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I always became the main character of any book I was reading. Their Eyes, however, spoke loudest.
I found Their Eyes Were Watching God at age 16, after school, with Ms. Wyatt’s Forensics Club preparing to recite an excerpt where Janie, the main character and her Nanny were in the kitchen talking about getting married. I remember giggling at the dialect mostly because I understood it. The words actually gave me clues on what my grandmother and other old folks had been saying all my life. It never occurred to me that this was oral tradition captured. I had only seen this type of written dialect after reading pages of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple against my mother’s approval. I had prepared to deliver the passage but never did; instead I recited The Ballot or The Bullet speech by Malcolm X. Ms. Hurston’s wit in that section never left me though.
At age 20, my friend Kika and I went to the college book store to purchase this novel because Ms. Guilford had required that we read it at Bowie State University. I had not read it from finish to end and would not have that Freshman year in Towers Hall, had not Kika and I sat in the dorm room flipping pages together taking turns to read aloud, one page at a time, to be sure we understood and aced our assignments. What a bonding experience in friendship, almost like Pheoby and Janie. Reading this was great on so many levels. We developed a healthy habit of studying and being a book club before its popularity. We fell in love…with Teacake, with the porch and the people who seemed like my uncles, aunts and neighbors. Oh and the ending! The surprisingly thrilling ending had us turning pages silently enthralled. The poetry of Zora Neale Hurston and her character, our kindred sister, Janie had us put our shoulders back three inches more and lift our heads in victory. We marched with a million men that same year in DC with that spirit.
Just a few years ago, as I began to grow and experience more, understanding and revealing more of who I am in my career and as a woman, I turned back to the pages of Their Eyes Were Watching God as I do with most of my favorite books, only to identify specifically with the pain and eventual triumph of Janie Crawford. My project had already begun. God has its way of making perfect, the time for everything. If left in my hands, I would have released my project Songs for Janie two years prematurely.
This morning I am at my table, with today’s wind knocking around window parts in my house and clashing melodies with the chimes on my porch, relishing in the moment and the timelessness of Life and Creation and Art. All one in the same.
How remarkable a novel published today 75 years ago, resonating like voices in a large and empty chamber!? A novel written when my Grandmother Ruth was 10 years old, and I keep finding parts of myself in the masterpiece…watching God.
I would like to present to you the latest work.
To all of you who made a difference in my life this year, I say thank you.
It has been an amazing year of transition and stability in my life. I had so many great experiences and have gained a new level of friendship for so many.
The old saying of keeping your personal business out of your work life is a difficult one for me to swallow because it is my business to get personal. Every song that I have written, every time I step into the studio for a session, and every time I sing is me getting personal and leaving my imprint. And I have learned how to do this by not taking myself so seriously in some areas and just really ‘getting grown’ in other areas of my life.
Inspired by Derek Sivers’ post today, I would like to name a few names of the people who touched me in ways that they will never know.
Daniel Julia and Trinity Washington
Landmark Education and the Wisdom Course friends
The children of Joe’s Movement Emporium
Bill and Norma Freeborne
Lakika Lewis Marshall
Marlene McCallum and the Most Powerful Life
Dana Smith and Spiritual Essence Yoga
Risikat and Lilsoso Productions
Elle Nicole (Tasha)
Reid Temple AME
Carol and Rendell Wellons
Thank you for contribution to my life and to this world.
With love, Tamara
My family says I need to watch CNN more. The news I got about the race riots in London came directly from a friend there. I hadn’t seen it on the news, so I guess it didn’t qualify as news for them. Apparently my UK trip was timed perfectly for me with all that occurred just weeks afterwards. I wandered so many streets during my stay there, unafraid. Many powerful and urgent lyrics came to me. “No one knows the how or when, just live your life in love”…… Those lyrics came urgently just like the news…
Ironically, I would have had to watch the news to know there was an earthquake Tuesday, had not my neighbor called.
I left July 2 for London to sing at the Jazz Café. It was one of the many amazingly divine trips of my life. I traveled with a few extra days in my itinerary to allow time for writing and visiting Paris. I was scheduled for interviews, a show, and a recording session. Many thanks to Derek Sivers for introducing me to AirBnB, which is where I met an awesome new fan and my roomy even came to support me in Camden.
Before I left, I had been trying to contact Adele and Amy to let them know I’d be there. I wanted Amy to be my fan. I had recently been playing her Frank album for the last four months after I wore out Back to Black which became an inspiration for “Ah God”, a song on my new album. I was in London during the ITunes festival, and I just knew we’d cross paths. I will miss her so much. She was like an old friend. I cannot tell you how that album spoke for me many times.
It is hard to begin my blogging here and now after the trip happened a month ago, but I took notes. Please stay tuned for a blessed log of my adventure.
Here is a picture of me and my airbnb roomy in Camden’s Jazz Cafe. She represents my day 1.