Some are suggesting that the announcement is just a publicity stunt. But I think the bromance is over.
Initially, I thought Kanye’s announcement was either the wine talking or that the 4th of July heat was cooking my brain. But as the day’s temperatures cooled and I sobered up, I realized that crazier things have happened.
After all, we elected a failed businessman, reality television star, and unabashed narcissist last time around, according to Trump’s niece’s upcoming book.
The state has tightened up COVID-19 restrictions, but I’ve got some guidelines for fireworks fans. If you are in Sacramento or one of the other affected counties, learn how you can avoid getting a ticket. And check out my recommendations for must-see July 4th TV broadcasts, featuring stars like Patti LaBelle, Vanessa Williams, and CeCe Winans!
Yesterday, Governor Newsom made keeping ourselves safe a little easier: he’s increased COVID-19 restrictions regarding all interactions with people outside of your home. It sounds like many people’s 4th of July BBQ will be much more intimate this year.
If you’re in Sacramento or one of the other affected counties, sources tell me that citations / tickets may be issued if you decide not to adhere to the order and invite people into your home or yard. The governor says the amended guidelines / restrictions will be in place for at least three weeks.And if one of your neighbors violates the order and you’re concerned about it, call 3-1-1.
There’s something you can do to help us get past all of this, so we can have an unrestricted Labor Day Weekendin a few weeks:cover your nose and mouth when you’re in public and can’t practice social distancing!
Regarding Independence Day fireworks, public displays are being discouraged. KCRA is planning an event in Elk Grove that will only be able to be seen on TV. And both PBS and CNN are planning broadcasts that have been programmed on my DVR.
CNN’s show will be co-hosted by Don Lemon, and will feature a plethora of stars including CeCe Winans, while Patti LaBelle threatens to blow out the fireworks on PBS’ annual broadcast.
I’ve never been much of a home fireworks person — or much of a 4th of July person, really. Every time my dad would go out and get us some fireworks while I was growing up, my mom used to always refer to it as lighting dollar bills on fire. It was an interesting perspective, mind you, from a woman who was a compulsive shopper…
And since even a 4th of July Scrooge like me loves a good excuse to light the Weber grill (no gas grilling for me, thanks!), and with everything we’ve been through so far, I’m going to deviate from the healthier eating for the weekend, and indulge in at least one hot link! (Would someone please develop a low-sodium version of one of those??)
The City of Sacramento is accepting applications for its Small Business Recovery Program, to assist local businesses and nonprofits that have been affected by COVID-19. The program will afford up to $25,000 in forgivable loans, to assist with financial needs and in the retention of employees.
“These forgivable loans are a crucial step toward helping out small businesses recover from the COVID-19 crisis,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said. “We have carefully crafted the program using an equity lens so that the bulk of the resources will go to businesses in neighborhoods that need help the most.”
“[We are} dedicating a minimum of 75 percent of [available] funds to economically disadvantaged communities, and at least 25 percent to micro businesses with five or fewer full-time employees,” said Assistant City Manager Michael Jasso.
Applications will be accepted through 5pm Monday, July 13. Funds are expected to be disbursed in mid-August. Loans may be forgivable after one year if certain criteria are met.
My father was born in rural Mississippi in the late 1930s. He died in the early 2000s in Michigan where he’d relocated right after high school, his life having been cut short by his lifestyle. But had he lived to see today, he’d have died all over again to see the Mississippi legislature change the state’s flag, removing the confederate flag from it entirely, as it did last weekend.
After my grandmother died in the 1990s and Dad learned that a large parcel of Mississippi land had been left to him and his siblings, he immediately signed his share of it over to his brothers and sisters. Even after all of those years, my father wanted no part of the ownership of Mississippi earth that had buried countless black men who had been lynched, or worked to death in enslavement.
Dad specifically and often said that the Mississippi state flag would never come down. But just as he said that this country would never elect an African American president, Dad was wrong.
As I’ve watched the country respond to the murder of George Floyd, I’ve wondered why that act seems to have been a tipping point. We’ve, sadly, seen many George Floyds, going back to Emmett Till. My dad used to insist that Till’s name was just the one we knew. In my lifetime, I can recall, first, Rodney King. My sister lived in Sanford, Florida when Trayvon Martin was killed there.
But Floyd’s murder, and the subsequent unflinching and undeterred action of the Black Lives Matter movement, seems to have made a change that I’ve not seen in my lifetime. And as I’m composing my thoughts for this column, the governor of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations signed an executive order to shorten the state’s name to Rhode Island, removing the reference to a locale that was the home to enslaved Africans.
Now, who knew that Rhode Island’s official name included a plantation reference for all of these years??
The cynic in me wants to wonder how long the shift we’re seeing will last. But the optimist in me, the better part of me, believes that we’ve only just begun to see the changes that are on the horizon. Country music acts, most notably and recently The Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum, have changed their names to eliminate associations between their music and the Old South. Country music acts.
When you think of flat footed soul belters, Tony Award-winner Lillias White may not come immediately to mind. But since the lady has stood in for Jennifer Holiday, and beat out Patti LaBelle for a role in a movie musical, she should!
I’ll fill you in on those aspects of White’s career in a minute! But right now, I’ve got to tell you about her forthcoming album, Get Happy. The title alone is quite timely, given the trials of tribulations of 2020…and we’re only half-way through the year!
Ironically, White recorded the new album in July of 2019, long before coronavirus hit us and this summer’s civil unrest.
“Something was going on last summer…I can’t remember what it was,” the siren EXCLUSIVELY told me by phone, from her New York home. “My musical director and I agreed that we needed to record some songs that were going to be happy, to lift people up, to make people think — to reminisce about sweet times and sweet people in their lives.”
The album’s title track is the new single, and was written in 1930, when the country was in the grip of The Great Depression. Harold Arlen, who went on to write one of Hollywood’s most famous picker-uppers, “Over The Rainbow,” co-wrote a zippy tune (with Ted Koehler) that would pull anyone out of the doldrums.
In White’s crafty hands, “Get Happy” is a subdued scorcher. She almost sounds as if she’s trying to talk herself into being happy — something most of us have found ourselves doing this year. White promises an entire album that will both thrill longtime fans and introduce her to new sets of ears.
“We’ve covered The Beatles’ ‘Happy Together’ for the new album, we covered a Queen song…we bounced around genres, and we custom made the songs so that they would work for us, in keeping with how we do.”
If you’re not immediately familiar with how White does it, brace yourself. Her mellifluous, multi-octave voice is a wonder, one that elevated the superb soundtrack to Disney’s 1997 animated classic, Hercules.
“I wasn’t sure what they wanted, but I loved Phylicia Rashad — I still do to this day,” White recalled of her audition with the folks at The Mouse House. “I just wanted to give my character a sophisticated sound, and a sound that suggested that she was in charge, so I modeled the voice after Phylicia.”
In securing the role of Calliope, Hercules’ lead muse, White beat out another songstress who was known for out-singing pretty much anyone with whom she shared a microphone.
“I auditioned against a lot of really prominent people,” White continued. “Right after the movie opened, Patti LaBelle was on The Tonight Show, and she said ‘I auditioned for the new Disney movie, but I didn’t get it because this chick Lillias White got my part!”
A Disney soundtrack isn’t a bad place to land for someone with a set of pipes like White’s. Songs like “When You Wish Upon A Star,” which was introduced in the 1941 Disney animated classic Pinocchio (a cover of which is featured on White’s upcoming album) have been sung for generations and are still beloved today.
I asked the chanteuse how it felt to have her work immortalized — 100 years from now, kids will still be singing Hercules’ “Zero To Hero.”
“When you put it that way, it’s really remarkable,” White said, “that this little brown girl from Brooklyn, standing on her grandmother’s dining room table, singing some Shirley Temple something or other, and having my aunts and uncles applaud me. From there, going on to the Broadway stage, then the studio…”.
White paused, having seemingly been moved by the reflection on her life’s journey.
“There are a lot of people who grew up listening to Hercules, and when I meet them, it’s really thrilling. It’s an honor to be a part of the Disney family, to have done that kind of work, and to be remembered in that way.”
“It’s a lot of great music, a lot of people have grown up listening to it, and their kids are now listening to it. It’s pretty special.”
Disney brass should have known that White was not one to half-step on her vocals. A decade or so before Hercules, she stood-in for Jennifer Holliday in Dreamgirls.
Yeah, that Jennifer Holliday. “And I Am Telling You” — “You’re gonna love meeeeeee!” Jennifer Holliday!
“When you do a big show in LA, you end up doing a five show weekend: one Friday, two Saturday, and two Sunday,” White said. “And in a show like Dreamgirls and a role like Effie, it’s difficult to do five shows in a row. So [show producer] Michael Bennett had me come in to do the matinees. I was standing in for Jennifer for the evening shows, and I did the matinees.”
With that kind of resume, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that White is a perfectionist. She wants every note to be right, which is why she couldn’t commit to an exact release date for her new Get Happy album. When we chatted, she was still tweaking it.
“We’ve finished the album, and I’m waiting for the producer to send me the finals,” White said. “I’m very…picky. I don’t do well saying ‘we’re done’. I always want to do it again, thinking that that note’s not right, or that could be a little better. But we plan to release the album later this summer.”
As we’re all fatigued by COVID-19, the assault on black men, and the musings of a certifiable maniac in the White House, White’s Get Happy can’t be released soon enough! While White and I chatted, President Trump was planning a political rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of one of the worst state-sanctioned massacres in American history — on Juneteenth, no less.
Just as White doesn’t hold back in the recording studio or on stage, she didn’t pause before chiming in on our Commander In Chief!
“I want to encourage everybody to vote this fall,” White thoughtfully said. “Vote, vote, vote, vote! Because our lives depend on it. We’ve got to get Trump out! He needs to go!”
A lyric from Get Happy’s title track came to mind: Ya better chase all your cares away!
“Times are really strange right now, between the COVID-19 virus and the murder of George Floyd,” White reflected. “It’s a sad time, but it’s a challenging time and a hopeful time. It’s a time for us to heal. For me, music is a very healing force.”
“This new album is a balm. It’s a salve. It’s something that will hopefully get people back on track, to be loving, and to find the sunshine through the rain. That’s my hope, that people will embrace the happy and kinda move around in that, and let it wash over them.”
Look for Lillias White’s new album, Get Happy, later this summer!
While some believe that the use of face coverings is a temporary, necessary act that will help us all manage coronavirus and is in the best interest of community public health, others think that using them is a violation of their constitutional rights.
I believe that business owners have a right to deny service to anyone who would threaten their lives by walking into their shop during a global pandemic — and a period during which California coronavirus cases are on the rise — without their noses and mouths covered. Just yesterday, I was shocked to find unmasked customers in a small Subway restaurant ordering dinner from a woman who was wearing a mask.
Here’s what Dr. Burke Harris has to say about face coverings:
“As you likely know, people expel respiratory droplets into the air all the time through breathing, sneezing, coughing, talking, singing, shouting and so on. A face covering can capture those droplets and reduce the risk of virus transmission to others.
When communities come together and we all wear face coverings, it significantly slows the spread of COVID-19 and other viral outbreaks. We know that face coverings, alongside physical distancing and handwashing, are effective in reducing COVID-19 transmission.
With this in mind, Californians are required to wear face coverings when going into public spaces, indoors or when physical distancing is not possible outdoors. This includes, shopping or standing in line, entering indoor public spaces, and riding public transportation. When you’re wearing your mask, make sure it covers your nose and mouth and fits snuggly on both sides of your face.
So keep the face covering in your pocket or bag and put it on when you’re with others outside your household. It really will make a difference in protecting our health!”
– Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, California Surgeon General
So there you have it, straight from the masked mouth of one of our most trusted medical professionals!
In summary this summer, and most likely into the fall…
PLEASE WEAR A FACE COVERING WHEN IN PUBLIC AND YOU CANNOT PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING.
“For so long, it felt like you had to have been a certain kind of good to walk into church or even feel like you could pray. Our show has broken that barrier.“
By Michael P Coleman
The wait is almost over! Tonight, OWN’s critically acclaimed drama, Greenleaf, returns with its fifth and final season.
The entire cast has been making the rounds, so I was honored when Deborah Joy Winans, who plays “Charity” on the series, returned my phone call late last week. I had to find out what Greenleaf fans can expect!
“Charity’s life has blown up,” Winans said. “Since day one, things have fallen apart in horrific ways. But when you change your perspective, you can see the beauty in the mess because you can see how you have changed and, hopefully, grown.”
“You can see where God uses your mishaps to make you a better person, and that becomes quite beautiful,” Winans continued. “It hurts, but when you finally see God’s hand in putting things back together, you see the beauty in all of the pain that you endured.”
“It’s a beautiful catastrophe!”
Winans was born into a gospel music dynasty (her father, Carvin, is a founding member of The Winans, and she has an uncle Benjamin and aunt Priscilla who the world still remembers as BeBe & CeCe). So it’s no surprise that she has spoken so freely over the years of God’s grace.
But I was surprised to hear her challenge my description of Greenleaf: I’d called it “…a groundbreaking series that pulls back the veil on organized religion.” Just as her character, Charity, would have done, Winans checked me on that — and she checked me good!
“I think it’s more than that,” Winans explained. “I think the church has been the backdrop, but what has been SO amazing to me is that we’ve seen a beautiful black family that is flawed in so many ways, and yet they truly love God. With Greenleaf, we have been able to see real human people who show you it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve been or what you have done, YOU ARE WELCOME in the house of the Lord.”
“For so long, it has felt like you had to have been a certain kind of good to walk into church or even feel like you can pray. Our show has broken that barrier. No matter what the Greenleafs have done, they always find their way back to the foundation and they trust that God will receive them — no matter what!”
The actress has repeated, over the series’ entire run, that she loves Charity. I wondered why she loves her so much.
“I love her so much because she is REAL,” Winans said. “She is someone that so many women can see themselves in. A lot of times women feel invisible and unheard, and Charity is all of that. She is clumsy. She is emotional. She makes mistakes, but what is so great about her is that she gets back up.”
“Charity shows other women like her that your mistake is not your future. She will not be held hostage to her past — and neither should they.”
In the season four finale, Charity received a shocker! (I won’t spoil it for those who are catching up via Netflix…but get on it!). As the cast has already completed filming the final season, I wondered whether Winans was happy with where the series’ writers leave Charity.
“I LOVE the way Charity winds up,” Winans exclaimed. “She is a woman who has gone through many things, some of which she created on her own, and now she has to find her way. There’s one thing I particularly love about Charity: she will not be deterred by ANYTHING!”
I have to agree with Winans on that. In the actress’ riveting portrayal of Charity, fans of been treated to a character who follows in the footsteps of some of prime time soap’s favorites. Like JR Ewing and Alexis Carrington, Charity Greenleaf is a woman we love to hate!
As such, Charity would be the perfect focal point for the Greenleaf spinoff series that’s been promised. But clearly, Winans must have gotten ahold of her bible before answering my question about it:
…a time to be silent and a time to speak – Ecclesiastes 3:7
“I have NOTHING to tell because I know NOTHING,” Winans laughed. “I guess we will have to see how the final season of Greenleaf shakes out and what the fans may or may not want to see! I’m not sure when we will know. The series creator, Craig Wright, has said he sees the spinoff as the women rising…but again, we don’t know anything! We shall see!”
As we wrapped up, Winans shocked me by giving me the scoop on her first post-Greenleaf project. When I first chatted with her three years ago, the actress detailed her journey to establish herself as an actress, and insisted that she never had a desire to pursue the family business.
Maybe sometime around the time she duetted with Patti LaBelle, Winans changed her mind about that. Winans is releasing a new single this week!
“It’s called ‘I Won’t Stop Breathing,’ Winans shared. “I took my demo of it and put it to a visual that I asked my husband to make. During this time of so much civil unrest, I was hurting deeply as I’m sure everyone else was and is. After days of simply crying, I wanted to activate my voice. This song came to mind, and I felt so inspired to make a visual that I didn’t even get the song mixed.”
“Once I released the visual, I got calls from radio stations asking for the song, and I was like ‘Welp — I guess I am releasing some music!’ I also have two short films coming up on A Space For Creators, which is TV One’s digital platform.”
“Honestly, I’m trusting God that He will continue to work things out in magnificent ways.”
This writer would count on that if I were you, Miss Winans. In fact, that’s as certain as Greenleaf’s season five being spectacular!
Father’s Day is this weekend, so jump onto Amazon and, as Spike Lee once said, do the right thing!
Even if the card or present (I’ll save you some time: we prefer the latter) is late, the father or father figure in your life will still love and appreciate that you thought of him.
My own two daughters, Janet and Kristina, represent the absolute best two decisions I’ve ever made — not to have them, but to raise them. Both are young women now, but I always see them, before I catch myself, still in my arms. In fact, I still refer to them as “my little ones.” They always will be.
In addition to my own two, I’ve been blessed to meet a few young people over the years who I’ve taken in as my own. You see, I’ve never thought of biology as an ancillary to fatherhood. I often tell people that I’m the father of two, and Dad to a few.
I met the first of my “sons”, Wil Bowen, at a non-profit fundraising event. He and I connected right away on a number of fronts. We have a connection that’s hard to describe.
Months after we met, Wil called me and asked me to give him advice on shaving. He had questions about why he battled razor bumps while I didn’t appear to have the same pesky problem.
Every black man who’s ever tried to shave with a disposable razor knows what I’m talking about! And those “of a certain age” know just why Magic Shaving Powder is VERY aptly named!
Walking Wil through my shaving process took me back to the bathroom in the suburban Detroit ranch in which I grew up, hunching over a weathered glass ash tray with my Dad, learning to mix Magic Shaving Powder into a paste, and scraping the hair off of my cheeks and chin while brandishing the blunt end of an old butter knife.
For the white people in the room, yup: a butter knife!
As complicated as my relationship with my own Dad had been, I remembered begging him, when I was only 12 years old, to teach me to shave. I’d already sprouted whiskers, and kids on the playground had taken to calling me “werewolf” and all kinds of stuff. Having not had a son of my own, I welcomed the chance to give back to a young black man who had reached out to me.
Wil returned the favor when, a few years later, I called him and said “So show me what this Twitter thing is all about!” I’d mastered Facebook, and was ready for the next big thing! Wil came over for dinner that day, and he sat me down with the laptop and got me started on the microblogging platform. Thousands of Twitter followers later, Wil wondered aloud to me, a couple of years ago, “What the HELL are you saying on Twitter that THAT many people want to hear what you have to say?”
Wil’s career has taken him from Michigan to Oregon, and I like to tell myself that he followed me to the west coast! And I need to give him a call — maybe he can help me wrap my brain around Instagram. My eldest daughter has tried, but I’m still not sure I get it.
I met my other son, Jorge Alvarado, at a bar called The Bolt just after I moved to California. The name of the place should give you an idea as to the type of establishment we were in, so I won’t share the sordid details that led up to that first meeting.
But I will share that, when I first saw Jorge, in his mid-20s, buzzed and shirtless with the remnants of a beer in his hand, I calmly walked up and said “Young man, put your shirt on!” From the beginning, a parental spirit rose up within me — I was almost ready to cut a switch. No son of mine would ever be so…thirsty.
Jorge and I clicked so fast that, as my husband, Rob, and I were leaving the bar a few minutes later, he asked me how I knew Jorge. He was surprised to hear that we’d met for the first time minutes before.
Just a few weeks later, Jorge was living with us, as Rob and I helped him get on his financial feet. He came and went a couple of times, I think, before he moved back to Los Angeles, where he had grown up.
I stay connected to both Wil and Jorge via social media, texts and far-too-infrequent calls, but I hope they both know I’ll always have their backs. I last saw Jorge earlier this week, after he stopped over just to say hi while he was in town briefly. He made me proud when he showed up with his mask and keeping his social distance, and I got to see the top half of his face and make sure he was doing ok…and remind him to text me and let me know after he made it home.
Old habits are hard to break.
Wil is almost a clone of me, so I rarely have to wonder what he’s thinking. I realized how much I love him just after the murder of George Floyd, when I reached out just to make sure he was OK.
I’m always flattered — honored — when Wil or Jorge calls me “Pop” or some other version of “father.” And I’m proud of those boys for everything they’ve done in their lives, so far. Both of them — right along with Janet and Kristina — can and do drive me CRAZY! I joke that every grey hair I have has somebody’s name attached to it! But I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I give all of the kids advice…whether they ask me for it or not.
This Father’s Day, in addition to loving on your own fathers and father figures, I have an appeal just for the men: take a young person under your wing this year — even if he or she doesn’t belong to you, going in. Trust me: it will be the gift that keeps on giving…to you. And if you have a kid with whom you’ve lost touch, it’s never too late to fix that.
More than ever in my lifetime, our community — our world — could use a little more of that. As for me, I’ve always been more than happy to be a part of that village that it takes to raise a child.