by without you, or when you had thoughts that your experience was so different from everyone else’s, that no one could understand. In this moment, after witnessing a supreme moment of oneness between strangers, realize that there is no possible way for you to actually be alone the world. Even in feelings of isolation, we can add melancholy tone to the symphony of life. We all know that some of the most compelling works of art incorporated the artists melancholy to great effect; I challenge you take the reins as the composer of your life and consciously decide what note you add to the chorus of life. The next time you feel alone, or misunderstood, to go out into the world and listen to the chorus just outside your door. Do you notice that there is something missing? It’s You! Your voice is crucial to the chorus of Life. Lift your voice and sing, add your unique melody to the chorus. When you add to the soundtrack of life, it is impossible to feel alone, because in that moment you connect and contribute to the chorus, you will remember that you are irrevocably plugged into or tapped into to the greater power that unites us all.

What is my sound?:: Well, I wish to add the beta-wave sound of optimism, honesty and human healing. I wish to create a sound-wave of my healing that emanates from my own healing process out to others in need of the same. My intent is that the healing beta-wave compels all who hear it to seek, find and ultimately embark on their deepest, most profound healing journey.

Shawndel

Inspiration Tuesday: Strength, Courage and Wisdom


My thinking, feeling, growing lovelies!

I recently became re-inspired to practice my guitar for two reasons; the first is for the simple enjoyment of the instrument, I love to feel the curves and weight of the guitar in my arms and on my lap, and the sounds of the plucked strings thrills me. The second reason is to get my chops back as I anticipate performing with vocalist Leisha Lashawn later this year. It has been a while since I’ve performed, I’ve started practicing the basics so that I may feel confident when I return to the stage.

As I searched my sheet music I rediscovered my book of India Arie’s “Acoustic Soul” guitar tablature. However, it was only when I watched Lainey Bernstein sing it at the Center for Spiritual Living Dallas, that I realized that I should share this song (and Leiney’s performance of it with you. ( Reverend Petra’s talk “What You Think of Me is None of My Business” follow’s Lainey’s performance).

I adore this song because it is a catchy, inspirational tune that tells us that self-trust is the only path to emotional, spiritual and psychological freedom. There is no person, pastor, prophet or professor who can give you courage or confidence. Science of mind, or spiritual psychology would tell is that any miracle that bolsters your faith was in fact, self-created. I love India Arie for her courage and innovation because she wrote a song of self-love and shared it far and wide with mainstream music fans.

As a blogger, I step out on faith every time I share my thoughts with a public that I do not see and cannot trace. I make myself knowable using a medium that does not necessarily foster reciprocation. Even still, I trust that I am honing my ability to share insights and inspiration via the web as effectively as I do in person. I also trust that blogging contributes to my future goals in some great way–beyond my enjoyment of the task itself.

THINK::When was the last time you stepped out on faith? What made it a test of your courage?  Remember tests are indicators of skill, so then tests of faith are measures of how well you trust yourself to manage that aspect of your life. If you doubt yourself, remember doubt is not based on fact, doubt is created by fear. Doubt is literally the spawn or offal of fear. Why give your power to psychological poop? Just flush it away.

FEEL:: What emotions and physical sensations did you feel during and after the “test”? What do you feel right now as you read about and think about fear as something that you can work by simply choosing to trust yourself? What would your life feel like if you had profound trust in your ability to care for yourself, to choose good people,places, and foods for yourself? If you can feel it, you can live it!

GROW:: What would it take for you to trust yourself? If you feel that some parts of your life actively prevent you from feeling courageous about your ability to be healthy, stable, happy or calm, then what changes can you make? The only change you need in life is you: shift your thoughts and choices, your behaviors and relationship to your environment, community and confidantes.

Heritage Music Day:: kRI and hettie Bring the Love!


Listen to kRI & hettie, the message is clear in the lyrics. Watch the as they lovingly sing their songs of inspiration. I love to watch this performance on “The Inner View”, a transformative, inspiring, and provocative radio show created by the brilliant minds of the Center for Spiritual Living Dallas.

THINK about their words::Have you forgiven yourself or others today? If not, now is the time. Let the old pains, go! Whoever wronged you  has already moved on. To dwell in the pain means that you are actually the one who is hurting you. Trippy, isn’t it? 

FEEL your way to balance::Your breath is the way to become grounded in your body, to feel your emotions simply as sensations that pass through you. No emotion is forever, they are simply energy your body makes for you to navigate your world. How do you feel when you think about the life you’ve created for yourself? Your words, your actions, your integrity? Whether happy, sad, or indifferent, just breathe. It’s all temporary anyway.

GROW with the thought that you everyday holds your opportunity “to be”, and to do different::If your heart’s desire is still unfulfilled, then choose to make it real, make it your priority. You can allow yourself to enjoy thinking about, working toward, planning for, or expressing your truth.

Allow patience to grow within you. Take life one moment at a time, so that you can mindfully lay your path toward your self-created bliss. Take it one breath at a time, and you can BE bliss. I suspect that if we all followed our bliss then there would never be a need to forgive ourself or others, because happiness and fulfillment would reign. Of course, we’d all have to learn to not take things personally; that however is fodder for a future post on don Miguel Ruiz‘s book of wisdom “The Four Agreements“. For now, just follow your breath to your bliss. How to find the thing that is blissful? If it feels good in your spirit, it IS good for YOU!

EXCERPTED LYRICS::

Everyday is an Opportunity

To forgive myself

Everyday is an opportunity

To re-elect myself

To fall in love with myself

Everyday, Everyday, Everyday

Every thought that I have

Every word that I speak

Every secret I tell

Every promise I keep

Is a reflection of me

I breathe In, I breathe it out

I breathe it in, I breathe it out

Everyday, I am creating this.

Heritage Music Day: Evolution of Gospel


This is an oldie but goodie; this song “Optimistic” by Sounds of Blackness is from the “Evolution of Gospel” album, and it holds amazing memories for me. I was a camp counselor at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, the oldest (and most radical) Episcopal church in Harlem, New York City, and the self chosen spiritual home off my youth. It was there, on 126th Street and Old Broadway / St, Mary’s place that I took my first communion, I first interacted with live chickens and turkeys, served on the altar, and sang in the junior choir. I learned that it is good to be a P.I.T.A. (pain in the ass) to oppressive authority (thanks to then head priest Rev. Robert Castle, (Jonathan Demme’s cousin), and I learned to open my heart, mind and social space to people who live without homes, and with HIV/AIDS. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church taught me deep compassion for people, and each week I witnessed unconditional acceptance as people of many persuasions served on the altar, sometimes to the displeasure of the Cardinal. St. Mary’s Episcopal ushered me into a noble adulthood that I cherish to this day.

In 1993, I served as a summer camp counselor, and we created a closing ceremony for our campers that required all camp staff and students to take part. We all marched and danced to this song together, and it caused us to share and develop a deep appreciation for that moment in time with every replay of the song during our many weeks of rehearsal. The adult camp counselor with the greatest seniority, Tim Collins passed not too long after our summer camp, but I remember his humor, his candor, his loving family and well….his candor 🙂 He was the glitter on many of my summer moments. Although he left us, he also left an indelible mark that I remember every time I play this song.

I share this song with you almost 20 years later because it still moves me. I still sensorially reconnect with St. Mary’s altar, where I served as altar girl, choir member and camp counselor. Everyone has challenging and heavy days that seem endless and consuming, but the Sounds of Blackness tell us “You can win! As long as you keep your head to the sky!” I remember Tim chose this song. Although it seems difficult today, remember that tomorrow is a new day, and it holds infinite possibilities for happiness. “Keep, keep on…”

Sounds of Blackness was ahead of their time, with the video, the mixture of choreography traditions and their sound. They paved the way for many other interpretations of gospel music. I am lucky to have had them as a soundtrack to my early youth, I thank Tim for the timeless advice he offered us all through this song, and I am so grateful to St. Mary’s Church for being such a safe space in my early years. Even now when I read the blog or occasionally call the new head Priest Father Kooperkamp,all I feel, hear and think of is “home”. St. Marys was an incredible place to grow up back in the day! This song holds all this profundity for me, accessible via a simple mouse-click in iTunes. I hope you enjoy it, even half as much as I do.

Shawndel

Heritage Dance Day: I Heart ZUMBA!


Yes, I know that the word “love” is over-used and often mis-attributed, however in this case, it is true. I LOVE Zumba. Why? Because it offers me the present day soundtrack of my life and culture in a package that precludes the old need to go to the club to “get my groove on”. The music is current with reggaeton, calypso, bachata, salsa, merengue, cumbia and more! A zumba class allows me to dance and have fun with people who have a similar interest in dance and fitness, but instead of the club, we go to the gym. Nothing says clean, mature, generative fun like dance as exercise, then a detoxifying tour through the jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. No need to suffer the club where the focus is alcohol and other type of social interactions.

Zumba clothes are “tropi-colorful” (have you ever seen a pink home with a blue fence, green plants and colorful flowers in the Caribbean…you can’t help but feel happy!). It is heartening to learn from so many instructors who are people of color, and many participants already love to dance or learn to dance because of Zumba. Culturally, I think Zumba is doing amazing work: it gets people to loosen up, to move their body, to have fun, to appreciate Latin and Caribbean music, and it teaches the formerly “rhythmless” that dancing is for everybody!

I find all this to be soooo very appealing. It makes sense, my parents hail from Guyana, South America which means I inherited a soca, calypso and reggae musical heritage. I grew up in Spanish Harlem with Dominican and Boricua / Puerto Rican neighbors and friends, so Bachata and Salsa is part of my New York cultural landscape right through to adulthood. I’ve even studied Portuguese and Spanish, taken Capoeira from a master teacher, and rocked out in Salsa, Samba, (waltz, swing, Foxtrot etc) ballroom dance lessons. And hey, I grew up in the inner-city, Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn, so urban chic is alright with me!

Zumba for that A**!!!

I’ve lived in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, and Colima, Mexico where I was introduced to Cumbia and Mexican “polka”, and I have always been an avid and talented dancer by training and by culture, though I always disliked the club scene but wanted to DANCE! Lastly, I am a teacher, and by necessity have lived my life as an ambassador, always representing “the other” everywhere I go, because, well, I am usually the only one like me wherever I go. Zumba IS an ambassadorial project and it really  resonates with my experience. I think it is amazing how many people have lost weight and learned how to dance with Zumba, including a friend of mine who shed 100 pounds this past year Zumba-ing her way to svelte-ness (Congratulations KW, you inspire me!)

So, I include Zumba in Heritage Dance Day because I claim it as my own. I spent $90 on the Zumba set and I am going to Zumba my hind-parts until the DVDs wear out. I love it, i enjoy it, and I wanted to share a fun Zumba video with you that captures the excitement and enjoyment of just dancing to music close to my heart!

Lastly, the video is to inspire you to move. Try the moves, that’s the whole point. This video can bring you 4 minutes and 4 seconds closer to the body you desire and the fun you crave! And if you make it all the way through, I won’t tell anyone if you go have a Caipirinha despues que bailas conmiga!

ZUMBA. Brazil. Caipirinha. Baila!!!

Heritage Dance Day: Guinean Music pt. 2


This song and video is called “Anagnan, and the artist is Dousouba Diabate. It makes me miss Guinea although I’ve never been there. Seriously. Once upon a time I would sit and dream with my stepfather about visiting his homeland. I imagined the sights, the sounds, the smell, the feel of the warm ground under my feet, the tickle of the breeze near the sea-shore, and the wax-cloth dress next to my skin. When I hear Dousouba’s voice it calls forth a yearning that makes me want to call my stepfather…let’s just say that after more than a year of silence between us, well to inspire that within me is the mark of a GOOD SONG!

I also love that the rhythm and guitar remind me of calypso so it feels really familiar on a cellular level. The dancers dresses are beautiful, color, tailoring, the sheen that marks a good wax-cloth. they are all clearly having fun. The male dancers are the color of life itself, all of them are muscular, gorgeous, and have amazing skin. The women are so confident and beautiful, confident in their dancing, and not concerned with how they “look”. I LOVE THIS VIDEO and SONG. Can you tell? They are beautiful black people, and they are showing us how to dance and have fun outdoors!!!!! No studio set here, enjoy life OUTSIDE of four walls.

This song inspires me to dance, and dance I shall. Won’t you join me?