What a Glorious Day!

On June 30, over 100 people in my village came together for my 60th birthday. The party was outstanding. People came from Jersey, Atlanta, Seattle, Phoenix, the Bay area, and all parts of Southern California to participate in our family celebration. People sent greetings from Africa, England, and the Netherlands. I am still humbled, grateful, and overwhelmed by the occasion.

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I feel like so many people have given so much to me, and this event was no exception. My brothers Wayne, Baron, and Ira joined together to provide the necessary support (food, entertainment, etc.) to help make the day truly special for me and my parents. I can never say enough about their love and support. They are my brothers, my angels. I can count on them for anything and know they will always be there for me. I also thank the Calloway family for providing the venue for the wonderful afternoon celebration. I’ve been in Los Angeles since 1981. I’ve been going to the Regency West in Leimert Park for various events and occasions. It was the perfect place to bring my villagers together.

We also celebrated my mom and dad’s 60 year anniversary that day. We have flourished, accomplished much together, and supported one another all these years. I was happy to see everyone congratulate my main supporters. My oldest nephew Tommy celebrated his 21st birthday the prior Saturday. He and his brother Jordan spoke nicely about me and what I mean to them. Others spoke far too generously about my contributions to their lives. I was truly touched! My professor, Harry Edwards, my brother Wynton Marsalis, and my lady love Sade sent special messages for the occasion. My brother Bernard sent a wonderful greeting from Ghana, Africa, and my sister Marianne sent a touching sentiment from the Netherlands. And my home instruction teacher Ted Krulakowski sent a stellar address from Long Branch, NJ. Those messages, among others, can be found on my website (djriley.net), and pictures from my celebration can be found on my Facebook page (DonaldRileyJr). Please check those sites out, even if you weren’t able to attend the party. My brothers Wayne, Jeffrey, and Mitch did their best to capture the essence of what was truly a glorious day!

I had the blessing of meeting up later with some out of town guests at the Sheraton in Culver City, where I expressed my appreciation and gratitude for their coming to L.A. and supporting me and my family. I want to give recognition and thanks to God for bringing all my people together and getting them home safely.

Finally, I want to mention two current events. The first is the miracle that just took place in Thailand. Getting those 13 boys and their coach out of that cave was a true blessing! I thank God for bringing all those people from different continents and cultures together to make that happen. I also have to comment on the new Supreme Court nominee. The President and the Republicans want to weight the court towards conservative policy. I can only hope and pray for divine intervention and that the court will continue to support moderate and more liberal established decisions of the past and not dismantle equal rights and other gains that have been fought for, which represent the true essence of what America is supposed to stand for and what we should all be about.

I love you!

Always,
DJ

“Trying times” means time to keep on trying – don’t give up!

I’m troubled by the recent decision by the grand jury in Cleveland, OH, where the group of policemen were not indicted or substantially reprimanded for the killing of an unarmed African American, contributing to the further devaluation of African American and other minority lives.  Also alarming were the cases in Baltimore and Ferguson, MO, which erupted into public disobedience due to frustration stemming from the incident.  We’re still waiting for the verdict of the grand jury and investigation in the case of a 12 year old African American boy in Cleveland.

I’m turning 57 years old next month and have seen much police brutality throughout most of my life.  One of the earliest encounters I had was when my godbrother, Steven Russell, was killed by a police officer while in high school, unarmed and on route to the arcade from an after-school job.  His killer was not indicted and the whole process of investigation was heavily weighted toward accusing the victim, not much unlike the recent Trayvon Martin case in Florida.

All of this victimization and racial abuse seems even more sad in the times of an African American president.  The kind of disrespect and false accusations that have been hurled at him for the past six and a half years create the kind of climate where diminishing the value of African American lives is acceptable.  If the person holding the highest office in the U.S. can be disrespected, ridiculed, and made less of by his political peers and the common man, what chance do regular “John Q. Public” African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and homeless have to be treated with respect and common decency from police officers and the military establishment?  What kind of message does this send to all of our young people?  What type of stability does this establish for the foundation of households and domestic relationships?  It’s a disheartening time.  It seems like Eric Holder was just beginning to scratch the surface on developing policy that could lead to fundamental change in how the political and punitive systems deal with lesser enfranchised people.  I can only hope that Loretta Lynch can continue his investigations and add to the development of more positive and fair treatment of my brothers and sisters.

Social media, cell phone cameras, and other technologies are going to help eliminate the problem.  Eventually, the right type of evidence from the wrong kind of victims is going to be made available and ignite even further social unrest.  I’m hoping and praying that better policy and more egalitarian treatment take place before things get any worse.

I love you all.  Thanks for reading.  Let’s make it better!

Happy Father’s Day 2018

For those of us who are blessed to have fathers and extra blessed to have grandfathers, Father’s Day is a special day.  My brother Wayne and I have been blessed to have a wonderful father who is our #1 cheerleader!  Many of my friends were also raised by outstanding fathers.  I have to say the essential thing that makes a father great is that he complements a mother’s love.  My mom and dad have been complementary for 60 years.  Wayne and Marcia are on their way to similar success.

My father has always exclaimed the importance of mothers.  His relationship with Granny was special and his success is a prime example of what a man can attain with the love and devotion of a great mother.  Wayne and I are blessed to also have such a mother.

Many of the people I’ve met over the years have been raised in single mother households.  My father served as a wonderful example and filled a void for many of my friends who were fatherless or lost their fathers.  Now my father is teaching many of them how to be a grandfather.  As I am 60 years old now (grandfather age), many of my friends are embracing grandfatherdom.  Especially in the black community, grandfathers are a prize and supreme blessing.

We are living in trying times now and witnessing some disturbing things that are happening that go against the values of our forefathers.  Our country is one founded by immigrants and dreamers.  Our country has the reputation of being the place where dreams come true (the “American dream”).  It’s a place that should embrace everyone!  Surely, our immigration laws and policies need to be changed.  People still come and risk their lives to come here because of how we promoted ourselves.  Surely, we can come to a more humanitarian resolution for our current Dreamers and other immigrants.  Our President is supposed to serve as a symbol of the best of what our forefathers envisioned.  Can Donald Trump truly be considered the father symbol of our entire nation?  I THINK NOT!  It’s up to our democratic society to save us from his shortcomings and lead our nation to GREATNESS.

For those of you who are fathers, always strive to be great and look towards your own great examples to figure out how.  Observe and listen to your children and consider their happiness and accomplishments as indicators of how great you’re doing.

Dad, I was blessed to have a great father!  I love you and thank you so much!!

Keschia Potter – The Rebirth of a World Stage Prodigy

Keschia Potter is a jazz saxophonist who I met when she was a teenager at Billy Higgins World Stage Jazz Gallery in Leimert Park, Los Angeles.  She dedicated her life to playing jazz.  Her formal introduction began at Washington High School in Los Angeles.  She was awarded a scholarship to study music at UCLA with a jazz concentration.  Although the saxophone is not typically a girl/female instrument, she liked it and showed an aptitude for it.  She was encouraged by her mentors at the World Stage.

Keschia and her mother have a strong relationship.  Her mother has always been supportive of her music.  Keschia took a brief hiatus from performing approximately 16 months ago to have a 16 month old daughter, who has become her muse in this resurgence.

I love Keschia.  She inspires me and represents everything I love about jazz music.  When I came to Los Angeles from the Bay Area to go to grad school at USC, my friends and I put together a jazz/reggae program.  A local percussionist, Buddy Clark, introduced me to a young saxophonist, Gerald Albright.  Gerald remains a friend of mine.  I love his music.  Keschia reminds me of Gerald.

Keschia is performing at Industry Cafe and Jazz in Culver City (6039 Washington Blvd.) on Thursdays from 7:30-10:30 p.m.  The cafe is a casual eatery and music room and serves house blend coffee, fresh lemonade, and a combination of  American and Ethiopian dishes.  Her set displays a range of styles, from standard classics to her own renditions of contemporary tunes, from Sugar and My Funny Valentine to Grover Washington’s Winelight and a crowd favorite, Mr. Magic.  She also does a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely, no doubt inspired by her daughter.  She has a quartet, which includes her husband on keyboards, a great electric bass player, and a swingin young drummer, who is outstanding!

If you love jazz music, I encourage you to give Keschia and the Industry Cafe and Jazz your support on Thursday nights.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  You all mean something special and important to me.  Valentine’s Day is a manufactured holiday, but if you believe in love and its importance in your life, it’s a good time to acknowledge the special connection that you share with the people you love and admire.  Love is an essential part of all of our lives.  And we could not live without it in all its various forms.  Take advantage of every opportunity you can to express how you feel about the people you care for.

Love always,
DJ

Father’s Day 2016

This has been an extraordinary year, filled with both good and bad.  We said goodbye to Muhammed Ali, who gave us 74 years of the greatest!  Ali, Stevie Wonder, Mandela, and my father have been my guiding lights.  I was blessed to meet the first three briefly in my journey.  Ali and Stevie always treated me with the greatest kindness, which enabled and encouraged me to believe the good things said about them and the outstanding things they accomplished.  Mandela made an extraordinary gesture by acknowledging and greeting me during a major procession when he was being celebrated during his first visit to Los Angeles after being freed in South Africa.  That said something to me about him as well as inspired and encouraged my self-worth.  Gestures make all the difference in who we are and what we mean to other people and society.  Knowing how to accept and interpret gestures makes your relationships more meaningful and satisfying.

My father has made countless gestures to me and my brother and sister in our lives.  They have meant so much to me!  They have given me joy, strength, and encouragement to accomplish.  That’s what fathers and mothers do!  It is important that we do our best to let them know how important those gestures are to us.
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Last week, we saw the first female presidential nominee from a major political party (which happens to be my party).  I am proud and blessed to have witnessed it.  She’s not perfect and I don’t agree with everything she’s done or espoused, but she is so overwhelmingly the best choice for our country.  What she will be able to accomplish will be of benefit to so many more people than the alternative choice.  She is a good friend, a loyal wife, a doting daughter, a good mother, and she is becoming a great grandmother.  These things will help her to become a great president!  Donald Trump is a formidable man but the President needs to be for the people, for the majority of the people. Hillary will be much better!!

I want to acknowledge the loss of life in Orlando.  This is a country where you should be safe, proud, and able to be who you are and express what you like.  It’s unfortunate that so many of my gay brothers and sisters lost their lives or were injured by doing that.  My prayers go out to them and their families and friends.  Ultimately, memories are what we have to satisfy our feelings of loss and help us to reach our best destiny.

This Father’s Day, remember that we all have fathers and mothers given to us by God and we should try our best to remember them, their love, and their sacrifices and be the best people we can be!

Much love always,
DJ

2016: A Year of Positive, Accelerated Change

Most of you know that I’m a much more spiritual than religious person.  I have my beliefs and my faith that have served me greatly for almost 58 years.  I don’t go to church regularly, but I watch Joel Osteen on occasion.  I’ve seen him twice and I’ve gotten some good sermons from him recently.  One talk in particular proclaimed this year as one of accelerated goodness and healing, and I embrace it, especially for my mom and other members of my family, as they deal with some particularly tough challenges now in their lives.

Those of us from my generation have seen so many wonderful, uplifting, and enlightening changes, living in no doubt the greatest country in the world.  My testimony is that I’ve had a truly blessed, exciting, and wonderful life because of what’s available to people like myself in the USA.  I have always been provided for.  You know how it is when you’re blessed with good parents.  My God started me out with not only the best parents, but also with wonderful siblings, grandmothers, and great grandmoms!  He connected me with the best friends, teachers, professors, and extended family a person could ask for.  He gave me television, computers, ventilators, electric wheelchairs, cars, and airplanes that got me to Cal Berkeley, UCLA and USC, as well as social workers, concerts, cultural events, and political awareness.  What a life I’ve had SO FAR.

Thankfully, my mom has survived three surgeries for her back this year.  She’s presently back at home with my dad and on the mend.  Hopefully, we’ll be seeing her in California sometime this spring.  I haven’t seen her since last June.  Although we talk frequently (daily), I miss that uplifting and rejuvenating energy that a child gets (no matter what age) from an unconditional mom’s love.  She’s truly my earthly life source, like a car generator.  We need to be together to charge each other up.  My lifelong friend Robin, who I love dearly, had a similar back surgery and is recovering in her upstairs apartment in the valley.  She’s my most faithful/spiritual friend (Hyacinth, you’re a close second).  I wish I could do even more to help my mom and Robin during their recoveries.  I’m sure though that prayers and good thoughts have carried both of these women through their challenging surgeries and in this accelerated year, will bring them better health and more comfortable mobility.  They both have many people dependent and reliant on their positivity to make it through!

Other than visiting her children and grandchildren on the west coast, my mom has a really chaotic and desperate election to get involved with.  This electoral season needs her experience, wisdom, and influence desperately!  My bias leads me to believe that some accelerated change is needed, given the mockery that Donald Trump and the Republican party are making of this critical election.  I believe Democrats have two better candidates.  They almost cancel each other out though, harping on their differences and jockeying for the lead position.  Sanders has many great ideas, but America is a democratic state, “supposedly.”  Sanders will have even worse luck dealing with a Republican Congress to get his ideas and policies implemented.  Like Barack Obama (whose journey to the White House and grace through pressure and prejudice I have been so blessed to share and observe), Bernie, a Jewish-American, would make history were he to win the election.  Yet Bernie has been in politics for years, with marginal positive impact.  Although he will have familiarity with the political process, his voice will be muted and his effect will be diminished by the conflicting Republican reality.

Of course Hillary has her issues too.  While super intelligent, she’s also sometimes stubborn and doesn’t always connect as well with the electorate at large.  Yet she’s connected to the best part of the establishment and most importantly, she’s a woman and we need that change right now.  I think America can be made better by her representing some of the more positive female leaders of the past and present in the world.  I hope that the electorate gives her a vote of confidence, knowing she’s a positive piece of clay that can be molded into something extraordinary if given the chance.  The alternatives we can’t afford.

Now is the time that we need some positive accelerated change to make our domestic and international positions more secure and help us achieve a more just society.  We need a forward thinking administration to address real problems in our country and save the lives of men, women and children in dire need.  We need to affirm the right to equality for men, women, and children of all kinds.  That’s what our president and our electoral system is supposed to be about.   We need a president that can encourage the electorate to vote in better senators and congressmen and women as well as local politicians so they can deal more effectively with local matters such as the recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan.  I remember Jesse Jackson saying when he was running for President that America “can be better than this.”  I embraced it then and I still believe it now.

Barack has done some great things, Obamacare, same-sex marriage, among others.  He is now perhaps in the midst of his greatest political fight and challenge as he tries to achieve political cooperation in order to select a moderate Supreme Court justice who will be accepted collectively and will look at the Constitution as the great document that it can be, not the conservative restrictive document that it’s being presently interpreted as.  Hopefully, we’ll get a Supreme Court that will even more fully champion equality and civil rights for everyone.  If he isn’t able to win this fight, hopefully our next President will be able to achieve this vision.

Lastly, some congratulations are in order.  First, to Peyton Manning.  I guess it wasn’t Cam Newton’s time to reign victorious over the NFL.  God willing, he’ll have other times, like other great quarterbacks have.  Peyton is a great example of overcoming challenges to receive destiny.  And also, congratulations to my friend Brian on finding a house where he can hopefully find great happiness and inclusiveness, which he deserves.  He’s so great to me!

Thanks for listening to my opinions and hopes for the future.  I love all of you for sticking with me, reading me, and encouraging me to keep going.  Your prayers and positive thoughts are highly effective.  I love all of you!

Always,
DJ