For those of you who weren’t able to attend my 60th birthday party, I wanted to share what I wrote for the occasion, which was beautifully read at the party by my brother Wayne. I hope you enjoy it!
Much love always,
60 years ago almost to the day, my village started in Long Branch, New Jersey. The original villagers were my mom and dad, my sister Joanne, my brother Wayne, myself, my great grandmother Sissy, my grandmother, Granny, and my Aunt Sis. Almost immediately, we formed a union that would carry me through my first 18 years and deliver me to a lifetime of accomplishment, exploration, and I hope contribution. Along the way, God has introduced me to angels that have made a huge difference in my life. Please allow me to acknowledge some of these people and some places and events of substance.
First, my home instruction tutors, who helped me get accepted to college. All my life, my mom has promoted the importance of education as a gateway to a successful life. In the beginning, I had several tutors, Ted Krulikowski, Mr. Majistro and Mr. Brew. Joanne and I went on home instruction from junior high school until high school graduation. Those 5 years with Jo-Jo, the tutors, and Sissy were very special. Throughout that time, we had many wonderful friends that made our encumbered lives more manageable. People like Steven Russell, my godbrother who I miss dearly, Richard Hebron, who attached himself to us in high school, got us through many social engagements, and kept us involved in our community and academically, always with the support of my mom and dad. Our other brothers Jeffrey, Leonard Bell and later on, Lance Gaynor became integral parts of our development and helped us build our courage to face what lay ahead of us.
WOW, then came 1976, high school graduation, the bicentennial year. Mom’s encouragement and insistence that college would be possible and make a difference in our lives became a reality. Friends of the family (villagers) introduced us to UC Berkeley, my second substantial academic blessing. Mom, dad, Granny, and my Uncle Chops delivered me to the campus. Cal Berkeley had a special program that included residential assistance for people with substantial disabilities, which helped students academically and also assisted their transition into adulthood by preparing them for life in the surrounding community. Aside from my primary family, Cal Berkeley was the major blessing that made all the difference in my life. In addition to the people in the disabled student program and students in the dormatories, there was a place we called The Wall, where the few black students attending Cal could congregate and interact with each other on a daily basis. It was there that I met my big brother Baron, who became important to all of us on campus as a mentor, friend, comrade, and facilitator. He remains that kind of person to so many to this day, 42 years later. I love Baron so much. If you look around, everything that’s happening here today is because of him, my brother Wayne, my parents, and my good friend, Ira Hermann, my strongest supporters and faithful allies. At Cal Berkeley, I also met “cats” like George, Ted, Cardell, Desmond, Piya, Ellis, Ben, Charles Douglas, and Ira. These brothers have remained so special to me for 40 years. Thank God, they’re here with us today. Academically, my mentor and academic father was Harry Edwards. There were others, but this group formed the nucleus that led to great times, maturation, accomplishment, and brotherhood throughout my adult life.
God’s third major shift and blessing occurred in 1981, when I was accepted to the graduate school in public administration at USC, in L.A. Thankfully, my brother Leonard was available to come to L.A. and helped me successfully make that transition, and Baron, Cardell and eventually Ted helped as well. Other people who were very important and supportive to me during this time were Peter Gordon, Margaret Harrington, Connie Rodgers, Bernard Walker, Anthony Brown, Paul Jordan, Max and Dorene Cleland, Sam Mills, and my good friend Richard Yarbough. My graduation from USC in 1984 would be my last major event with Granny in attendance. Coincidentally, Sissy passed away the year I went to Cal. Berkeley back in 1976. I miss them both every day. I also still miss the Bay area to this day, but USC and living in L.A. led to a lifetime of world travel, exploration, and growth. So much happiness, so many wonderful and supportive people!
In 1997, I earned my second Masters degree (in social welfare, my true calling) at UCLA. In this program, I continued to have the support of many individuals, including Diane DeAnda and my friends Brian, Robert, Robin, Hyacinth, Teresa Cowles, Peggy, Marc Jackson, and John Smith. While at UCLA, I also had the opportunity to do a radio talk show for UCLA Radio. This gave me an opportunity to meet numerous celebrities and leaders, including Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Jesse Jackson, Julius Irving, Magic Johnson, Don King, and Jay Leno. I traveled all over the United States, including Hawaii, and to Jamaica, and eventually attended jazz junkets to Amsterdam and Switzerland where I became acquaintances and eventually friends and associates with people like Wynton Marsalis, Elvin Jones, Miles Davis, George Benson, George Duke, Roy Hargrove, Grover Washington, Billy Higgins, and Sade, among others.
Along the way, my brother Wayne would meet and marry Marcia, who became my sister. Her sisterly/daughterly love filled a gaping void left in our village when Joanne passed away some 20 years ago and helped to complete our primary family. Wayne and Marcia also gave us Tommy and Jordan, two sons, grandsons, and nephews whom we love dearly. I want to acknowledge Tommy turning 21 just last week!
I also want to acknowledge my nurses, especially Natalie, Alma, Rahel, and Eugene, caregivers, and doctors like Dr. Toiserkani and Dr. Axline, who have meant so much to me and kept me going all these years. Finally, I want to take a moment to reflect on and remember a few of my peers who are no longer with us: Steven Russell, Charles Douglas, my girl Lisa Rawls, and my friends Curtis Moore and Sam Mills.
If you look around, you’ll see that the majority of my village (including many of the people mentioned in this speech), with God’s blessing, have come here to celebrate this momentous occasion with me and my parents. That’s what makes this day so special. It is extra special since we are also celebrating my parents’ 60 year anniversary almost to the day. What a wonderful and remarkable life they have shared!
l have a daily chant/prayer that I have developed for the past 5 years:
THANK YOU GOD FOR SO MUCH, FROM SO MANY, FOR SO LONG. I say that daily and throughout each day with my normal prayers of acknowledgement and thanks.
Know how much I thank you and love you for making this man’s life one of accomplishment, involvement, and love.
God has been so wonderful to me. For some reason, God chose to take away most of my voice. So I guess that means it’s important for me to become a better listener to all the people that love me. Hopefully this will be a chance for you guys to say some things for me that you know I would have said to you if I could still speak. Please take some time to listen to the testimonials that have been sent to me from people that love me that couldn’t be here. Also, if we have some time, please take the mike and say some things to me about how I made a difference in your life, because you’ve made a difference in mine.
I love you all!
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!!
60 years ago, I began the most significant and substantial relationship of my life with my mother (yes, this July 2, I’ll be turning 60 years old). My relationship with my mom has changed over the years. My first 17 years, I was dependent on her, my dad, and my grandmother. My mom encouraged me to overcome my challenges and amplified my strength. She encouraged me to think about and helped prepare me to go to college to start a more independent and contributory life. Once I got accepted to Berkeley, she and my grandmother brought me to California. The next 40 years became a totally blessed and outstanding life.
Through all those years, my mom was always there for me, encouraging me and loving me unconditionally. Because of her, I gravitated towards people who had similarly great parents. I have to say that most of my relationships are with people who have been blessed with great moms and great fathers. Most of you who have read my past emails know about my mom. I am so proud of the woman that she has always been. I’m so grateful for all that she has done and all that she continues to do for me.
I appreciate all of you that read my emails and have taken the time to adapt to my life changes and maintain a relationship with me. I am thankful for all of you and I encourage you to reach out this weekend in one way or another and give your mom the kind of appreciation that she deserves. For those of you who no longer have your mom, I encourage you to reach out to a sister, cousin, aunt or friend who has given their all to nurture their child or some children that mean a lot to them.
Happy Mother’s Day. I love you all!
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.
Most of you that know me, especially those of you who are on my Contacts list, know how special my mom, my dad’s mom, and my mother’s grandmom have been to me and how they have helped make me the person I have become in this life. To me, Mother’s Day is the ultimate holiday, and nothing comes close. That’s been reared in me by the man I most revere, my father, and been shown to me by my mother’s example and the example of friends, family, and associates throughout my life.
Those of us who have the ultimate blessing of a mother who’s always been there for us and that we can count on are especially responsible to make the most of ourselves as an offering and homage to the contributions our mothers unselfishly and constantly bestowed on us. I am blessed to say that I know through many examples the important influence a mother has on a person’s life. Most of you that have read my Mother’s Day messages are aware that I have chanted and testified to this throughout most of my life.
I am also moved this year by my young six year old friend, Peyton Farwell and her older sister Summer, who recently lost their mother, and to all my other good friends (Jeffrey, Brian, Dominic, Leonard, Cardell, George, Lisa, Leslie, Natalie, Peggy, Lance, Jason, Mike, and Roxane) that have also endured the ultimate pain from the loss of a mother. You are some of the people that I hold most dearly that have shared the experience of a mother’s major influence in their lives, and I thank you for that. Honestly, the just and loving God that I believe in would take me before my mom. I pray every day that he will keep my mom alive and happy to continue taking care of my dad, my brother and his family and all those other people we love.
I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge those special mothers that I’ve been blessed to know, those friends, family members and nurses that do the WHOLE job, the hardest job, by themselves or with little support from the fathers. You know who you are and know how special you are to me. I am in awe of your strength, resilience, and ability to assemble bigger resources to provide what’s needed for your children. You’re amazing! All of us know women like this, that take God’s ultimate responsibility on by themselves and raise children that become accomplished, contributing, and successful members of society. I believe it’s a special responsibility to do what we can to assist and support them and to give their children whatever we can to help them show appreciation for their mothers.
I love all of you and your mothers that I’ve had the opportunity to know. On this special day, we should take the time to express love and appreciation to the special mothers in our lives and those wives, sisters, cousins, and friends that we know who are doing the best they can to be the best mothers they can be.
Once again, this message is especially dedicated to my sweet Peyton, who will no longer get the opportunity to experience the kind of support and love that we get from our mothers, as well as to those of you who have prematurely said goodbye to those mothers that helped to make you who you are.
God bless all of you!
Much love always,
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.