Tag Archives: wendy jane’s soul shake

Accountability is Good. Sustained Justice Is The Goal.

28 Nov

Wanda Cooper Jones

Wanda Cooper-Jones

I was at a checkout counter at the mall last week when I looked down at my phone to see the breaking news that Rittenhouse had been acquitted. I moaned, “Oh no!” aloud, and the young cashier gave me a look of compassion, perhaps thinking I just received word of a mishap with a family member.

“That kid that killed people in Wisconsin got off…” I said.

The cashier returned an “ohhh…” tinged with glum, as she wrapped my candles, a Chanukah gift, for my older daughter. I texted both of my daughters right afterward with the news. Leni, 21, texted back, “that’s disgusting.”

As I said in my previous post on the Wisconsin trial, my daughters and I weren’t surprised by the verdict. Still, I knew I needed to hold on to hope this week that the murderers of Ahmaud Arbery would be convicted. And while I had been obsessively checking my phone once the Rittenhouse jury went into deliberations, I wasn’t doing that as often with the McMichaels and Bryan trial decision. This time I got the news through a friend’s Instagram message while at the grocery store. The message said, “at least they convicted those rednecks today.”

Amen, I said to myself, as I placed my groceries on the conveyer. I texted my daughters the article sharing the guilty verdicts, and Leni’s reply this time: “as they should.”

I know this verdict is so important, and it is, finally, like my daughter said, as it should be. We know this nation’s scales of justice have tipped far, far too many times to the wrong side. Countless numbers of Black men, women and children, have been blamed and convicted for crimes they did not commit. We know the horrors of our history where white people played judge, jury and executioner, and that all it took was for a white woman to say a Black man, or boy, looked at her a certain way for him to be strung up on a tree the next day. And that white people by the thousands would come out to watch, even dress for the occasion, take photos, make postcards, take their own children to witness these lynchings, just as easily as they were going for a picnic in the park.

It is important that the nearly all white jury convicted the defendants in this Southern state trial, this 21st century lynching of Ahmaud Arbery. These three men hunted Ahmaud down, thinking simply because he was a Black man running down the street in “their neighborhood,” he must be up to no good, that he must be the person breaking into homes in the area. They acted on what they felt entitled to do–to make a citizen’s arrest, to stand their ground.

I think of author, therapist and somatic abolitionist, Resmaa Menakem’s anti-racism work that says we carry racial trauma in our bodies. In no way giving them any inkling of a pass, was it in the DNA of those three men to act out the Negro Act of 1740? The act, was essentially a slave catcher’s law, “passed by South Carolina’s colonial government, after the Stono Rebellion, an uprising of enslaved people in the state. This act barred freedom of assembly of African Americans. And more egregious, this act gave white men the power and authority to arrest, detain, hunt or kill Black folks whom they felt were a threat or danger.” (Charleston City Paper, Nov. 2021. see below)

But the thing is, this is not the McMichaels’ or Bryan’s land. Brunswick, Georgia, where Ahmaud was murdered, belongs to the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. Ahmaud descended from the Gullah Geechee nation of enslaved people who were brought to North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to work the rice, cotton, and indigo plantations there. Because they lived on coastal plantations isolated from the more populous mainland, the Gullah Geechee people retained a good deal of their cultural traditions, and created a Creole language of their own, Gullah, not spoken anywhere else in the world. (Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. nps.gov. see below) Development and tourism has the dwindling number of descendants continuing to fight for their land, and the survival, and passing down of their culture. When Ahmaud was murdered, the Gullah Geechee nation lost one more member of their family.

Aside from being a beloved son, I learned, Ahmaud Arbery was a good friend to many, with a great sense of humor. Ahmaud was also an accomplished athlete, who after his high school football career finished, continued to inspire his coach and teammates for pushing himself, and his friends, to strive for more. In The Bitter Southerner article, written by Jim Barger, Jr. (see below), the author tells how neighbors used to love to watch Ahmaud pass by on his regular jogs, saying he always had a wave and a smile, and would often stop for a game of basketball if he saw neighborhood kids out playing. A close friend of Ahmaud’s, Akeem Baker shares how Ahmaud “had a pure heart and soul,” how “he held no hate in his heart,” and how, “his happiness came from others being happy.” Ahmaud’s former coach, Jason Vaughn, spoke of his endurance, and how running was a meditation for Ahmaud. For Coach Vaughn, the “I run with Maud” tagline that he coined, and which became a popular show of solidarity on social media, helps keep him going.

“I started saying ‘I run with Maud’ because I know I don’t have the endurance to run this race by myself. People thought I was saying I was running for Ahmaud, but that’s not it. Ahmaud was running with me. I say, ‘I run with Maud,’ because I’m tapping into his spirit and his endurance to help me outrun this anger, this injustice, and to finish this race; because we have a long way to go before our children are safe. They have murdered our kids before. Now, they have murdered Ahmaud.” He pauses, searching for the breath that escapes him. “And you know as well as I do that they will murder again.”

Yet, I don’t share the remembrances of Ahmaud from The Bitter Southerner article for us white folks to say, “it’s sad, he was a good, young Black man.” As if to say, there are only certain Black people’s lives that deserve us to fight for them. We must know how, as James Baldwin tells us in his writings, white people are unwilling to look in the mirror and acknowledge what we did, and do, in this country. Baldwin also says, rarely are white people able to see the humanity in Black people. And how fragile that view is. Sadly, Ahmaud’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said she had to endure having her son’s humanity taken away from him by the lawyers representing her son’s murderers. Post verdict, she is thankful for what she says is “justice for Ahmaud.” In subsequent interviews, Cooper-Jones noted how after Ahmaud’s murder, Georgia did repeal its citizen’s arrest law, and instituted a hate crime law, and she is glad that her son’s name now will be remembered for that change.

Wanda Cooper-Jones called the trial outcome a victory. It is one, and we have to keep working to sustain real justice, and make sure the tide which turned back with the Rittenhouse verdict turns once again, back in the right direction going forward. It will take all of us to do this. Holding Ahmaud Arbery in our memory, I am asking fellow white folks to not rest on our relief at the outcome of this one trial. Like Coach Vaughn, we must endure. We must know we cannot do the work alone. We must raise our children to see the humanity each one of us possesses, even when, or especially when, our neighbor does not look like we do. We must make this run, for the lives of all of our children, our meditation.


Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Site


Arbery killers found guilty, Charleston-area justice leaders react, Charleston City Paper, by Herb Frazier, November 24, 2021, quote by historian and activist, Michael Allen


Ahmaud Arbery Holds Us Accountable, The Bitter Southerner, by Jim Barger, Jr. May 14, 2020


Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Don’t Touch My Hair by Solange

9 Oct

solange-knowlesHonoring Black women who speak their truth to power.  Here is Solange’s, no longer needing to be known as Beyonce’s little sister, Don’t Touch My Hair.

Also having checked out Cranes In The Sky, I look forward to listening to more of her album, A Seat At The Table.

Take a listen, and soak in the visuals, of this important piece of work.



I also wanted to share Just Latasha’s review of A Seat Of The Table, where she breaks down Solange’s work song by song of what this creative output means to her as a Black women.




SOURCES:  www.youtube.com, Solange, Don’t Touch My Hair, posted by Solangeknowlesmusic

www.youtube.com, JustLatasha


Latasha, is a NYC based artist with a background in Communications whose passion for Black art & activism led her to create JustLatasha, a site where you can find her comedic vlogs about social issues which reaches over 8,000 subscribers twice a week. She is also the creator and lead actress of the comedy web series, Sit Black & Relax, which debuted March 14th, 2016.





Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: David Bowie – Changes (and the changes he tried to get MTV to make)

17 Jan

David Bowie

David Bowie

The world lost one of its artistic stars this past week, David Bowie.

I wasn’t honed in on David Bowie when I was a teen because I was so into listening to funk and soul and R & B, but he was in my periphery and I always thought what he was doing was cool.  I wish I could say I was literate in Ziggy Stardust and all of the phases of artistic growth and change that David Bowie morphed into, but alas I was not hip to it. A college friend I had who was really into punk rock and the emerging new wave scene was a big fan, and she introduced more of his work to me.  Of course, when he became more mainstream and his sound more obviously influenced by soul and R & B, I became even more familiar with his work, and connected easily with his crossover hit, Just Dance.

So, while I don’t have the pedigree to declare myself a diehard fan fully in touch with Bowie’s entire catalog of work or person-hood, I admired him as an artist; a visionary, and for his attention to showing how artists of color didn’t have the voice or inclusion in the industry, in particular, in the emerging music video scene on MTV.  Watch this clip, and then enjoy a Bowie classic, Changes.


David Bowie, Changes





WJSS Weekend Sounds: Natalie Cole – I’m Catching Hell

3 Jan

natalie_coleR & B Singer, Natalie Cole, daughter of Nat King Cole, passed away this week at the age of 65.

Remembering Natalie as a significant part of my musical landscape during my teens and twenties, I wanted to honor her passing with a song here.  I couldn’t decide between the joyous and danceable, This Will Be, or I’ve Got Love On My Mind, two of her more recognizable hits, so I decided to play a song that I don’t remember well, but that I’ve seen friends post on social media these past few days.

Like the posthumous duet she created in the early 1990’s with her Dad, Natalie, and her contributions to pop and R & B, will continue to be Unforgettable.

Here’s Natalie with I’m Catching Hell:


www.youtube.com, Natalie Cole, I’m Catching Hell, posted by aimeedus

photo credit:  www.soultracks.com


Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Missy Elliott – WTF

22 Nov

Missy Elliott – WTF

Missy Elliott, WTF video

Missy Elliott, WTF video

She’s back!  Missy Elliott is better than ever in this video, WTF (Where They From).

Missy, Pharrell, killer dance moves, and, wait for it…marionettes! It’s been too long for this woman of great talent and substance, and with over 15 million views on YouTube after two weeks, seems a lot of other people are happy to have Missy on the scene again, too.




www.youtube.com, Missy Elliott, featuring Pharrell Williams, WTF (Where They From), posted by Vevo

Photo Credit:  www.dazeddigital.com

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Natural High by Bloodstone

8 Nov




I heard this 70’s soul anthem, while out on my morning walk, plugged into my Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes Pandora station.  While I usually opt for my 80’s and 90’s Hip Hop, my MJ (of course!), Prince, or at times my Bhangra station, to get me moving faster along the path, on this crisp, sunshiny morning, I took it easy with some classic soul.

Bloodstone, originally named The Sinceres, formed in Kansas City, Missouri in 1962, gaining more attention and  fame after moving to London and signing with Decca Records.  Most popular in the 1970’s and 80’s, the hit, Natural High, definitely a part of the soundtrack of my youth, reached the Billboard 100’s Top Ten in 1973 when it was released under the album of the same name.

I get a natural high from my morning walks, from listening to Marvin Gaye loud in my car with the windows rolled down, and from that feeling of pining away for that person you just met, or locked eyes with, and in your mind and your heart, you begin to imagine what Charles Love, vocalist and guitarist for Bloodstone, sings of. Because, really, if you think about it, aren’t we all looking for our own natural high?

What’s yours?



www.youtube.com, Natural High, by Bloodstone, posted by J Ausaru



Photo credit: www.allmusic.com

Black Like Rachel Dolezal

12 Jun

I heard about Rachel Dolezal this morning via Facebook and all I could muster was, “Wow.”

I scrolled down my Newsfeed and […]

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Parliament – Flash Light

3 May

me and friend Tony Rinaldi at Wilby High Prom, Waterbury, CT, 1979

me and friend Tony Rinaldi at Wilby High Prom, Waterbury, CT, 1979

Maybe it’s because I pulled out my old high school yearbook the other day and found my junior year prom picture, and remembered what I was dancing to back then, and maybe, because like another time when we were all reeling from the Michael Brown, and then the Eric Garner non-indictments, I pulled up Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk, for my weekend pick. I felt like sometimes, in the darkest of times, we all need to just take a breath, and, in the words of the B-52’s, “dance this mess around,” before we can keep moving forward in the quest for true justice and equality for all.



I’m going back again to the funk well and pulling up a classic Parliament single: Flash Light.  So, take a breather and dance, and then get back to fighting the good fight.  Happy Sunday, Funkateers!






SOURCE: www.youtube.com, Flashlight by Parliament, Uploaded by TheOldSchoolMusic, 12/18/09

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds On A Monday Because (There’s No Such Thing As) Writer’s Block

20 Apr

Percy Sledge

Percy Sledge

Two major artists passed away recently: soul singer, Percy Sledge and 80’s r & b singer, Johnny Kemp.

Percy Sledge, who was born in 1940 in Leighton, Alabama, was a hospital orderly when he started singing at local clubs and frat parties at universities.  His epic love ballad, When A Man Loves A Woman, was a tune Sledge said he hummed to himself for years–he said even when he was younger and working the cotton fields–before penning the lyrics during his early singing days.  The song is said to be about his girlfriend at the time leaving him for a modeling career after Sledge was laid off from a construction job.

It was at a frat party performance that he was casually offered the opportunity to record his love ballad at Norala Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama in 1966.  The song was of course a huge hit, and Sledge continued to have a career with follow-up hits like Warm and Tender Love and Tear Me Up, and to tour extensively in Europe and South Africa up until his death last week.

Listen to When A Man Loves A Woman and try not to feel anything.  You can’t, right?


Jonny-KempI was shocked to hear of Johnny Kemp’s untimely death several days ago in Jamaica.  Kemp, who is originally from the Bahamas, moved to the States in 1979 with his band, Kinky Fox.  His breakout hit, and definitely his most memorable, was Just Got Paid, which hit #1 on the Billboard Top 100 Chart in 1988.

Just Got Paid came out during my New York City clubbing days, and it was the feel-good dance anthem of the day.  When I revisited the song’s video this past weekend, I realized I loved it then and still do because it totally captures the essence of late-eighties NYC energy, and no matter where you lived, you saw yourself as part of that energy–that feeling of “yeah, I just got paid, it’s Friday, it’s the weekend, and I’m putting on my coolest, sexiest, clubwear–my biggest, dangliest earrings, highest heels that I can still dance in, my black spandex skirt–and grabbing my wallet, and heading out the door to dance, dance, dance.

It is sad that Kemp, 55 this year, mysteriously passed away en route to perform on a cruise ship in Jamaica with Teddy Riley who produced the famous hit.  But, Kemp’s classic hit, and his energetic performance won’t be forgotten.








Photo credit, Percy Sledge: www.artspecialday.com

Photo credit, Johnny Kemp:  www.timorworld.com

Aw’ C’mon: Or How My Wanting to Cross Color Lines Wasn’t Always Taking Black People’s Concerns Into Consideration

10 Mar

white woman yelling black manAs I read Debby Irving’s Waking Up White, (review here) her account of “waking up” to how her own white privilege, and the greater societal systems created to give white people advantage over people of color, shaped her perceptions of race and the way she interacted across color lines, I couldn’t help but take a look at myself, and the actions and inactions I have made, or not made over the years. […]