Hymn to the Mother

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 .…” https://blackmanofhappiness.com/shop/

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