February is Black History Month.
Black History Month started as Negro History Week. Dr. Carter B. Woodson in 1926 began to ask people to celebrate the accomplishment of his people to give all races the knowledge of the importance of us all. The truth is we all need each other. He chose the second week of February because it was the birthday of Frederick Douglass.
Douglas (1817-1895) was a freedom fighter of his day. Born a slave he escaped to freedom and started his own newspaper, The North Star.
I wonder what Frederick Douglas or Dr. Carter Woodson would have written about our day? We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. We have been blessed with great leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King and now the 1st African-American President, Barack Obama. But the past years has reminded us there have been a lot of great women, both white and black, who have helped with the struggle of civil rights. Within the last few years we have lost Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King and others. In the past few weeks the musical stars have been ending their earthly time with us. Etta James, Don Cornelius, and Whitney Houston were all great stars in their time, who have left under some strange concerns.
Etta James, was born Jamesstta Hawkins, on Jan. 25, 1938, was a famous gospel singer as a child, and famous jazz & blues singer as an adult. Some consider her a gospel prodigy, when she started singing for her church choir at the age of 5, and her own singing group at age of 12.
She later singed with Chess Records in 1960, even though she did end up singing for two other record labels before her death. It was there at Chess Records that her jazz and blues career went to new heights. Some of her first songs were "All I Could Do Was Cry," "Trust In Me," and what some consider her most famous song, "At Last" She took what she had learned in church singing one of her most famous gospel ballots, "Something Got A Hold Of Me!," and applied it to all her music.
The constant negative in her life was the heroin addiction that almost destroyed her personal and professional life. The story of her struggles is clearly seen in the movie "Cadillac Records" that came out in 2008. It was Beyonce Knowles, a great singer herself, who played Etta James in the movie. It is said, that even though she supported the movie, she did get upset when Beyonce sung her song, "At Last" for President Barrack Obama's inaugural. She was nominated and won several Grammy awards, sung at the opening of the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. She died Jan. 20, 2012. Stars like Stevie Wonder and Christiania Aquilera sung at her funeral.
When I was growing up, everyone used to make sure they were near a TV on Saturday afternoon to watch "Soul Train." or the way it was said every Saturday, "Soooooul Train." Even my father, who was a very conservative pastor, would look at the show and the "Soul Train" line. Sometimes the things he saw and heard ended up in his messages on Sunday. It was one of the first places we saw Aretha Franklin, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and many others. It was the show we talked about every Monday in school. "Did you see?" on Soul Train.
The creator of Soul Train died on Feb. 1, 2012; he was born Sept. 27, 1936 in Chicago, Ill. His name was Don Cornelius. He started out as an Insurance sales man, but he had a dream to be a DJ. on the radio. He went to broadcasting school in 1966 and got hired as a part-time DJ on the radio to substitute for other DJ's. He latter went to work for a local TV station as Sports Anchor and editorial's on "A Black's view of the news!"
He pitched an ideal to his station General Manager for a black version of Band Stand which was hosted by Dick Clark. The "Soul Train" show ended up lasting 30 years with Mr. Cornelius unique voice. The show which started local in Chicago moved to LA and became a national syndicated show. Even after the show it took on another life with the Soul Train Awards that still go on today. It shows the power of a dream.
One of the greatest singers of her time, Whitney Houston, born Aug. 9, 1963 in Newark, New Jersey died earlier this month on Feb. 11, 2012. She was another great star that started in the church singing with the church choir. It was in her from birth the talent that she had to sing. Her mother was the choir director, Cessy Houston, a well known gospel singer, her cousin is Dionne Warwick, and her God mother Aretha Franklin. These are all legendary singers in her family circle.
Whitney who traveled with her mother singing gospel as a child, debuted her album at age 22 and had several hits, some that broke all records for the longest number hit in music. Her life seemed to change when she married Bobby Brown a singer himself with New Edition at the time. They eventually divorced but the drug habits she pick up in the relationship stayed with her, and may have destroyed both her professional and personal life.
We don't have room to talk about all the accomplishments she had both in movies, singing, and modeling. She was the first African American teenager to be on the cover of Seventeen Magazine.
I think these three lives as well as others tell us one thing. It is important to have a dream. It is dangerous when the dream has you, and empowers you to destroy yourself. Our prayers our with all their families. Black History has grown to mega levels, and women of color have added much to its growth. Both local and national women of color have helped in the success that has been experienced. It will take all us, both black and white, male, female, young and old, to go to the next level of peace, love and soul!