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Farewell, But Not Goodbye, To My Good Friend, John (JD) Dolan

9 Mar

My dear old friend, John Dolan passed away unexpectedly this week. He was 58, and had a quick onset of complications from Parkinson’s disease that overwhelmed his body, and now he is gone.

I had not seen John for a long time, because he moved to Costa Rico fifteen years ago. He started out going there even longer ago, for a few weeks, and then a few months at a time, to surf, and because he had psoriasis, and he said the sun was good for his skin. He kept going back for longer and longer, going back to his hometown of Darien, Connecticut, in between visits. Eventually John just stayed and made Costa Rica his permanent home. Not too many people do that–uproot and move to another country to live. But John was anything but regular.  He dared to […]

Hold On: Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake Likes Alabama Shakes

24 Sep

Hold on a minute.  Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake.  Alabama Shakes.  Get it?  We both have shake in our name:), and this band, from Athens, Alabama has a whole lot of soul.  I like lead singer Brittany Howard’s description of what makes a soul singer,  in this article from USA Today:

Soul power: Brittany Howard thinks of herself as a soul singer the same way she thinks of the late AC/DC frontman Bon Scott as a soul singer. “Dude had something to say and he had a way of saying it, getting his point across, making people go through what he was going through,” says the 23-year-old singer and guitarist for Alabama Shakes. “That’s soul singing. It doesn’t have to be ’60s R&B to be soul music.”


Brittany’s voice reminds me of Janis Joplin, and while I usually listen to more traditional R & B, her soulful crooning, and the band’s pared down instrumental rock shakes me to the core with it’s truthfulness.  Is that a word?  Well, it’s the feeling that counts, and Brittany and Alabama Shakes, has that ten times over.

Take a listen…



USA Today, Meet The Alabama Shakes by Brian Mansfield, April 27, 2012


Re-Post from Brave New Voices Video, “We Don’t Mean To Offend You By Calling You Racist”

7 Sep

I came across this post on author and anti-racism educator, Tim Wise’s, blog.

Of course, I think the young women poets here are amazing, and I love what they have to say, but as a white person, I end up feeling guilty, and wonder, “are they talking to me?”–especially if I start to think, “but I’m a cool, understanding, empathetic, didn’t grow up in the suburbs, down with black people, white person…”–does that make me even more pointedly who they are talking about?

Please watch, and post your comments below:

Brave New Voices: (Video) “We Don’t Mean to Offend You By Calling You Racist”

Oh my…these women are amazing, and this message much in need of being heard. Below the video, check out the link for Brave New Voices, and YouthSpeaks…



Girls Rock! Rhode Island Rocks Diversity

16 Jul

This weekend I went to the Girls Rock! Rhode Island summer camp showcase at Fete Lounge in Providence, RI, and let me tell you, these 40 young girls between the ages of 11 and 18 rocked the house!



 The mission of Girls Rock! RI, according to their website, is to help girls and women empower themselves through the development of musical skills in order to foster self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-efficacy. Through this work they hope to build an environment conducive to the active participation and respect of women as creative producers of our culture. Girls Rock! RI envisions a future where women and girls are prolific, independent creators of all aspects of modern culture.


At this year’s GRRI Girls Rock Camp, the girls formed eight bands, and in just one week’s time, named their band, chose what instrument they’d learn to play, or became vocalists, wrote a song, practiced, came up with a band logo, and hand silk-screened their own t-shirts,which they wore to the weekend Showcase performance for a crowd of well over 100 family members and friends.

The energy of the girls right from the start,as each band came out, was electric. And, right from the start, I was of course impressed with the diversity of the girls. I have to admit I subconsciously expected this would be a bunch of white girls, remembering when I was in high school, a million years ago, that most white girls I knew—aside from me, who was into singers and groups like, Parliament, Stevie Wonder and the Commodores—were into rock and roll. But, I have to say Girls Rock! RI, rocked with diversity.

Black girls strummed guitars and showed off their skills on the drums. White girls funked out on bass guitar, and Latina girls rocked the mic as vocalists. It was great to think about how the girls had to work together to form their band identity, write lyrics to a song that had some common ground for all of them, and to get along well enough to practice their songs together for the end of week performance.

What also struck me, and the many people in the audience—I know, because I’m a good eavesdropper, and heard others talking about it, was the honesty and depth of the lyrics; and the theme of self-empowerment woven through each song. The girls sang about, and I’ll be paraphrasing lyrics here, being awkward; ‘besties’ that turned out to be back stabbers; living up, or not living up to the standards of “plastic Barbies;” punching someone in the face if he doesn’t listen when you tell him not to touch you; saying, I don’t need a man, it’s your fault you left too early; and, finding your own voice. In Girls’ Rock style, they shouted their powerful girl voices out loud for all to hear.

The song lyrics all sounded like good mantras for me, this much older woman to remember, and I thank these young girls for reminding me just how powerful we can be, if we tell ourselves so. I am certain that the leaders and volunteers of Girls Rock provided strong mentoring this past week to allow all of the girls to feel safe to find and reveal their unique voices. The emcee of the showcase, a volunteer at GRRI, was one example, and shone in her role as spunky, girl rocker, cheerleader, and mentor all in one, as she called out each band and declared each one, “Awesome!” And they were, and, it was clear how much the girl campers adored her, and the other volunteers and mentors.

I believe the camp also inspired the girls to show their confidence through their sense of style. Between black girls sporting feather earrings and faux-hawks, to a white girl of the band the Spunk Bat Girls, sporting bat glasses and bat wings, these girls showed us what it meant to come together and rock out loud.

Thanks girls, and thanks Girls Rock RI for the awesome job you are doing with showing our young girls how to feel empowered through music. To learn more about Girls Rock RI, and to support the organization, you can visit




Wendy Jane Recommends “Yes, We’re Together” blog by Atinuke Diver

1 Jun

Today I want to feature one of the blogs I link to on my home page, “Yes, We’re Together” by author, Atinuke Diver.

I first heard about Atinuke, or Tinu, when she was noted on writing center, Grub Street’s weekly newsletter.  Tinu had won a 2011 Black Weblog Award, an Internet Award Ceremony that recognizes black bloggers from over 90 countries.

YesWe’ is Tinu’s blog that, in her words, challenges the assumptions and assume the challenges of interracial love with humor and grace, and where all racial/ethnic combinations are fair game.

Since I noticed that Tinu lived nearby in Boston, and had started a blog that dealt with matters of race, I decided to reach out to her for advice on starting my blog.  I was having “cold feet,” and needed a push, and Tinu was very generous in giving me feedback on my About page, as well as shared her experience of what’s it been like blogging for her.  She helped send me on my way.

Here is Tinu’s bio from her About page:

The oldest daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Tinu was born in Mattapan, Massachusetts, raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland and lives with her White/Somewhat Irish lawyer husband in Boston, Massachusetts.  She earned an English degree, Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership, and Law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She is a proud graduate of UNC’s Creative Writing Program, an honored recipient of the Wanda Chappell Scholarship, and former Editor of Virtuous Woman Campus Magazine.  Her writing has been featured in BlogHerThe Review Review, The African Immigrant Journal, Racialicious, Love Isn’t Enough, The Fresh and has been an Editor’s Pick on
I truly enjoy Tinu’s style of writing, and sense of humor when it comes to writing about her experiences of being in an interracial marriage.  Here’s a post of hers that I really got a kick out of–a piece about her worrying whether her white husband would be up for all the dancing involved for their wedding day.

Wendy Jane’s Facebook Poems Cross Colorlines Daily

30 May

By now, most of you know about my Facebook poems, the daily poems I create from my friends’ status updates.  Well, it’s crossed my mind, more than once, that these poems are a melding of many voices:  black, white, Latino, Cape Verdean, Asian, and more.  How often do we get to hear voices come together in one piece of work, other than in song?

Here are three recent poems that bring a diversity of voices together […]

Buyer Beware: Reading Baratunde Thurston’s Book How To Be Black Will Not Magically Turn You Black

26 Mar

I just finished reading Baratunde Thurston’s new book, How To Be Black.  Baratunde is a comedian,  director of digital for The Onion, and as he says, has over thirty years of experience being black.

The book takes a humorous, satirical approach to the topic of race, and the many roles that black people take on, and how best to perform those roles.  For example, you’ll find chapters on:  How To Be The Black Friend, How To Speak For All Black People, and How To Be The Black Employee.


Baratunde also comprised a panel of seven writers, comedians, and artists, called, The Black Panel,in an effort to hear from other voices on the subject of race, and being black  in this supposed  post-racial era.  (While six of the panelists are black, one of the panelists is actually a white Canadian guy, and the author of the book, Stuff White People Like)

Interwoven with the How-To Chapters is Baratunde’s personal story of growing up in Washington D.C. with an inspiring, single Pan-African mother who  he describes as a tofu-eating hippie who introduced him to pro-black activism, camping, and swimming–things he hadn’t thought of as not being typical of what black people supposedly did.

Growing up in a neighborhood becoming increasingly unsafe due to the growing drug scene in the 80’s, Baratunde’s mother kept him busy with activities, and ended up sending him to  the exclusive Sidwell Friends prep school.  From there, Baratunde went on to Harvard University.  It seems the grounding in African and pro-black culture, juxtaposed with being a minority in the mostly white prep school, helped Baratunde to shape his own strong personal identity as someone both comfortable with his blackness, as well as with the nuances it takes to be black in a privileged white majority.

The use of humor to broach the subject of what it means to live as a black person in today’s world works well, allowing me to laugh and not feel too guilty for recognizing all the faux pas I’ve made as a white person–you know, like looking for my black friend to be the spokesperson for all black people, or asking a black friend if making a certain comment is racist.  While I laughed through much of the book, if one truly considers the revelations we are allowed to see through Baratunde’s storytelling, it’s clear that there are important messages to be heard.

Spoiler Alert:  I have to say the only disappointment in the book, and I really can’t be too upset, because he tells us right on the first page, is that you will not be able to change your race and turn black simply by reading the book.  Oh, well, at least I can feel cool that I have an inside look on what it takes to be black, and still retain all the perks of white privilege.

Thanks, Baratunde, for this wonderful, funny, personal and brave book.






Another Tune: The Robert Glasper Experiment

26 Feb

Okay, I ‘ll admit it.  I just found out about this guy by reading an article on-line on NPR today.

Robert Glasper is a traditional jazz pianist from Houston who has teamed up with a variety of r & b, hip-hop, jazz and rock musicians to create The Robert Glasper Experiment.  His new album, Black Radio, that includes collaborations with Erykah Badu, Ledisi, Lupe Fiasco, and Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) is coming out on February 28th.

Here is a cut from the album, Afro Blue, which features Erykah Badu.

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