Covered up

Hijab

Today’s post is in support of our Muslim sisters around the world who celebrated Eid al-Adha this week.

Let’s talk Hijab.

For those not of the Islamic Faith, it may be difficult to understand the concept of the Hijab and indeed there are liberal Muslims who do not embrace it, but before we judge, we should know that many other religions and cultures also dictate a woman’s covering.

In Judaism, a woman’s head covering is called Kisui Rosh.

Some orthodox Christian denominations still expect women to have their heads covered during public worship and some Christian denominations also dictate acceptable everyday dressing for women,

In ancient Hindi practice, married women were expected to be veiled.

Some cultures nowadays allow a woman to choose, others are not so liberal, but nevertheless, even under oppression, there is an element of choice. And if a woman chooses to follow a culture, whatever her reason, we should respect that.

In this modern liberal world, where everyone just wants to fit in and be accepted, my first feeling when I see a woman declaring her Faith through her clothing is not pity, but respect.

My first thought is not “Oh poor thing, look what she has been forced to do” but rather, “Wow, it takes guts to be ‘different’ – power to you”

This is the same whether she is wearing a habit, a wig, Kisui Rosh, a hijab, an afro, scarf or turban. 

Whatever you wear, you are speaking your truth. And that is what matters.

Let us seek to understand, love and support each other.

Here are some interesting views on the Hijab worth watching.

Be inspired!

 

 

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Fare Thee Well, Queen Aretha

Aretha Afro 1973

For a white East German woman behind the proverbial Iron Curtain, my mother sure had a wealth of knowledge and respect for strong black woman.

The African American Struggle was not unknown in East Germany and names like Angela Davis, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson, and Aretha Franklin were not strange in our home.

I grew up knowing Aretha as the Queen.

She was one of those voices you could always recognize. She effortlessly belted out notes others could only dream of hitting. And sang words that women only dreamed of saying.

I remember listening to a song once with my cousin and when Aretha came on in her full glory, he said “Ha! You know my girl!” Because you did! She always delivered. She never disappointed.

As a teen in the eighties, a lot of names became stories about what used to be. But not Aretha. Through the decades, she always remained relevant as she stayed seated….Elegant, Strong, Sexy, Beautiful, Powerful….on the Throne.

In the 80’s she collaborated with the greats of the time and stood her ground, winning Grammies and Top 10’s; she was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; her voice was legally declared one of Michigan’s natural resources,

In the 90s she performed with other Divas on VH1 and out shone them all; she sang one of Pavarotti’s signature pieces filling in for him without rehearsal when he was ill; she honored others and was herself honored at the Kennedy Center,

In the 2000’s she sang at 2 presidential inaugurations (by the way, she sang for Jimmy Carter in 1977 as well); she was given a well-deserved Presidential Medal for Freedom; she sang in front of Pope Francis,

Now, with her passing, articles talk about her private struggles and pain, which make her even more of an amazing human being to behold.

She has left us, but her songs will play on forever, on our radios, our playlists and in Heaven where she is undoubtedly out-singing the Angels right now being a SUPER-“Natural Woman”! (Okay, so that was a little corny but you get it :-))

I say my farewell here by sharing the following three videos from the 80’s. I chose them because, although I grew up hearing all her old songs, these are the songs that Aretha gave my generation at the time. And they were great! I am eternally grateful to have been born in a time when I could experience talent and grace such as hers. Rest in Peace, My Queen.

Sisters are doing it for themselves – With Annie Lennox celebrating Girl Power and Women’s Rights

I knew you were waiting – with George Michael. Two greats revered by the LGBT community and having a profound admiration for each other, a collaboration orchestrated by Clive Davis. (Read more about it here)

Freeway of Love – This song was the last of her 20 career #1 hits and earned her a 12th Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. It doesn’t say so anywhere, but I believe this to be an ode to her beloved hometown, Detroit. The video was shot entirely in Detroit, showing the Ford Production Plant.

 

 

Still the Greatest!!!

Today, I honor two men! Real men!

It began with me seeking out a particular song from the 70’s that had popped into my head while I was working. One song led to another and then another…and you know how it is, before too long I found myself “YouTube Surfing”.

And then I stumbled across the clip below, which felt like water to a thirsty plant. my heart opened up just like the leaves of the freshly watered plant unfurl.

Always a fan of Billy Crystal, I thought it might be funny to see him imitate Mohammad Ali. But I was in for a much bigger treat.

Muhammad Ali and Billy Crystal

Billy Crystal draws us in with a beautifully intimate story of his relationship with The Champ. He makes us laugh as he jests about fun times with Ali, he makes us cry as he tells stories from the Civil Rights movement and the treatment Mohammad Ali had to endure.

But most of all, he makes us glow with pride. Pride that we can say we lived when these two greats lived. Pride to know that humans do have it in them to do good for each other.

Billy Crystal, from a Long Island Jewish family that supported Black musicians when others would not. Billy Crystal, who started the Peace through the Performing Arts Program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. A program that brings Arab, Palestinian and Jewish artist together in peaceful performance. Hear, Hear, Billy!!! And let’s not forget Comic Relief which he started with Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg to raise money for the Homeless across America (Boy, do we need that now)

And then, there is Mohammad Ali…The greatest of all time!

Mohammad Ali was famous for his trash talk and vanity, but that was all fun and entertainment. The real man, was not afraid to speak his Truth and do what he believed was Right. He cared about others and not just others of his own kind. He cared about humanity.

Stripped of his titles and even his permission to fight, still he stood his ground against injustices and against war.

How many of us do that anymore?

We are more concerned about our followership and our likes than we are about the welfare of our fellow man. Trash talk and vanity still gets many of us on the front page, but after all the talk, there is little else.

Changing the world takes bravery, takes courage, takes perseverance against the odds.

It is never easy, and it is always swimming against the current. But for all the lives you touch on the way, it is SO worth it!!

And just so you know…you do not have to be a world class boxing champion or a famous comedian to make a difference, a change or a statement. You can be anyone, your job can be anything….you just need to believe in your Truth and put your all behind it.

Stand up and speak your Truth and don’t apologize for it.

There are people in your building, on your street, in your town, just waiting for you. Yes, YOU!

Mohammad Ali was exemplary of what The Woman Hood stands for. He crossed cultures and religions, stood for all people, and accepted everyone as his brethren.

All of us like that = Peace on Earth

It is not impossible! I believe it whole heartedly!

Enjoy this clip and Be Inspired!

 

 

#TonyDreaming – It is never too late!!!

For my last post on the 2018 Tony Awards, I want to congratulate Glenda Jackson who took home the Tony for Best Actress in a Play for Edward Albee‘s Three Tall Women.

Glenda Jackson is the amazing force of nature kind of woman I love to tell stories about. Her talent is obviously undeniable, she studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London on a scholarship. Here is a woman who found her calling and pursued it with full passion, performing a myriad of wonderful and meaty roles to much critical acclaim, even portraying a delusional pirate captain who hijacks the Muppet Show (Boy, did I use to love that show!)

And then, in the middle of all that success, she retired from acting and went into POLITICS!!! She stood for elections to the House of Commons in 1992 and became the Labour Party Member of Parliament for Hampstead and Kilburn, a position she remained very active in for 23 solid years.

Her political career at an end, since she felt she was getting along in years and someone else should take a turn, she returned to the stage at the age of 80!!! And what was her acclaimed returning role? Not ‘the old woman’ or ‘one of the three witches’ or anything like that. No, it was the title role of Shakespeare’s King Lear at the Old Vic Theatre in London. (Ok, so there was one old lady role before this one, but still!!!) How is that for courage and fearlessness? That is Amazing!!

If you are any where near Broadway in the Spring of 2019, she will be reprising her role of King Lear on Broadway.

So here is what I want you to take away from this:

  1. Know your passion and give it all you’ve got. Throw your whole self in!
  2. Be Fearless! Don’t listen to those who will tell you it can’t be done, or that you are wrong or that you are crazy. Just do it anyway. What have you got to lose?
  3. It is NEVER too late. Never too late to start something new. Never to late to make a change. Never too late to start afresh. As long as there is life in you, YOU CAN DO IT! And even if you only get a little time out of it….just think how good you will feel living your purpose for that time. It will make up for all the time you think you have lost…but quick note: that time was not lost…it was what brought you to where you are 😉 (Oh, and if your dream to be a working actor, it’s not too late for that either. If there is not a role for you, create one!)

It is my humble prayer for you tonight, that you find bravery within yourself, that you be fearless, be true to yourselves…

That you be inspired and then be inspiring!

Just like Glenda Jackson.

#TonyDreaming – Cultural Understanding

And still on my soapbox fueled by the Tony Awards; the winning sweep of the musical, “The Band’s Visit” brings tears of joy to my eyes as it sends a strong message of cultural inclusion to the whole world.

I think spreading the message of cultural understanding is indeed my purpose. I am extremely passionate about it and it consumes my heart.

I was born into this state of being. My mother was East German, my father was a Nigerian – not mixed race, but mixed tribes. I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, where Muslims and Christians lived side by side. Our neighbor was a wealthy Muslim who built himself a Mosque right there in his compound. So we were awakened by the Imam’s call every morning at 5am without fail. Lagos is like New York in its way of being a cultural melting pot – every Nigerian tribe is represented. ‘Foreigners’ from all over Africa as well as Lebanese, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis, Israelis, every kind of European, Americans and more.

I have known what it is like to be an outsider all my life, and concurrently I have known what it is like to be and insider all my life.

Not just from my parents’ leading, but in my own heart, I have always loved to know other cultures, learn about other histories, languages, customs and religions. I have attended and taken part in rituals, chants and prayers in Churches, Mosques, Buddhist temples, Hare Krishna temples and traditional Yoruba religious gatherings.

I honestly believe that if we just open our hearts and minds, we will find that there is beauty in everything and everyone. We do not all have to agree or be the same. We just have to understand each other and accept each other as we are.

Ari’el’s Stachel’s acceptance speech moved me to tears. He spoke from my heart. I too, for different reasons and in different situations have pretended not to be what/who I am. The human instinct for survival makes us do what we feel we must. Of course in times past and in some parts of the world still today, “survival” is literal…it is life or death. For Ari’el, it may have been about getting cast in a certain role, or for me, it was sometimes about avoiding certain cultural stereotypical responses. What ever the reason…it is still a sense of survival.

Ari’el made a brave and beautiful, real and poignant speech, that I am certain many people can understand and identify with.

Wow!!! Love it!!!

Then, there was Tony Shalhoub.

Hey, listen, when I hear the name Tony Shalhoub, I think Monk!

And I never knew he was Lebanese. Who knew!!

This was another important acceptance speech which is so opportune and affecting at this time in our history. He speaks of the much debated subject of Immigration.

Again, I can identify. I am myself an immigrant in America, albeit I landed at JFK and not Ellis Island. But an immigrant none the less. And though my experiences may not have been as dramatic or intense as they may have been back in those days, as far as ‘modern immigration’ goes, I have seen in others and have experienced first hand the struggles, determination and resourcefulness that Tony is talking about. And he is right, “May we, the descendants of immigrants, never lose sight of what they taught us.” And let us always remember that for the most part, we are ALL descendants of immigrants, no matter how they arrived here.

To top the night off, The Band’s Visit took home the Award for Best Musical.

Producer Orin Wolf accepted the award and gave yet one more necessary speech. “…in the end, we are all far more alike that different…”

And ain’t it the Truth?!?!

Let us open our hearts and learn something new about someone “different” today and every day following.

Let us be and remain Inspired!

The Original Film version of The Band’s Visit is available on Amazon.com HERE

 

 

#TonyDreaming – Keep the Arts Alive

Still on my soapbox about the importance of Art Education, here is a closer focus on the presentation of the 2018 Excellence in Theatre Education Award winner to Melody Herzfeld, a drama teacher at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who hid 65 children in her classroom while an expelled student went on a shooting rampage through the school, killing 14 students and 3 faculty members and injuring numerous others.

I feel she totally deserved this recognition and her acceptance speech sealed the deal. She clearly put into perspective the importance of Arts in Schools.

 

Her own students went on to perform an excellent and moving rendition of Seasons of Love from the musical, Rent.

It was a worthy recognition and moment of triumph but as Melody said in this TIME magazine article; “If we could just go back to February 13 and be the normal, everyday people that we were, we’d give it up in a heartbeat,” she said. “There’s nothing that can replace what we had on that day.”

Be Inspired!