Enjoyed my first…yes, my first homecoming at Xavier University Of La this year! I’d have to say it was a very pleasant experience, from the “yard party” to the concert featuring national acts; from the reintroduction to friends from my class to meeting the current students during the festivities with whom I had some affinity through my fraternity, etc. Plus, Xavier has definitely taken the lyric “Lemme upgrade ya!” to heart as several new facilities have graced the campus to heighten the university’s professional profile in the city of New Orleans and beyond.
Friday afternoon was the “yard party” event. The “yard” has moved from its former location that I remember in the mid-90s to the front of the four-story University Center on the corner of Dixon & Broadway. Of course, the music was current as I arrived with my mom (who is a graduate, also), so we initially walked into the building and sat in booths outside of the cafeteria. Eventually, the DJ was “possessed” by the spirit of old school, and I walked out to hear a “throwbacks” set featuring “Poison”, “This Is How We Do It”, “Candy”, etc. The positive reception of the students to these old-school jams offset the feelings I had when several of them called me “sir” during my brief interactions with them. LOL
Over the course of this time, I also got a picture with the current Ms Xavier University & President Francis: http://moby.to/n1ried
Classic songs done by impeccable performers filled the theater of the Morial Convention Center on Friday night, set into motion by the reaction of the finely dressed XULA alumni who sat throughout the theater. Stephanie Mills, an “opening act” for the night, has not lost any of the power and control of her vocals that she commanded in the late-80s & 90s. She teased the audience with shortened versions of her popular R&B hits that were recognizable after a few opening measures played by the band: “Never Knew Love Like This Before”, “What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin”, “(You’re Puttin’) A Rush on Me”. She mentioned how challenging it was to perform an “short set” with the energy she displayed in each song, and the reaction from the crowd who jammed to her stylings. After a brief departure from the stage preceded by her mentioning that “they won’t let me sing anymore songs due to time”, she returned to close with “Home” from “The Wiz”, a fan favorite which received a thunderous applause when her set finished.
Then, it was time for the second act: The Mighty, Mighty O’Jays! From the moment they hit the stage, the trio of Eddie Levert, Walter Williams & Eric Nolan Grant brought out the college kid in everyone with their string of top-40 hits, including “Backstabbers”, “Let Me Make Love To You”, “Give the People What They Want”, & “Cry Together”, which Eddie Levert used as a means to entice a particular “seasoned” member of the audience, to her delight on the projection screens, as well as the rest of the crowd. The closing song “For The Love Of Money” roused the crowd to their feet to keep the audience in a party mood as the concert ended.
Taking the high from the concert, the afterparty was at Generations, a spacious & classy club just a few blocks from the Morial Convention Center. Several of the anniversary classes were represented, seen congregating in the VIP sections, but the DJ catered to the alumni from the 80s & 90s who were workin’ it out on the dance floor as he played R&B hits as well as the New Orleans bounce music well into the night!
The homecoming parade felt like a mini-Mardi Gras, with the procession of student organizations, visiting groups (such as Xavier Prep band), & newly-elected class officers & homecoming court, all throwing candy from their vehicles to onlookers. Some of the vehicles were also throwing the high-end Mardi Gras beads, though not consistently. LOL The parade ended at a tailgate near the Convocation Center, complete with great music from a DJ & food selections like catfish & mac & cheese. I made sure to get a picture with the Xavier mascot, who was new to me. Didn’t recognize him from my days as a student.
The impressive, new Convocation Center opened at the end of the tailgate for the homecoming games. The location of the new athletics facility as well as the size of the venue was a startling statement regarding how far Xavier University of La has come. Like the song says, “Movin’ on up!”
For the trip finale, I attended the banquet Saturday night. Once again, alumni came out in their finest threads to take the class alumni photo (which I almost missed due to my mad dash for a tie; I didn’t pack one). Once that activity was done, it was time to settle into the seats that were going to take us thru the evening. Good food (shrimp & corn chowder soup for appetizer; chicken breast & flounder for entree); good company in that the seating was arranged by class, so I got to really socialize & reminisce with peers; good live music provided by a jazz trio; and all for a great cause, Xavier University of La!
Recently, I was challenged to submit a song that showcases some type of anger. My genre of choice is R&B, but I was astounded at what I discovered in my quest to perform an “angry Black man” song. To be clear, I was confined to the selection of songs on the contest website Singsnap.com, which is an online karaoke site. Mind you, this selection is even smaller than the shallow pool of classic R&B songs that are available through karaoke. As anyone who loves Black music can attest when going to the local bar for karaoke, there are many songs that just aren’t available. With all that in consideration, this is the list of “angry Black man” songs that I came up with:
Beat It - Michael Jackson
Contagious - Ronald Isley f/ R Kelly & Chante Moore
F*** You - Cee-Lo
Give Me The Reason - Luther Vandross
I Heard It Thru The Grapevine - Marvin Gaye
If You Don’t Know Me By Now - Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
If You Think You’re Lonely Now - Bobby Womack
In The Rain - Oran Juice Jones
In My Bed - Dru Hill
Leave Me Alone - Michael Jackson
What’s Going On - Marvin Gaye
You Haven’t Done Nothin’ - Stevie Wonder
….What?!? You mean to tell me that Black men don’t have a full range of emotions, musically? If the challenge had been heartbreak, there’s a ton of songs from time immemorial I could’ve sung, from The Temptations “I Wish It Would Rain” to Brian McKnight’s “Anytime” to Lenny Williams’ “Cause I Love You” to Ne-Yo’s “So Sick”. You want lovestruck? There’s “Ain’t To Proud To Beg” by the Temps, “I Want Her” by Keith Sweat, and “My My My” by Johnny Gill. I could tap the well of songs to express other emotions like joy, fear, envy, hope, regret, etc. Heck, guys can even talk about things in reference to women like jeeps and thongs, but it seems that “anger” or “rage” just isn’t an option for Black men.
For comparison, let’s make a list of “anger” songs for Black women:
Bust Your Windows - Jazmine Sullivan
Enough Cryin’ - Mary J Blige
G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T. - Changing Faces
He Wasn’t Man Enough - Toni Braxton
Heard It All Before - Sunshine Anderson
Hit ‘Em Up Style - Blu Cantrell
I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor
It All Belongs To Me - Monica & Brandy
It’s Not Right but It’s Okay – Whitney Houston
Irreplacable - Beyonce
Leave (Get Out) - JoJo
Love Should’ve Brought You Home - Toni Braxton
Mr Big Stuff - Jean Knight
My Lovin’(You’re Never Gonna Get It)
My Name Is Not Susan - Whitney Houston
No More Lies - Michel’le
Not Gon’ Cry - Mary J Blige
Shake It Off - Mariah Cary
Tyrone - Erykah Badu
What Have You Done For Me Lately - Janet Jackson
Where You At - Jennifer Hudson
I’m just scratching the surface with this list. It seems that almost every female R&B artist must have that “tell off” song in her repertoire. The one that screams “liberation” and “independence” while putting the man who scorned her in his place. While I’m not debasing that need for expression, I’m just concerned that Black men aren’t really allowed to go there commercially in R&B, particularly with an emotional outburst. Maybe that’s part of the reason why American society is so unnerved when a Black man gets upset, since music is a window to the soul. White men and women artists have no issue with selling music filled with rage and anger, such as Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats”, Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know”, or Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff”.
Finally, this topic gave me the epiphany for why hip-hop exploded onto the music scene, especially for Black men with an attitude. The market seems to have *no problem* with a Black man in hip-hop getting angry and expressing that emotion in clever lyrical form.
If I’m waaaayyy of in my R&B assessment, please let me know in the comments. :-D
Flashback…to the late 80s. I was attending mass in New Orleans with my family. There was this striking young lady who also went to mass in my parish. She tended to sit in the back pews of the church. Several of my guy friends from the neighborhood were interested in her, so they “visited” mass on the regular over a specific period of time. They were not Catholic, but would sit in the back of the church and chat to the pretty young sista while mass was occurring…until the priest paused the service to ask the guys why they were visiting, because their “chats” were disturbing the sanctity of the service.
This incident came to mind as I sat in the back of my current church for service. I noticed the teenagers on several occasions that sit in the last rows, particularly during the pastor’s sermon. They seem to be there under a type of parental duress, because they socialize at times as though what’s happening up on the platform is somewhat secondary to their current activity. This is only enhanced by the rise of mobile social media, which can distract them even further from the spiritual event around them. While it doesn’t exactly disturb the entire congregation, people near the youth are often made to either focus more on the sermon, or cast non-approving looks over at the youthful suspects.
These two events are at least 25 apart, and while I’ve not yet witnessed another pew speed date moment, the location of the episodes are similar. I’ve pondered about the significance of the “last pew” that attracts young Christians who might be straddling the line between their attraction to the world, and the calling of the Lord. It’s interesting that this pew / row is the closest to the exit doors (i.e., “the world”). Has any ministry ever targed this section of the church to reach out to the “at-risk” youth either in the church or visiting with their friends who attend? Is it just a “phase” that these youth are traveling through which will be a distant memory in their future spiritual journey, or are these incidents the start of a mindset about their approach to spirituality?
One day I hope & pray that I will get wisdom on this issue.