Erykah Badu, in her introspective song “On & On,” the lyrical genius talks about the wheel which keeps turning in our lives, the lessons we, hopefully, learn from experiences – good and bad – and then almost while exhaling, she proclaims, “what a day, what a day, what a day.”
As Badu, who closed out the 2022 Summer Spirit Festival on Sunday, Aug. 7, sang this song, along with a sea of music lovers in excess of 12,000 men, women and youth, I could not help but pause to thank God for holding my hand and guiding me during the past two years of unprecedented change brought on by COVID.
Somehow, we have survived the turning of the wheel. And while it’s not over yet, listening to the Black Goddess Badu challenge us with her intellectual profundity, swaying to the smooth and soulful serenade of Anthony Hamilton and being treated to the vocal brilliance of Marsha Ambrosius, I felt like I had been taken back to the Day of Pentecost.
Those who know this Old Testament account recall that on that day, all differences in language and ethnicity and religion and philosophy melted away. All of the ancestors, no matter from whence they hailed, understood one another. They embraced one another not in spite of but because of their differences. And as that Day drew to a close, they felt empowered – filled with joy, hope – and fueled with a sense of urgency and motivation as they returned to their own communities to be about their Father’s business.
That’s how I felt as I left the Summer Spirit Festival. I had journeyed down memory lane, thanks to the one-two punch of Method Man & Redman who took us back to the ’80s and ’90s when hip-hop music and old-school R&B provided us with reasons to celebrate our Blackness – subtle, soulful, serendipitous and sometimes even sensual.
D.C.’s own Junkyard Band, pioneers of the District’s homegrown form of music, go-go, with anthems during which the beat never stops, took us back to the days when D.C. was Chocolate City and proud to hold that distinction.
As a native of Motown, that’s Detroit for those who somehow don’t know, I wasn’t exposed to go-go before moving to the DMV. We were junkies to the sounds and songs of the Tops and Temps and Supremes.
So, unlike hundreds of folks in the audience at the Festival, I was unfamiliar with the lyrics from Junkyard Band’s hit song about “sardines and pork and beans.” But I didn’t have to know the words because hundreds of others did and proudly sang along with the band.
And then we got a taste of the Caribbean in a sing-song message from Ayanna Gregory, the daughter of one of my mentors, the late Dick Gregory. She came on at the top of the show singing her new single, “Life is Calling You,” during which she reminded us, among other things, that “fear is a liar.”
CD Enterprises, Inc., under the superb leadership of the dynamic duo of Darryll Brooks and Carol Kirkendall, have been in the business for 50 years. And it shows. As for the rumor that Black folks cannot get together in masse without something negative popping off, all I can say is “lies, lies, lies.”
It was a scorching hot, summer day during which strangers met and found instant points of similarity. Women were treated with honor and respect, even as they sported their short-shorts. Brothers embraced in genuine love – sporting all the colors, nuances of fashion and hairstyles from the African Diaspora.
And for one of the rare moments in my life, I felt like I was a member of the privileged community, free from the shackles, seen and unseen, that have been placed on the shoulders of my ancestors and on my own shoulders, simply because of the color of our skin.
What a day, what a day, what a day!