Back Seat Playlist

So, DJ Nina got her first car as the highlight of the 2022 Xmas season. In fact, 2022 meant first vehicles for my son’s daughters, who turned 18 and 17 last year. From LA, I’m wishing all three drivers safety on the roads of central and south Florida.

In the summer of 2022, Niece Nina was riding in the back seat of the rental car driven by her mother, my youngest sister. During their vacation in LA, Nina controlled the music that we listened to as we segued along SoCal’s freeways. We had fun listening to Michael Jackson songs I didn’t know, among so many other tunes.

Also, they generously treated me to playlists they’d created over the years. Special songs for different moods, for different seasons in their lives, sometimes very difficult seasons in their lives. They shared stories between a mother and daughter that I would never normally hear. It was a gift I’ll always cherish, especially as this year Nina completes her senior year in high school!

Over the years, DJs have contributed to my life’s soundtrack of joy ….

As a kid … I remember smiling at the sound of WOL’s Bob Terry, The Nighthawk, slurping Black Label beer up-close to the mic during commercials (at least it sounded like he was actually drinking!)

Actually, I’ll have to ask Dewey Hughes, legendary WOL producer and host – and one of my cultural Big Brothers – whether or not The Nighthawk, who mysteriously disappeared August 31, 1977, was simulating or actually downing brew!

Hughes teamed up with Petey Greene back in the day for an inspiring community affairs show. Before he opened the show for callers, Greene use to shout: “l’ll tell it to the hot; I’ll tell it to the cold; I’ll tell it to the young; I’ll tell it to the old. I don’t want no laughin’, I don’t want no cryin’, and most of all, no signifyin’ – Talk to Me!”

Callers who mumbled or hemmed and hawed? Greene hung up on them! Callers who tried to listen to themselves through their own radios? Greene hollered: “Turn your radio down!” And hung up on them if they didn’t comply fast enough! Dewey Hughes wound up co-producing Talk to Me, a film starring Don Cheadle as Petey Greene.

Then in college I was a classmate of Melvin Lindsey, the founding DJ of the Quiet Storm format which began on Howard University’s WHUR. Once, during the early days, before I graduated in ’77, I even sat in-studio with Melvin, who died in 1992 of AIDS complications, after rocketing to radio/BET fame with his stunningly cool voice and marvelously sultry playlists.    

From 1999-2004, I could still hear Melvin’s voice in my head, as I produced and hosted my own radio show: Inspiration House: VoiceMusic for Whole Living on KPFK-FM, Pacifica Radio’s LA station. Before starting, I apprenticed under a man named Angalifu as he produced his own poetry/music program. When he left LA, I took over the show, renamed it, and applied lessons I learned from Angalifu (and more subtly from Melvin).

Like my HU classmate, my goal was to create a seamless audio experience for listeners. So, first thing I did: I prohibited guest poets from announcing titles to their poems or telling ‘set-up’ stories before reading their poems. I also told guest poets: ‘Don’t create an advance ‘set-list’ for your show. Bring to the studio a range of your poems, then listen to the music I play and select poems that dance with the music. Let the music move you around!’

When the poets worked sincerely within that format, we struck gold! We generated an inspirational exchange of poetry, music, and dynamic silence. When we got the sonic recipe right, me and my guests created bona fide VoiceMusic and that hour from 10 pm to 11 pm zipped past!

Now I’m really smiling, thinking about Kristi Lomax, who produced and hosted Restless Soul, the dancefloor show that led into Inspiration House. She still produces the show One Track Mind for KPFK. When I turned 50, she DJ’d my birthday GoGo at Rock Rose Gallery, and I danced until 4 in the morning!

Now I’m really smiling about that night in the early 2000s, when KCRW’s Garth Trinidad allowed me to join him in the studio and program the evening, intermixed with a brotherly discussion about poetry, history, Donny Hathaway’s voice as essential medicine, and the cultural work that goes into sensitively programming a satisfying playlist. What a gift I was given by a legendary LA mixologist and broadcaster!

Now I’m really smiling about Garth’s KCRW colleague Liza Richardson, who included me in an early 1990s poetry/music reading at Vidiots in Santa Monica. I remember I chose Pharoah’s Creator Has a Master Plan for the poem I read. You know who else was on that bill? Viggo Mortensen! So, I can say I once shared a mic, lol, with a member of Frodo’s Fellowship of the Ring!

Oh but let me make room here for the sweet-and-sour, too.

Now when I listen to my beloved Spinners and Stylistics and the orchestral magic of the music produced by Philadelphia International Records, I am reminded over and over that we lost the awesome Thom Bell in 2022. Man, love don’t love nobody!  

But surely my most bittersweet playlist honors the late Greg Tate, whose analytical and stylistic genius was on display back in the 1970s, when we were students at Howard. The great singer Nailah Porter sent me the link to the “Sonic Syllabus for a Patternmaster: A mixtape curated by DJ Lynnée Denise and Elissa B. Moorhead with a musical bookend by dream hampton, hosted by the Pan African Space Station (South Africa).”

And South Africa is where I’ll land this praise song ignited by the head-bobbing backseat playlist mixed by DJ Niece Nina.
At the end of 2022, my OG ears awakened to music called Amapiano, “born in South Africa and raised around the world” that’s been called the “burgeoning dance genre reaching global heights in 2022.”

Here’s to taking it to the stage in 2023 and sweating it out on many a dance floor!

I stay ready to shake my body down to the ground!

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “… Me and Isisara driving home from a concert at the Hollywood Bowl that featured Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and Ruben Blades. Turn on KGFJ-AM, the Black-owned Los Angeles radio station that plays mostly oldies-but-goodies, or “dusties,” according to the station’s announcers. I’ve known Isisara since we both lived in Baltimore in the late ‘70s, and she’s one of several girlfriends whose friendships-without-sex  ground and extend my manhood. After the concert, we can barely sit still in the car, wishing that the salsa and musical etcetera buzzing in our heads and bodies would play forever. The DJ answers our prayers through the magic of late-night radio. He starts a powerful medley with “(La La) Means I Love You,” by the Delfonics. Before we know it, DJ Genie is granting our wishes with even more house party classics: “Tracks of My Tears,” by the Miracles, “Baby I’m for Real,” by the Originals, and, summing up sensationally, LaBelle’s “Isn’t It a Shame.” Driving from one red light to the next, me and Isisara can’t help but sing along loudly to each song. Neither one of us, truth be told, are really hitting too many notes. She’s chasing the lead singers of the men’s groups right up the scale until her falsetto croaks with enthusiasm. I’m right beside her echoing with mournful exaggeration Patti LaBelle’s “unh unh unh unh unh unh” in the middle of “Isn’t It a Shame.” … I notice we getting too close to my street where she’s parked her car. Oh no! This session will not be ending with us parallel parking! I take a right turn down a street into what Richard Pryor would no doubt call a “residential district.” I drive around that block twice. The recorded band plays on. I brazenly take unscripted turns down other dark side streets. Under the spell of Wilbur Hart of the Delfonics, Smokey the Miracle, and Isisara’s passionate lead singing, I even start braking for yellow lights hundreds of feet before coming to an intersection, so we can extend our off-key concert and revel in our sing-song friendship.…”

Sweet Mother of Bliss

As a recovering brooder, I’m working to break up residual congestion within myself. Old self-doubts. Generational regrets. Calcified disappointments.

As an urban boy who never even envisioned reaching his 60s, I’m marshalling my faculties (dreams, analytics, study) to claim a deeply personal sense of renaissance.

As a lover of brilliance and proverbs, solitude and the dance floor, I’m cultivating the commanding perspective that releases me from any limiting frameworks that block me from experiencing each day as both what it is and what it could be….

As a round-the-way virtuoso, I’m reminding myself to fulfill my potential the instant I awake and receive the amazing news that I’m alive again on Planet Earth, my sweet mother of bliss – all bliss I’ve ever had and all bliss I ever hope to attain.

I know you remember, the lead singer croons, when trying to love me wasn’t easy! But you stuck on in there with me…

Walt Whitman sang a song of himself. I find it more inspiring to sing a song to myself!

To croon a consecrated melody when the going gets rough. To envision myself bathed in the voice of a fellow virtuoso lead singer reminding me to hang on in there!

Then I remember to feel anchored (sweetened) by memory without nostalgia, grounded  on history (informed by history) without sentimentality, buoyed (oxygenated) by hope without naivety.

I again feel inspired by this timeline I’m on: Me, myself and I remember: we go a long way back, and a knowing laugh bubbles up in me, like a gospel singer hit mid-song by the spirit!

And I say to myself: What a beautiful thing to come by tens after the sweetness my life still has to offer me.

Over my right shoulder, I hear the five-part harmonies of a sacred roster of hip Black men I’ve known throughout my life, dudes who even walked me through what remains officially the worst moment of my life.

Over my left shoulder, I hear the kora … poised for when I need to pass on an uplifting story to another brother in need.

And then I say to myself: I’m looking for an echo of the bliss yet to come, swinging like Count Basie’s orchestra, generous as a griot’s praise, uplifting as a family reunion where my grandchildren ask me for advice, as hopeful as the vows we make before we say I do … love you … yes I do ….

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “…. Hear the Kora play quietly in the background. I’m awake at 3 a.m. after a few hours of agitated sleep. I milk my memory to recall ways I’ve sheltered myself during other serrated seasons. I struggle to identify ways I found the energy and clarity to make decisions that contributed to positive turning points. I exercise my mind in the quiet of the night. I distill breathtaking moments. I struggle to create a string of psychic prayer beads. I finger them in my nervousness. I settle on one moment. It feeds me. Reveals itself as a sign: I am connected to more than despair and the worst surface of my ugliest situation….I’m on, like, a Drive About to the Giant Sequoia National Monument in Kern County, about 200 miles north of LA. Bank account was on life support. My nerves were frayed. Worry was my lover. I needed nature. I stopped along the way to dip my feet in the Kern River. Now I was on the final stretch toward the park. Mountain road. Mountain vistas. No other vehicles. CD playing Shirley Horn’s “A Time for Love.” I’m driving up this hill as the song begins to resolve in an amazing Johnny Mandel arrangement. Strings shimmer in crescendo, joined by Shirley Horn’s piano and Wynton Marsalis’ trumpet, just as I reach the crest of the hill. Oh my God! The view expands and the horizon is filled with rolling, cloud-covered hills. The music fades. I burst out laughing. I burst out crying. Turn off the player and continue my drive in grateful silence. Circumstances back home hadn’t changed. But I have. I’m a witness to a commanding serenity. I’m uplifted by a commanding serenity. I’m humbled by a commanding serenity. Go head on, brother, it promised. Maybe not triumph, just yet. But go head on and see what the end’s going to be ....”

Wind Me Up

Wind Me Up
Wind Me Up

I feel like bustin loose! Sky on my brow. Wind on my breath. Backbeat in every flash of insight. With each breath, scared only that I aint metabolizing each moment through my richest vitality.

Bloodstone called it a natural high, soaring effortlessly as love blossoms, as the hope of love blossoms.

I call it a self=knowing so ferocious, so delicious, I am fueled to ask: tell me what you know about it!

I feel so DELICIOUS – 44 years after publishing my first poem in the Black Scholar magazine in 1978, 13 years after starting the Black Man of Happiness Project in 2010.

I feel so FEROCIOUS – advocating for myself as a pioneer in the artistic and intellectual – and public – exploration of Black Joy and Happiness.

I’m churning, sifting, reflecting years of study, meditation, and observation. Radiating a sure, hard-earned joy with the force of maturity, confidence, and imagination.

I feel so RESILIENT – embodying my devotion to mastering the tools – the Inspiration Specs – of cultural innovation.

I refuse to allow my regrets to define me. I embrace the scars of my mistakes and failures and disappointments.

My very existence pulses to a deep internal backbeat. I’m not groping anymore. I’m a walking strategy, rhythmic, uncensored self-expressed repaving the sidewalks of my life.

Joyfully, it’s resonating for others as well. This year, from April-June 2023, I’ll be in residency at The Nicholson Project in my hometown of D.C.

So you know a GoGo beat got to start off this new year!

Welcome to Year 5 of Wreaking Happiness!

Five years of monthly meditations on joy from a D.C. public-school ambassador celebrating 50 years since graduating from Ballou Senior High.

Five years integrating and braiding my distinctive pain and pleasure into a diction of genuine emotions, spiritual fulfillment, and intimacy with the immaterial!

Five years of considered concentration from – say what!? – a Black man brazen on the tightrope, on the lifeline, of his happiness!

Five years seeking to keep the party grooving like one of Prince’s True Funk Soldiers!

Five years of offering a haven, finding a haven, in trust beyond my senses, even as I strive to explore ideas, mine and others, that humble and inspire us into contributing our distinctive ways to make beauty on Planet Earth – this mighty world of implacable

I’ll Always Be Your Haven

I’ll always be your haven
your portable Bobby Byrd

I’ll always be familiar path
your lean-to on high plateau
in pouring rain

when clouds soak your Sunday Best
when shearing winds part your hair

I’ll always be fleece
your down-beating hiding place
your worst side’s best spotlight

when trauma leaves you unprotected
you can break down with no game
curl your dramatic fidgeting
against my mentholated chest

when demons stir your fever

tightrope into lifeline
Homeboy into Walkboy
okie doke into substantiation

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD:

“Plus, being the D.C. Homeboy that I will always remain, The Black Man of Happiness just sounds right! I hope young men, especially, will find it liberating and invigorating that a grown-ass man speaks candidly about himself with confidence and vulnerability, with respect and tough-love, with honesty and hopefulness. Given what my experiences have taught me, I cannot Man Up without the fullest range of all of my emotions. I cannot wear a mask and arrive at an authentic masculinity of emotional honesty, personal vocabulary, and genuine whole living… I best honor the legacies of forefathers by
illuminating the life and lessons of one cultural worker, internalizing the timeless values of my elders, accepting their baton, and swaying enthusiastically to their hymns calling for the creation of beauty that will help heal the wounds of my brothers. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve earned my expertise. I’ve found my stride…..”


SongAgain Peter J. Harris
SongAgain Peter J. Harris

I’m 12 and sitting on the sofa next to my brother Ron, who’s 19 and on the telephone. My second oldest brother is so suave that I cannot hear a word he’s saying. I’m so in awe that for years I’m imprinted by his secret agent temperament, taste and style. 

Today I’m thinking about how he demonstrated his love for favorite music, mostly Motown songs. Even now, me in my 60s, him in his 70s, we often swap links for those classics. If he loved a song, he’d play that joint over and over, a habit I picked up and continue, as my kids could tell you! 

My oldest brother Glenn, on the other hand, talked so much that he wound up retiring from a sportscasting career on TV and being inducted into the SILVER CIRCLE of The National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which hands out EMMY Awards. 

And if Glenn loved a song, mostly Woodstock-flavored pop music, he was prone to coming home after 2am, entering the room we shared, and blasting one his favorites — say Buddy Miles’ LA Resurrection — on his small but powerful speakers. 

Pops rocked Mahalia Jackson to make it over a bender and Bobby Blue Bland when that Smirnoff had him tipsy but not tripping. 

Moms turned up the volume on Leontyne Price, when I naively thought opera mostly synched with my concept of the corniest whiteness.

Anna was in the Glee Club for a minute and wound up marrying the lead singer of DC’s own, AM:FM.

Carla was an early devotee of Prince, before I ever heard of him, and before I got turned out by how the song Purple Rain was so deftly used to climax the film of the same name.

And yall KNOW I once daydreamed that I was singing harmonies in the recording studio with Earth, Wind & Fire, when I couldn’t hold a note in a Tupperware container!

Music, eclectic music, ran deep in our family’s blood. 

Singing my song, in my own distinctive voice, is my governing artistic motif.

SongAgain … first whispered to me when I got a call from genius musician and cultural worker Ed Barguiarena, who commissioned me to write a poem as part of The Music Center of LA County‘s initiative For The Love of LA.

Now it’s the title of my fourth book of poetry

Truth be told, as much as I swoon to music, SongAgain might as well be a force that constantly hums around me — like a field of Love & Affection ….

As I cultivate the music of the rest of my life, I want SongAgain to be fragrance, code, criteria….


“do the doables…” – Wangari Maathai, Kenyan ecologist, human rights advocate,
2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner

behavior craving

scrapple of recombination
to the e c h o of Big Bang
a good taste
e x p a n d i n g mouths of fellow citizens
for billions of years

subatomic hallelujah extrapolated from Aunt Anna’s merciless apple cobbler
dinner invitation contains countdown to rural Virginia queries
from master teacher prodding city-boy apprentice

whose eyes appraise mastery? bear invisible gift of correlating guidance
whose words harbor tenderness? blast along oscillating Ring Shout

do the doables say my border-melting tias
baby-sit the ephemeral know the truth of a tree
coax vision into a voice traffic in music feelings gave you back in the day
cornrow a kora’s poignancy into aurora of an evening horizon
disarm overseers denouncing our song as a crime
shoo shadows from the threshold of wisdom
play bid whist with the ghost of my mother
Hula-hoop across Golden Gate Bridge chant names of rivet slingers who fell into churning ocean during construction
tap meanings between facts to embroider our tools
guarantee just enough structure to shoulder human virtuosity

come on in less shock and way more awe
way more mending & coalescing into stark raving sane
hinged & swinging without squeak of military cadence
& self serving rationale of billionaire welfare queens
foisting profit into mythology
demanding allegiances from their victims, their targets, their juries

Home Training a la mode
IRS refunds big enough to re-pay my 84-year-old ex-babysitter
for anchoring my parents’ hard-working lives
interview Miss Joyce about reallocating the federal budget
her lullaby her ass whippings her common wisdom
her compassionate conservatism raw material for the sweetest topping
converting Guantanamo into a national park
where like @ Manzanar
exhibition placards run down genealogy
of the national beat-down & its ugly reverb
translated as needed to raise eyebrows & knit hands
the memory of done
a kiss whispering between generations

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “… Saturated by the vitality of great singers, vibrating within as I sang along, my whole body humming like a magic wand, my aura flaring like an invisible tuning fork, I burned off the virus causing my influenza and mood indigo. Hallucination gave way to witness: I was too complex a brother, had always been too complex a number three son, too complex a middle child of two older brothers and two younger sisters, to settle for being a photocopy of my older brothers and my alcoholic father. Peabo and them brought me to the edge, took me to the bridge. Through their sound, I perceived ecstasy, joy, and renewal. I felt an R&B Radiance, a Sam & Dave Divinity, that inflamed and amazed me. I was coaxed back into life by a soundtrack of American Black male singers. I felt a stirring inside. My brothers were singing. I sang to myself, baby boy it’s time to own and cultivate your unique way of being a man. Change or die! The stakes were that high. I needed the men sounding me. Their music helped me change for the better. It began to soothe what ached within me.…”

Safe Arms

“I am one man that do love his children” …. 

His voice rang across generations and blazed up from the page I was reading in Herbert G. Gutman’s bookThe Black Family in Slavery and Freedom 1720-1925

Writing to his wife, who’d been sold from him before the Civil War, the unnamed brother asked: 

“Send me some of the children’s hair in a separate paper with their names on the paper …. You know how I am about my children. You know I am one man that do love my children ….”

I had already been thinking about being emotionally safe and literally safe in someone’s arms, because I was celebrating the 2022 Juneteenth publication of Safe Arms: 20 love and erotic poems (w/an Ooh Baby Baby moan), by FlowerSong Press of McAllen, Texas, with Spanish Translations and cover design by Chilean American Francisco Letelier

Juneteenth also brought the on-line premiere of my new video meditation on the safe arms of fatherhood, “Mandalas of My Life,” commissioned by Alicia Vogl Saenz, Manager of the LA County Museum of Art’s Family Programs Education & Public Programs.

Then on July 5 I crooned happy birthday to my way-grown daughter Adenike, who was laughing at my off-key mangling of the famous melody! 

Shoot, I even literally walked up on an excerpt of one of my poems about fatherhood that was painted on a utility box in Glendale, CA, at the corner of Wilson and Maryland Streets!

I was walking in rhythm, in the words of the Blackbyrds classic song ….

Such pulsating loveliness … was utterly shredded when I learned the sad news that my Second Son had died. Gregory Silver was the biological son of my second wife. We shared our lives during the 1980s into the early 90s. I’m proud that as a grown man Gregory introduced me as his Second Father. 

Though Greg and I weren’t in regular contact, we usually swapped messages on his birthday in February. Greg was a good man who spent many years taking care of his father Horace Silver as his dad’s health deteriorated. His mother informed me that Greg’s wishes were to be cremated and his ashes scattered in a small private ceremony. 

How to feel through this unwanted rite of passage? What is the protocol for calling Greg’s mother from whom I’ve been divorced for almost 30 years? How to even express my grief within the field of his mother’s profound mourning?  Why risk the profound discomfort of trying to help comfort Greg’s mother?  

She needed safe arms that I could no longer offer. I hungered for safe arms that she could no longer offer. 

Yet I made the call. She answered. For 10 minutes, we claimed eternity on behalf of a marvelous young man. Not family. Not together. But there … present … together.

Keep your eyes on life! 

It will teach you to hum the lullaby – soothingwordlessaffirming, even funky – that the baby in us need to hear …    

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “…  Coda #2: February 2013. It’s 32 years after I moved cross country to live with him and his Moms. I notice the flashing light on my telephone. I’ve got a voicemail. I dial up the code and listen: I hear Greg’s familiar staccato. He’s laughing. Voice verging on falsetto. Good humor floods me. I’m smiling before I listen to the actual message. Parents of grown children live for these magical check-ins, these unexpected life lines, these reminders that our kids consider us eligible for an unscripted moment of their time. The message in full:

“Peter what’s happening man. It’s Greg. Just shouting you out. I bought the Essential Earth Wind & Fire. I had bought my father this BluRay of Earth Wind & Fire, which inspired me to buy their greatest hits…. And I was like, damn, I can’t listen to this music without thinking of you, every morning, playing that in the morning, on your way to work, or on my way to school. I was like, this is the Soundtrack of Our Lives! Had to shout you out, man! Hope all is well. I love you. I’ll talk to you soon. Take care.” Several times, I press 1 to replay the message. With each listen, the years melt away. I feel like the grown up I always wanted to be for him. The grown up he proudly calls his Second Father. I want y’all to clap your hands this evening .…”

Hymn to the Mother

Point Reyes

You can’t applaud and take notes – Samuel F. Yette

Charles Lloyd’s Hymn to the Mother is go-to music, when I’m working diligently to maintain persistence and sanity, remain emotionally supple, and recalibrate from any drama in my life.

Hymn to the Mother, of course, evokes the voice of my own Moms! 

ALSO it’s a turn of phrase that has become a personal mantra.

When I hum the melody, or chant the phrase, I hold hands with reverence.

I clarify what’s praiseworthy within myself. 

I clarify who has earned my praise.

I am renewed. I don’t have to explain. I just have to sing, hold my head up, hold my head to the sky. 

I have only to walk. I have only to show myself. I have only to be myself, again.

When I hum the melody, or chant the phrase, I invoke creativity. I provoke myself to claim the artistic and administrative stamina required to, again, mount the powerful urge and urgency I feel when the ineffable beckons.

When I hum the melody, or chant the phrase, I am a walking lightning rod for ideas and transformations on the sidewalks of our lives…. I make eye contact with babies on the street, haha, yes I do, and in crowds at festivals or on the metro, they smile at me and trust me and their gazes give me unblemished dap! 

When I hum the melody, or chant the phrase, I know I can choose to generate a field of celebration around my everyday rock and roll.

am stingy with my applause, cautioned as I was by Mister Yette, the Howard professor who most imprinted me. He was teaching us that a reporter is not a cheerleader. [Dudley Randall said: ‘a poet is not a jukebox!’] 

Mister Yette taught us to put no one on a pedestal, to ask the toughest question, to follow the facts, to follow the money. He reminded us to seek cultural salience over the satisfaction of proximity to power or to the powerful.  

Mister Yette’s ethical counsel synced up with Moms’ ethical imprinting when I left her home in Southeast DC for Howard’s campus in Northwest DC! And years later, Lloyd’s Hymn to the Mother became a creative catalyst, a cosmic convergence, a sonic home for ecstatic insights. 

Listening to this music, I actually trance out! I get out my own way. 

become Moms’s home training. I become Mister Yette’s intellectual education. I become the artist and thinker and citizen I want to be at my best. I become the man who welcomes his wholeness, his unique instincts, his individuality. I become the man who is brave enough to offer his most distinctive takes on life and living.

Charles Lloyd’s Hymn to the Mother   concentration in psalm   calling through calling   invoking Her delicious reverence for life   illuminating Her persistence
revealing hope She wore on oval face of an abandoned child 
echoing Her passions to live beyond prescriptions of childhood diseases
shape-shifting Her contours beyond whims & codes on bureaucratic forms
shaping invisible numbers sprawled upon white cardboard    praising Her   harvesting Her   with musical brushstrokes that shepherd my return to a modest 2BR crib across the Anacostia River   an official orphan bookmarks another random chapter in the Sacred Book for Haunted Lovers   transcribes lessons from a January mother with the summer name 

an oracle named June 

taken way way way too soon

BONUS EXCERPT from my book, Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ WINNER, 2015 AMERICAN BOOK AWARD: “… I am embracing, craving and exploring my complex humanity as an African American man. Critical celebration has guided me into nuanced self reflection and evolving curiosity about a simple, provocative question: What is a happy Black man? How does he navigate the labyrinth of life? How do I? I am a son, brother, father, grandfather. I am a lover, apprentice to wiser elders, straight man crafting brotherhood with my gay Homeboy. I am an orphan seeking affirmation after the deaths of my mother and father. I have confronted, survived, and transcended my youngest daughter’s rape by her Black step father. A happy Black man?  I am done with surviving. I’m done with Black History Month packaging, the symbolic roll call of the heroes and the readings of their pronouncements. I’ve been ordained by anonymous, daily, often agonizing work, in search of timeless health and lasting jubilee. The Black man of happiness has blossomed. I’m hungry for the change of ball bearings! I’m ready to pour the love packed in honey. I am .…”