Archive | August, 2010

The Man, The Music, The Maestro: Remembering FAMU’s Dr. William P. Foster

30 Aug

Known as one of the biggest and best marching bands in the nation, Florida A&M University’s world renowned Marching 100 did not achieve such international recognition and acclaimed status on a whim.  The bands pioneering, high-stepping style coupled with its innovative musical arrangements have always had the definitive signature of one extraordinary musician.

Dr. William P. Foster, founder of the baddest band in the land and credited with revolutionizing marching band techniques, playing style and performance flair died this weekend in Tallahassee.  He was 91-years-old.  Dr. Foster became the marching band’s director in 1946 and served faithfully until his retirement in 1998.  During his tenure at FAMU, Foster created more than 200 intricate half-time pageants for the elite ensemble.

Highlighted in a 1989 New York Times article where the Marching 100 were categorized as perhaps the most imitated of marching bands, Foster shared his methodology with the article’s writer:

“There’s a psychology to running a band…people want to hear the songs they hear on the radio; it gives them an immediate relationship with you. And then there’s the energy. Lots of energy in playing and marching. Dazzle them with it. Energy.”

And whether a Famuan, a common spectator or a rival, one thing that cannot be denied is the fact that the Marching 100 (jokingly referred to by we Alums as the marching 500 for the powerful sound they exude during performances, their ability to seemingly congest an entire football field…and the reality that the band probably hasn’t been at the 100 count since the 1950’s) definitely has energy. Plenty of it. In Spades.

Whether ringing in the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles (1984), representing the United States in France’s Bastille Day Parade (1989), rocking out with Prince during Superbowl XLI (they’ve also performed in half-time shows during Superbowl III, XVII, XXXIX and the last year’s Superbowl XLIV pregame show) or hailing The Chief (Florida representatives for both Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s inaugural parades), none of the accolades would have been possible without the visionary leadership of Dr. Foster and his foresight in parting from standard band routines and instead developing a most imaginative and ingenious approach to showcasing true marching band pageantry.

Having graduated from the University of Kansas in 1941, earning his Masters Degree from Wayne State University in 1950 and receiving his doctorate from Teachers College at Columbia University in 1955, Foster put his learning to work to quickly become “The Man Behind the Baton”.  In death, he leaves behind a rich musical legacy as well as a throng of Rattlers young and old, truly grateful to have witnessed Dr. Foster and The Marching 100 “Strike, Strike and Strike Again” with such precision, finesse and panache.

The Marching 100 performing at The 48th Annual Grammy Awards:

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The Weekend I Wept

29 Aug

As I sit here and think about this weekend’s happening, I cannot help but to feel a little sad.  These past few days have marked some pretty pivotal events in American History; some astounding, others unsettling but all, significant occurrences that we will never be able to forget:

  • I Have a Dream…of Restoring Honor

 On the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech, arguably one of the most divisive right wing talk show hosts Glenn Beck organized what could only be described as a highly controversial assembly known as the “Restoring Honor” rally.  Ironically enough, the gathering was arranged on The Mall in Washington, D.C. and centered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Beck and Tea Party tart Sarah Palin gave impassioned speeches to the thousands of conservatives in attendance.  Of course, Beck claimed that his plans to host the rally on the same date that millions would be honoring and reflecting upon the words of Dr. King was purely coincidental, even though Civil Rights Leaders have openly criticized Beck’s efforts as a blatantly obvious attempt to “hijack The Dream.”

  • Hurricane Katrina Revisited

Five Years after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc in The Gulf and the levees broke in New Orleans, President Obama paid a visit to The Crescent City to “celebrate the resilience of the people of the Gulf and the progress that has been made to rebuild it stronger than before.”  Though accused of a slow and apathetic response to the millions of displaced residence in the region, to date the U.S. government has committed close to $114 billion in relief and recovery efforts for the damage caused by Katrina in 2005.  Unfortunately, when documentaries like “If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise” expose some of the successes and many of the failures in restoring housing, healthcare, education, the economy and basic law and order to The Big Easy and its surrounding areas,  it is very difficult to applaud the government’s efforts.

  • Michael Jackson

A little more than a year after the world lost pop superstar and quintessential humanitarian Michael Jackson, we mourn even more today on what would have been his 52nd birthday.  Having suffered a heart attack thought to have been brought on by a Demerol overdose, many people have since speculated that the same drive for perfection that brought the world Jackson’s renowned sound could have possibly been the same determination that ultimately lead to his death.   But no matter how people felt about Michael Jackson as a person, no one could deny his influence on music.  And though he is no longer with us, Jackson’s poignant and thought provoking legacy in the world of music will always live on.

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Praise Break: I Just Want To Be Right

27 Aug

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Today was one of those days that although had plenty of “worthy” news stories to blog about, left me feeling a little overwhelmed and not really in the mood to be insightful. Chalk it up to the fact that I live in a country that prides itself on owning the melting pot monopoly, yet has a small but vocal societal fringe that would have you believe that restoring America requires strict uniformity and homogeny.  Or perhaps my dissociative funk has a bit to do with knowing that although in these here 50 states I have the freedom to practice my religion without persecution, I am left wondering if in Atlanta, my sister-friend’s freedoms are being infringed upon because she maintains her hold on a faith that differs from what’s found within the status quo; a faith that has currently been dealt with in a controversial, horribly vicious and dismissive way.  But like I said, I’m far too weary to even go there…besides, that topic is one that requires at least 500mgs of ibuprofen and all I have in the medicine cabinet is 200mgs of chewable aspirin. Translation: not gonna happen.

What is happening today on The Pack though, is a look at people who worship (humorously) without apology; a series I like to call “Praise Break.”  Now, having grown up in the typical Baptist Church setting, my mother always used to fuss at me for my sheer delight (read: amusement) in other people’s method of worship.  What she didn’t seem to understand however, was that I was not poking fun at the folks who back-flipped down the church’s center aisle or who “testified”  a little too long about being blessed to be able to tithe properly off of their winning Pick-Three ticket. No, these “offerings of thanks” although funny motivated me to be grateful and to appreciate all that I have.

Same goes for (we’ll call her) Sister Fedora in the video above.  Although she is invoking the 100th Psalms with all of her might, yet is only giving us the noise (none of it joyful), she has truly encouraged me with her passionate (though at times, tone deaf) plea, to do a better job of being right, living right and doing right…and at the end of the day, isn’t that what this life here on earth is all about anyway?

Read My Body (Language): Sorry Dude…Not Interested

26 Aug

I think it is safe to speak for womankind when I say that no matter how self-sufficient, successful or “grown and got her own” a female is, she can still value a genuine compliment from a man every now and again.  Whether it’s a trendy change in hairstyle, the purchase of a new frame-accentuating outfit, or even a subtle update in lip-stain color with the change of the seasons, a woman can certainly appreciate a man who recognizes beauty in the many forms in which it is manifested (and don’t even get me started on the fellas who classify objectification of women as a trait of the Cro-Magnon and instead regard a woman’s sharp wit and honed intellect as priceless virtues… *swoon*). 

But what I’ve come to learn (and what I am sure that many women can attest to) is the fact that there is always that one man whose compliment cannot be assuaged with a simple “thank you.”  Oh no, this man’s compliment is more than just mild admiration; instead it’s something more akin to really creepy and desperate pestering.  And what’s sad is the fact that this one guy never picks up on a woman’s “tells” that indicate her disinterest in him.  Either that or he simply started off his day with bacon & eggs and a side of confidence to boot.

So here’s the situation (because you know this was all a segue into another A Pack Tale, right?), having lost the Rock, Paper, Scissors best of three challenge to my honey, I loaded the kids up and headed to The-Supercenter-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named to get ahead of the curve and purchase the various materials and provisions that their teachers outlined on the ever-ridiculous annual school supply list (cheesecloth, really?).  Although the plan was to get in, pick up items, mark them off the list, and get out, the shopping gods selected that stitch in time to be humored, and apparently I was their court jester:

D@&% ma, I just gotta say, your body is crucial! So check it, I’m new in town and…

Now, I realize that not every man’s appreciation of a womanly form will be reflected in song lyrics, sonnets or masterpieces like Alexandros of Antioch’s Venus  de Milo, but good grief dude!  And did he not notice the children popping wheelies with my shopping cart and the strategically placed left hand on the side of my face, revealing my wedding band?

…Word, you’re married?  *Whistles* Yeah, I see he gotchu that Kobe-type joint too.  Can’t be mad at a brotha for getting you off the market quick.  I mean no disrespect, but what if I was to ask for your number so we could be friends…

Huh? Let me address two issues here, right quick:

 1) Although my honey has impeccable taste in jewelry and has done his thing by bestowing upon me a multi-carat bauble, it can hardly be considered a “Kobe-type joint.”  But I’m sure if I was wearing a cherry ring pop, this dude would have been just as enthralled with its cut and clarity. He probably would’ve asked me if it was a blood diamond. 

2) How is dismissing the fact that I am married and charging ahead to ask me for my telephone number not disrespectful? THIS is why I am always race-walking in the store and pretending not to hear “compliments” when I go out!

…You just gonna shoot me down *clutches heart*? I can’t even take you out for like, lunch or something? We could go right now…

Jesus, be a fence.  Jesus, be a fence…

I mean, I could take them too; I just want to get to know you better…

Did he just proposition me and my kids?  See, I know my New Year’s Resolution was to turn over a new leaf and be less abrasive this year but this dude wants me to use my words as verbal armaments in a combat operation against his special brand of foolery.

“Hey mommy, are you okay?” *Looks dude up and down* “I think we might need to go to Target, all the stuff here is scattered all over the place and raggedy.” *Looks dude up and down again.

Clearly my honey has been schooling my big boy behind the scenes on how to be “the man” in his absence.  And although the big boy was subtle (NOT), creepy-compliment-dude didn’t push the issue and finally sulked away.

“You don’t have to thank me mom, but I am gonna tell daddy how I did!”

LOL, yes clearly the big boy has been getting pointers from his father.

So ladies, short of your child running interference for you, what are some of your most memorable ways of getting rid of that one creepy-compliment-dude? And gentlemen, do you know a creepy-compliment-dude? Is he really oblivious to a woman’s disinterest, or will his ego simply not let him take no for an answer?

They’re Back to School, I’m Back to Beat

25 Aug

I recently joked with my mentor (who regularly insists that I make a little time for myself each and every day…to which I assure him will happen on a more consistent basis once I discover how to enact a 26 hour day) about my time not being my own.  I mean really, with a demanding job, a tenacious honey and kids who don’t seem to understand the word “no” until I threaten them with bodily harm and/or confiscation of worldly possessions, by the time I’ve come home from work, administered baths, signed forms, returned from practices, issued a “last call” in the Pack Kitchen and turned out all the lights, I am usually dog-tired and not worth the 600 thread count Egyptian Cotton sheets I pass out on.

And never does this sensation feel as true (and as overwhelming) than at back to school time.  The Pack younglings (with the exception of the overly dramatic baby child who tried to walk out of the front door with his siblings this morning with bare feet and a diaper bag on his back) returned to the halls of learning today, but not without a plethora of time-consuming drama that ultimately rendered me exhausted and completely useless by midday.  With my nephew in middle school, he pretty much had his first day mapped out, so to avoid any teenaged embarrassment, I let him head out to his bus stop alone.  Now with the big boy’s broken foot however, riding the school bus was no bueno, and since he wasn’t travelling via the cheese wagon, there was no way the baby girl was going to pass up a chauffeured ride to school. 

Once we got there, I had to fill out forms detailing his injury, the appropriate care to be taken while in school,  special travel accommodations and permission for him to be outfitted with an elevator key (to his supreme delight).  Of course, the fact that my child decided to milk his battle wound for all its worth, while his sister’s half protective natured silently did battle with her green-eyed-none-attention-getting monster other half only made matters worse.  But once I told Frick and Frack that they were both special, sent them to their respective classes and got myself to work, I did have a reasonably productive day; only slightly hampered by two calls from the school regarding omitted paperwork and a minor playground fall (yep…he’s on crutches and in a stabilizing boot, yet he thought that the monkey bars were a good idea).

When everyone got home this evening, tales of first day jitters, rekindled friendships and gripes about homework spilled forth from around the dinner table.  Much of the night was spent completing first day paperwork, preparing for tomorrow, reminding the kids and being reminded of strict bedtimes and proclaiming more than once the fact that it is “a school night.”  But even now as I am sitting here churning this post out, my eyes are burning and I am disliking myself severely for utilizing this hour for writing, when resting in the Lord for a solid 8 would be such a better alternative.  The reality though, is that my writing has been my “me time” for this last year and I owe it to myself to take a moment or two to simply decompress each day, even if I end up looking like Droopy in the morning as a result.

Still, the idea of a 5am wake-up call to iron clothes, pack lunches, make breakfast, smell breaths (you’d be surprised how many times “oh, I forgot to brush my teeth” comes up during goodbye kisses) and see my babies off has me rolling my eyes and gnashing my teeth.  We’ve only gotten one day under our belts, how in the world am I going to make it until June?  Obviously, I am going to need you prayer-warriors to send up a couple to The Father.  Either that, or we just might end up doing The Pack Academy from the comfort of my bedroom living room; back packs optional.

Confectionary Precipitation…As Sung By Tay Zonday

24 Aug

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I’m not quite sure how this song got BACK in my head after all this time but hey, if I have to suffer through humming the monotonous Casio chords and droning tenor verses, then so do you!

But for as utterly annoyed as I am right now that even the stupid declarations of Soulja Boy’s Pretty Boy Swag can’t dislodge this tune from my temporal lobe, what’s really interesting to me is that after having re-listened to the song, it kinda makes me wonder if instead of the weather forecast outside The Wonka Factory, this little ditty may actually be a clever observation on race relations.  Hmm?

Still, annoyance aside and some three years and 55,000,000 views later, Tay Zonday is pretty captivating…incessant voice, habitual tick and all. 

Queue the music Maestro!

Serena Says Sayonara to The U.S. Open

23 Aug

Having spent much of my weekend tending to a child who suffered a broken foot in a “freak” football accident, I was completely sympathetic upon learning that another athlete (a considerably more decorated and well known one) had to put her career and aspirations for another winning title on hold while currently on the mend. 

Serena Williams withdrew from U.S. Open competition last Friday, apparently due to an injury she suffered to her foot on broken glass while dining with friends a few months ago.

Now what would be a celebrity-athlete injury without a bit o’ drama and gossip from the rumor mill? Although it was alleged that there were some who were skeptical about Williams’ motives and decision to pull out of The Grand Slam, once she revealed that her injury would require surgery and pictures began surfacing of her hobbling all over creation with a booted right foot, the naysayers respectfully “fell back.”

“It is with much frustration and deep sadness that I am having to pull out of the U.S. Open…[it is] one of the most devastating moments of my career” Williams said in a statement released by her publicist.

With 16 appearances and numerous wins at major grand slam tournaments over the years, including three U.S. Open Championships under her belt, Serena hasn’t missed the big show since her absence from Wimbledon back in 2006.  The fact that anyone would question her intentions for withdrawing from the Open seems pretty ridiculous in my mind.

Personally, I always look forward to seeing the Williams sisters throughout tennis season and participating in the various tournaments each year, so the #1 ranked woman’s absence from the U.S. Open has certainly reduced my interest quotient (although, with yummy Rafael Nadal having earned the spot as the top-seeded man, I suppose I will be able to bear watching the rest of the tourney).  My disinterest however, isn’t because I am not riveted by the other world class athletes who embody skill and finesse whenever they step out onto the hard court.  The reality is that I was simply looking forward to Serena redeeming herself at this year’s U.S. Open after her epic meltdown during last year’s semifinals appearance against Kim Clijsters, where she went bonkers on a line judge over a foot fault call (later earning her a hefty $82,500 fine). 

At the end of the day though, while Oracine and Richard’s daughters are certainly great for the sport, I can guarantee you that as a true fan of tennis, I’d watch even if they weren’t playing.  Still, I wish Serena a speedy recovery, but would advise that she spend this brief hiatus intent on a full health revitalization and not teaching her newest bestie how to execute the latest dance craze.

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