Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Keith Barrow - Sept 1954 - Oct 1983

Mood - Reflective
Listening to:
Cannonball Adderly -
Live at Operation Breadbasket:
Country Preacher
I knew Keith Barrow from when he was a teen until he left Chicago to do his music thing. He was so into music and so talented. He like so many others started singing in the church and started a Gospel group of his own. I met Keith when my sister and I joined the Operation Breadbasket choir. Operation Breadbasket was the economic arm of Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was headed by Rev. Jesse Jackson. Keith's mother was the famous minister Willie Taplin Barrow, who was an executive director of Breadbasket and of the organization it grew into, the Rainbow/Push Coalition.

Keith was easy going and sweet, and as determined and dedicated and focused as his mother, but his heart was his music. Choir rehearsals held at the Parkway Ballroom were always intense and I looked forward to joking around and talking music with Keith. I remember Rev. Jackson came into our rehearsal, trying to sing and making us laugh, and asked Keith to please get him a screwdriver. To say Keith looked perplexed is an understatement. He went away and came back with a butter knife as a substitute. "Boy, I want a vodka and orange juice". Poor Keith was totally embarrassed and as he told me later shocked that a drink from the Parkway bar never crossed his mind as he scrambled everywhere looking for a tool. The choir and Jesse laughed and teased him forever about that.

Keith's talent soon took him to New York city and Los Angeles. He was signed by. Columbia and released his first album Keith Barrow in 1977.
His next LP Physical Attraction was a nice blend of soulful ballads and dance tracks and actually had a couple of well played disco hits including a hit 12 inch single. OMG! Remember those anyone?
His biggest hit also from that LP was "You Know You Wanna Be Loved" which hit #26 on the R&B chart in 1978. Next, the album Just As I Am was released in 1980 by Capital records. Columbia, Capital, these are major labels folks, this guy was good and on the way. But, Just As I Am was Keith Barrow's last album.

I remember the first of the weekly reports that Keith was ill and the requests for prayers. Rev. Barrow relates that her son called her from Paris before a show saying he was too ill to sing. He was hospitalized that night. Keith came home to Chicago very ill and was admitted to Michael Reese hospital. He had AIDS.
Keith's mother is a fiery orator and fierce civil rights activist nicknamed "The Little Warrior" so it was hard to see her sadness and distress as his health declined. Keith died October 22, 1983 of complications due to AIDS. He was the first friend I lost.
I'll always remember arguing with him about some group or song and shutting him up.
"Hey Keith, get me a screwdriver would ya?"
Rolls eyes.
He would have made an impact for sure with his music.

SOA 16

School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) reports that the trial of the SOA 16 is over. Reverend Don Coleman was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison. Don and Ann Marie will return home Tuesday.

This past weekend the SOA 16 and supporters held a Festival of Hope in Columbus GA. Monday morning the 16 and supporters marched to the courthouse where they met with the press before the trial. Five of the 16 made statements.
Joshua Harris, Cathy Webster, Martina Leforce, Alice Gerard and Don Coleman.
In his statement, Joshua Harris spoke of the diverse backgrounds and inspiration of the sixteen defendants; Cathy Webster, in all her wisdom as a grandmother and peace activists reminded us of the importance of love and solidarity against all odds ; Martina Leforce spoke of the connections between the SOA/WHINSEC and the inherent injustice within the political and economical policies implemented by the U.S. government; defendant Alice Gerard's statement focused our need to defend our right to freedom of speech; the closing statement came from Don Coleman of Chicago, IL who told us the story of a family from Guatemala who was torn apart by SOA-trained military during the dirty war.

The defendants stood before Judge G. Mallon Faircloth in three groups.

Group 1 of the SOA 16 received the following sentences:

Graymon Ward - 1 month in federal prison
Tina Busch-Nema - 2 months in federal prison
Margaret Bryant-Gainer - 71 days time served
Philip Gates - 2 months in federal prison
Joshua Harris - 2 months in federal prison

Group 2 of the SOA 16 received the following sentences:

Martina Leforce - 2 months in federal prison
Melissa Helman - 2 months in federal prison
Nathan Slater - 2 months in federal prison
Cathy Webster - 2 months in federal prison
Don Coleman - 2 months in federal prison

Group 3 of the SOA 16 received the following sentences:

Whitney Ray, a minor, was sentenced to 1 year probation and community service

Valerie Fillenwarth - 3 months & 10 days in federal prison
Julianne Oldfield - 3 months in federal prison
Sheila Salmon - 3 months & 10 days in federal prison
Mike Vosburg-Casey - 3 months & 10 days in federal prison
Alice Gerard - 6 months in federal prison

The 16 certainly are a diverse group coming from all parts of America and walks of life and ranging in age from 17 to 71. College students, a chicken farmer/piano tuner, journalist and grandmother and more make up this group. Good luck to the 16 and their families as they go home to prepare to serve their sentences.

SOA Watch profile on Don.
Don Coleman is a co-pastor with his wife, Ann Marie, at University Church in Chicago. University Church is a member of two denominations: the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. Don and Ann Marie came to University Church and Chicago in September 1, 1991. University Church played a pivotal role in the Sanctuary Movement in the early 80s. Virgilio Vicente and Isabel Canu and their family came to University Church from Guatemala as part of the movement. Virgilio’s parents were killed when their village Saq Ja was razed by the Guatemalan military – trained by the School of the Americas.

His decision to cross the line at Ft Benning is not unrelated to this congregational history.

Don has been part of several delegations to Central America including trips to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and southern Mexico (Chiapas). These trips outside the country have helped provide Don with a critical perspective on US foreign policies. He is a member of the Illinois Mayan Ministries of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ.

Ann Marie and Don were co-directors of the Guild House Campus Ministry at the University of Michigan for sixteen years. He was a campus minister at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas (1968-75) and began his ministry serving two rural churches in Springville and Payson, Utah (1963-68).

Don was born in Provo, Utah June 1, 1937, attended Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, and graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1963.

For more info and profiles and updates regarding SOA check SOA Watch.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Beauty Shop Quartet

We saw the coolest show Saturday night. Two members of our church along with two other women who come together to form Four Friends Singing, a barbershop harmony quartet, presented their annual fundraiser concert. This year Four Friends invited Barber-Y Coast, a male barbershop quartet.

The church had been transformed into a cabaret like atmosphere with candle lit tables, complete with the serving of baked treats, wine and cheese. UC members Diane and Sarah and their two friends started singing years ago when they all attended the University of Chicago. The ladies began the show in classy black then changed into white shirts with colorful sparkly vests and matching armbands. Very sequinny, smart and dapper.
The guys, who sported no mustaches, bow ties or straw hats, were dapper also in vests and arm bands and joked that when they aren't singing in a house of worship they are called the Vestosterones.

The harmony of both groups singing a cappella was astounding. I love that full, ringing chord, distictive barbershop harmony sound. Also, it was nice to remember that songs used to have actual melodies and creative lyrics without backin' that ass up or any such thing. Not that there's any thing wrong with that, I mean I like some of that too. But the songs the Friends and the Coast sang were mostly from the Tin Pan Alley era when songs were crafted for singing. When even after the phonograph, sheet music sales were as important as record sales. The groups also shared song trivia about the songs and the movie or play it came from. Back then, Broadway musicals provided most of the songs on the pop charts. Today of course it's rare to have that crossover. Movie musical songs joined Broadway tunes on the pop charts, but it wasn't as calculated as today where they somehow squeeze in a rap song no matter what the movie is about.

The Four Friends sang the Judy Garland to Mickey Rooney song, My Funny Valentine from Babes in Arms, What'll I Do and Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree and the 1930 song Georgia on My Mind. Trivia surprise, composer Hoagy Carmichael wrote Georgia about his sister not the state.

The ladies finished with a George Gershwin medly. The last song of the medly Strike up the Band ends with the lyrics "when the flag unfurled for a brave new world" they reached down and unfurled the GLBT Rainbow Flag, and the crowd goes wild. Nice surprise! Wonderful evening.

Prisoners of Conscience

He gives the best hugs around. Monica and I look forward to Reverend Don Coleman's hugs. He is handsome, especially with long hair. I like his hair longer, so does his wife and co-pastor at University Church, Rev. Ann Marie Coleman. University Church has come to mean a lot to us and Don is no small part of that. He is an honorable, humble, man of integrity. As I discussed earlier in a post about The School of the Americas, Don was one of those who felt compelled to cross the line in an act of civil disobedience. Members of University Church make this trip to Columbus, Georgia each year to bring attention to this issue.

We are not a large church and Don does a lot. His absence will have an impact. Some members, understandably voiced concern that now may not be a good time to risk the jailing of our co-pastor. But, Don had been contemplating this step to cross that line for a long time - mulling it over with his God, his conscience, and his wife. Coming to the deciding moment he did what he felt he had to do.

The trial begins Monday for Don and the other 15 arrested. I admit I am a bit nervous.
Thank you everyone for the e-mails of concern and for information. I will certainly let everyone know what happens in Columbus. Our hearts are certainly with Don and Ann Marie and the 15 and their families.

“If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.” - Henry David Thoreau

Monday, January 22, 2007

CHICAGO BEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!

WooHooo!!!The Chicago Bears are going to the big one! Who would have thunk it? And Lovie Smith is the first African American Head Coach to go to the Superbowl. The Bears will face the Indianpolis Colts lead by the second Black coach, Tony Dungy, to make it to the NFL Championship game.
I remember when Washington's Doug Williams made it all the way and was the first Black quarterback to do so. That was in 1988.

Congrats! Bears and Colts and for making more history.

Monica Roberts who has a super blog has a great post on this historic moment.

Doug Williams' 1988 Superbowl victory was historic.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Held Captive

We had a very interesting day yesterday. It was inspirational, spiritual, informational and motivational. How 'bout that?
University Church had as guest speaker Reverend Melbalenia Evans, a dynamic, engaging orator. We love it when she visits. Rev. Evans is certainly a proponent of United Church of Christ's, God Is Still Speaking initiative because her biblically based sermons, are always socially and contemporarily
relevant. She makes the connections and she keeps it real.

Sunday's scripture from the book of Amos whose theme is that faith in God is best evidenced by how you live. (Dr. King also draws from Amos in his "I Have a Dream" speech).
Celebrating Dr. Martin L. King, Rev. Evans spoke of how God worked through this man. That he was a true co-worker with God. That King used his eloquence to lift up the oppressed in the face of spit, fire and death to speak on God's behalf.

Then, launching into the theme of her sermon, "Held Captive", Rev. Evans started with a demonstration of the kids game London Bridges, showing how the captive person has restricted movement. Of course, this refers to the restrictions placed on African Americans, but Rev. Evans also made the connection of how God is being held captive in today's world. She pointed out that God does not honor a church service that does not honor God, but only the people giving the service. That God is held captive by churches that erect barriers and only pray exclusively for themselves. That God is dishonored by bashing or brutalizing same gender loving people, pushing seniors aside, racism, invading a country that calls God by a different name. God is held captive by churches and individuals who misappropriate the bible to justify injustice.
We sang We Shall Overcome and the wonderful Regina Bunton sang Precious Lord. Her voice is heaven.

That evening we went back to church for an informational gathering regarding School of the Americas. Listening to first hand experiences from our church member about losing his family members and other horrors was made harder when I realize that the USA sponsors the training of those who commit such acts. Our Rev. Don Coleman spoke of how he came to the decision to step over the line at Ft. Benning GA and get arrested in an act of civil disobedience. He and 15 others have a trial date January 29th. We support him with all our hearts. Love you Don!

MLK Quotes and a Tidbit

"There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society, with a large segment of people in that society, who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that they have nothing to lose. People who have a stake in their society, protect that society, but when they don't have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it."

"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was "well timed," according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This "wait" has almost always meant "never." We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

Before he was the great orator of his time, Martin Luther King Jr. was a athlete and a trash talker. He loved baseball. He ran track and played basketball. And though he was small, he was on his high school football team and had a reputation of talking trash to opponents during competition.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Yvonne De Carlo

The actress best known for starring in numerous 1940's Technicolor costume adventures and Westerns, Canadian-born Yvonne DeCarlo has died at age 84.

Although she had an extensive movie and TV career and a brief singing career (I didn't know that) she achieved pop culture immortality portraying Lily Munster on The Munsters television series in the mid '60's.

For a tribute to and profile of the sultry actress' more than interesting break into show biz and rise to stardom, as well as how and why she became Lily Munster, check out Alexandra's journal. Thanks, Alex.