A Musical Taste Test: 7th Annual Roots Picnic

It was one of the first days when the horrid Philadelphia winter gave way to the anticipated summer. The breeze from the Penn’s Landing waterfront brought the perfect wind relief to the blazing sun. Sunglasses, print caps, shorts and skirts adorned onlookers as the legendary Roots crew put together its seventh annual picnic.

As a first-time attendee, I was happy to find that the Roots Picnic wasn’t just the land of the current hip-hop lords. It was a mixture of old and new, noted and upcoming, hip-hip, soul and alternative. Bit by bit, throughout the afternoon, I saw a handful of attendees turn into a sea of thousands shuffling between the two stages every half hour.

The acts were as diverse as the audience. What I respected most about the festival […]

By |August 7th, 2014|Blog

Five Black American Cultural Events in Colorado

I was seven when my family boarded an Amtrak train in New York City, bound for Denver, Colorado. It wasn’t clear when or if we’d return to the land of a million dreams, but as the majestic skyline formed, bringing with it the regal Rocky Mountains, it was clear that this new adventure was worth embarking on. Now, almost two decades later, Colorado is home.

I’ve lived in the Ozarks of Southern Illinois, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, in the heart of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the southern plains of North Carolina, but Colorado trumps them all. The state is known for its ski resorts and mile-high altitude, not to mention some legislative firsts. However, I am most fond of Colorado’s cultural experiences for black residents. Colorado houses a vibrant […]

By |June 18th, 2014|Blog

Exploring North Carolina’s Triangle Region

Taking a winter break down South has a way of inspiring and giving me the wind to boldly sail into spring. After discovering furniture designer and cabinetmaker Thomas Day, I knew North Carolina would be my next jaunt. For sure, I had Poole’s Diner, helmed by Ashley Christensen (just crowned Best Chef: Southeast by the James Beard Foundation Awards), on my must-dine list. To round out my itinerary, I asked NC’s finest food professionals for recommendations on where to go. They didn’t steer me wrong.

I kicked off my day trip in Milton (population 200) at the Thomas Day House and Museum, snaked through Durham and closed out in Raleigh. Here’s a play-by-play of my adventures.

Outside Danville, Virginia, lies the former tavern and home of Mr. […]

By |June 12th, 2014|Blog

Train Tracks

Take a trip down memory lane with these classic locomotive-inspired songs

Long before Don Cornelius brought Soul Train, the first African American dance show, and its ubiquitous “Soul Train Line” into living rooms across America, locomotives had already been a source of inspiration for some of the most talented, widely acclaimed musicians and songwriters. More than just a form of transportation, trains have played a significant part in African American history, dating back as far as the early 19th century when black gandy dancers (maintenance workers) laid and maintained railroad tracks while singing musical chants. Flash forward to today, and some of our most treasured tunes boast a train-inspired narrative. From easy listening, big band and swing to early folk, R&B, rock ’n’ roll, jazz, blues and modern pop, the […]

By |May 21st, 2014|Blog

Reunions: The Generational Connector in Black Families

Like a web, the family reunion has been a great connector of black families for generations. On one side sit grandparents, who recall what life was like way back when and shun the lyrics in today’s music. On the other end of the spectrum, grandchildren listen to their stories with a slightly skeptical ear and dance to old school music with relatives who show them how to do the Electric Slide for the first time. The bridge is created.

Family reunions are the one time of year that both multiple sides and multiple age groups get together to remember the bloodline that makes them one. For me, that’d be the Robinson/Brevard reunions of yesteryear that Camden, South Carolina could barely contain — the food, stories, new additions to the family, […]

By |May 16th, 2014|Blog