Phenomenal Black Women Who Rock!: Review

This was a hard, heavy week. So much violence. So much death. It’s still March. It’s still Women’s History Month. But so many women are being slaughtered. Are we just trying to make women history? Earlier this month we had the women slaughtered in Georgia. This week people were slaughtered in Colorado. I’m a Pasadena native and there was a horrible fatal stabbing of two in our neighboring Altadena, where I grew up. It was this week that they released the identity of the two people killed. The two killed were a woman and her brother. More details would be forthcoming. 

The week of March 21st would be an incredibly full week for me also. March 20th, I had the opportunity to get the Covid-19 vaccine. It would be my first dose. I didn’t stop to think that it might not be a good idea before starting a 7day6k the next day. But I was already committed to do the 7day6k in order to help raise money for clean water for those in developing countries through the World Vision organization. I have been participating in these 6Ks, half marathons and my first marathon last year in order to do so since 2018. But I didn’t know how I would feel after my first dose. The opportunity arose to get the shot and I jumped at the chance. I rode my bike to get a shot. I waited the obligatory 15 minutes after, felt fine, then biked home. When I got home my left arm was tingling and started to go numb from the shoulder to the fingers. I waited and then it went away. But it scared me. 

The next day was Day 1 of the 7day6k. I rode my bike to the starting location and the same thing happened after I arrived. I sent texts to prayer warriors to pray for it to go away and that I wouldn’t fall out while running. It went away and I didn’t fall out. These days and deaths of Covid really put into perspective the fragility of our humanity. Sunday, March 21st, was also the last day of another fundraising event I had the pleasure of being part of, the Imago Music Festival that would raise money to help foster youth through United Friends of the Children. The festival was 10 days. I performed on the 4th day, March 15th, but the fundraising efforts continued as our goal for the festival was $50,000. 

Monday, March 22nd, was World Water Day, so our fundraising efforts for World Vision were increased as we tried to remind everyone of the need for clean water for the most vulnerable. The tingling in my arm wasn’t as bad that day. But I felt like I was starting to get a little numb from all of the bad news. You know that feeling when you want to cry but can’t? That day was the mass shooting in Colorado. Also, more details came out about the stabbings in my area. We now had the names of the victims. Could the suspect really be her son?

The next day was Tuesday, March 23rd. In between the 6k, fundraising, and horrible news of the latest mass shooting, I committed to attending an event: Phenomenal Black Women Who Rock! I remember something in my spirit telling me I needed to attend this event when I first saw it. It was part of the Jackie Robinson Arts and Humanities Lecture Series. It was like I saw Pasadena and my heart was like, Yes! Women’s History Month! Yes! Octavia Butler! A time to celebrate. But wait, how can I possibly celebrate in these times? How do I even have time to even watch this event? Shouldn’t I be fundraising? Grieving? Not to mention needing to prepare for a Neighborhood Sing with the Urban Voices Project the next day. 

I decided to run the 3rd day of my 7day6k after the presentation. I resigned myself to be still and focus on the presentation.

Pasadena City College | Jackie Robinson Arts & Humanities Lecture Series 2021  presents Art as Activism in the Era of Covid-19 & Civil Unrest in the USA: ReSet, Re-Discover & Re-Imagine! A four-part conversation/performative arts virtual online salon series. Part Two: Phenomenal Black Women Who Rock: From Myths to Milestones

All I can say is I am so glad I did. In this new Covid terrain that is landscaped with Zoom meetings, the Zoom screen is the absolute last place I thought I would find healing. Yes, the arts are cathartic. Yes, the arts are healing. This presentation is just what I needed at just the right time. Dare I say, a divine appointment. 

Charles Reese was the consummate host navigating us in and out of worlds with the greatest of ease. His artistic tapestry of voice and improv even made the late start feel somewhat by design. Technical mishaps were handled with a smile and a flair that made me feel like we were all in good hands. 

Cheray O’Neal was our first dose of medicine. We heard her wonderful poetry and saw a clip of her short film, “Weep Not.” Books of hers were even given away as prizes for correct answers to questions about Octavia Butler.

We were introduced to DJ Lynnée Denise who would be providing the soundtrack for the evening. And then our second dose of healing came. I was completely taken aback with the acknowledgement and honor paid to Dr. Carol Brown who was on staff at PCC. Dr. Carol Brown is the woman, mother, coordinator, who was fatally stabbed in Altadena. During this tribute, I was looking at her picture on the screen. I was hearing who she was from personal testimony. My numbness started to leave and my heart and spirit was free to grieve her as the amazing person she was. She was humanized. We were even able to hear a piece of her favorite song, “I Smile,” by Kirk Franklin but not too much as to violate any licensing agreements. And I, for a moment, was able to smile. Smiling because Dr. Carol Brown was able to be seen. She was not just a nameless woman found stabbed to death. This Black woman was loved by many. She was a gift to her community and it hit home to me when I realized she was instrumental in the on campus food pantry for students. She was trying to house houseless students. She was doing the work but as I learned, it wasn’t work for her. It was just who she was as the co-coordinator of the Black STEM Program. She was part of the solution. Dr. Brown has left a powerful, uplifting legacy. I needed all of that. 

Listening to Cheray O’Neal made me want to get back into writing poetry. Hearing the tribute given to Dr. Carol Brown made me want to keep doing the work in the community. Nailah Porter, Esq. showed me that you do not need to put yourself in a box. You can be a lawyer and a musician and an activist who uses art for social justice. And the featured guest of the evening, the crème de la crème, Sandra Jackson-Dumont, Director and CEO of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art! I never will see a museum in the same light ever again. 

Long story short, this event was the shot in the arm that I needed. The one that didn’t make me go numb but actually uplifted, inspired, gave me new life. I am forever grateful for this series. Thankful that it would be accessible (free) during these uncertain financial times. It made me feel seen too. 

2 Comments

  1. I was inside the Zoom room for the Phenomenal Black Women program and it was definitely a healing experience. I didn’t know Dr. Brown, but the way the host, Charles Reese handled that moment — it was so heart warming. All the women were really incredible and Sandra Jackson Dumont is a great storyteller. That story she told about Nina Simone was priceless. I stayed to the end and grooved with the DJ who was spinning from Amsterdam. Thank you for sharing your review. Good luck on your run!

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