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A Moment in History - Frederick Douglass
Category: Black Men Rock!
Tags: black men rock frederick douglass word life production new quality entertainment

Frederick Douglass stood at the podium, trembling with nervousness. Before him sat abolitionists who had travelled to the Massachusetts island of Nantucket. Only 23 years old at the time, Douglass overcame his nervousness and gave a stirring, eloquent speech about his life as a slave. Douglass would continue to give speeches for the rest of his life and would become a leading spokesperson for the abolition of slavery and for racial equality.

The son of a slave woman and an unknown white man, "Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey" was born in February of 1818 on Maryland's eastern shore. He spent his early years with his grandparents and with an aunt, seeing his mother only four or five times before her death when he was seven. (All Douglass knew of his father was that he was white.) During this time he was exposed to the degradations of slavery, witnessing firsthand brutal whippings and spending much time cold and hungry. When he was eight he was sent to Baltimore to live with a ship carpenter named Hugh Auld. There he learned to read and first heard the words abolition and abolitionists. "Going to live at Baltimore," Douglass would later say, "laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity."

Douglass spent seven relatively comfortable years in Baltimore before being sent back to the country, where he was hired out to a farm run by a notoriously brutal "slavebreaker" named Edward Covey. And the treatment he received was indeed brutal. Whipped daily and barely fed, Douglass was "broken in body, soul, and spirit."

On January 1, 1836, Douglass made a resolution that he would be free by the end of the year. He planned an escape. But early in April he was jailed after his plan was discovered. Two years later, while living in Baltimore and working at a shipyard, Douglass would finally realize his dream: he fled the city on September 3, 1838. Travelling by train, then steamboat, then train, he arrived in New York City the following day. Several weeks later he had settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, living with his newlywed bride (whom he met in Baltimore and married in New York) under his new name, Frederick Douglass.

Always striving to educate himself, Douglass continued his reading. He joined various organizations in New Bedford, including a black church. He attended Abolitionists' meetings. He subscribed to William Lloyd Garrison's weekly journal, the Liberator. In 1841, he saw Garrison speak at the Bristol Anti-Slavery Society's annual meeting. Douglass was inspired by the speaker, later stating, "no face and form ever impressed me with such sentiments [the hatred of slavery] as did those of William Lloyd Garrison." Garrison, too, was impressed with Douglass, mentioning him in the Liberator. Several days later Douglass gave his speech at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society's annual convention in Nantucket-- the speech described at the top of this page. Of the speech, one correspondent reported, "Flinty hearts were pierced, and cold ones melted by his eloquence." Before leaving the island, Douglass was asked to become a lecturer for the Society for three years. It was the launch of a career that would continue throughout Douglass' long life.

Despite apprehensions that the information might endanger his freedom, Douglass published his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written By Himself. The year was 1845. Three years later, after a speaking tour of England, Ireland, and Scotland, Douglass published the first issue of the North Star, a four-page weekly, out of Rochester, New York.

Ever since he first met Garrison in 1841, the white abolitionist leader had been Douglass' mentor. But the views of Garrison and Douglass ultimately diverged. Garrison represented the radical end of the abolitionist spectrum. He denounced churches, political parties, even voting. He believed in the dissolution (break up) of the Union. He also believed that the U.S. Constitution was a pro-slavery document. After his tour of Europe and the establishment of his paper, Douglass' views began to change; he was becoming more of an independent thinker, more pragmatic. In 1851 Douglass announced at a meeting in Syracuse, New York, that he did not assume the Constitution was a pro-slavery document, and that it could even "be wielded in behalf of emancipation," especially where the federal government had exclusive jurisdiction. Douglass also did not advocate the dissolution of the Union, since it would isolate slaves in the South. This led to a bitter dispute between Garrison and Douglass that, despite the efforts of others such as Harriet Beecher Stowe to reconcile the two, would last into the Civil War.

Frederick Douglass would continue his active involvement to better the lives of African Americans. He conferred with Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and recruited northern blacks for the Union Army. After the War he fought for the rights of women and African Americans alike.

Source: PBS

Remembering Fred “Rerun” Berry Tags: fred rerun berry honoring those lost remembering word life production feature weekly blog

Fred Berry, aka “Rerun” and “Mr. Penguin,” was one of the most iconic dancers, actors and performers in show business history. He was also a good friend of mine. His style of dancing was often imitated but never duplicated. Although overweight, he was smooth and light on his feet and he could out-dance a number of professional dancers.

Born March 19, 1951 in St. Louis, Missouri, Fred grew up in public housing before he and his family later moved to Los Angeles. In the recent SoulTrain.com Diary of an Ex-Soul Train Dancer interview, Don Campbell of the legendary Lockers dance troupe explained that he and Fred first met at the club Maverick’s Flat. Fred was real quiet but after he watched Don dancing he started getting into dancing. Eventually, Fred and Don became close friends and Fred wound up becoming a dancer on Soul Train and became a standout, mixing locking with his own freestyle moves. He later became a part of the Lockers dance troupe and was given the nickname “Penguin.”

Aside from the Lockers, Fred also did outside work, performing in a Dick Clark-produced TV special about the history of dance and also appeared in a club scene in the 1972 movie Hammer starring Fred Williamson.

After performing with the Lockers for four years, Fred auditioned for a new television sitcom for ABC called What’s Happening!!, which was loosely based on the motion picture Cooley High. The role he auditioned for, Rerun, was originally written for a skinny white guy. Fred said that when he showed up for the auditions, the casting directors and producers told him they needed a skinny white guy for the role but Fred kept insisting to them that, “I am a white skinny guy!” Fred’s persistence paid off as the casting directors and producers fell out laughing at the sight of this young, portly black guy proclaiming he was a skinny white guy. The role of Rerun was rewritten for a fat black guy, and Fred won the role.

Fred played the role of Frederick “Rerun” Stubbs, a high school kid who always wore a red tam and rainbow suspenders and loved to eat as well as dance. He was nicknamed Rerun due to repeatedly getting left back and having to “rerun” all of his classes. He was best friends with Roger Thomas and Dwayne Nelson (played by Ernest Thomas and Haywood Nelson, respectively), all of whom often got into typical teen mischief. Rerun often verbally sparred with Shirley Wilson (played by the late comedian Shirley Hemphill), a loudmouth, no-nonsense waitress at the neighborhood teen hangout Rob’s Place. Rerun was also the target of putdowns by Roger’s bratty kid sister, Dee (played by Danielle Spencer), while he and Dwayne were often treated as sons by Roger’s mother Mabel Thomas (played by the late Mabel King).

Although Fred was no longer a part of the Lockers, he never forgot his old companions and helped to get all of them on the fourth episode of the series in which they played a dance group called The Rockets and Rerun wanted badly to become a part of their group.

The character of Rerun, like that of Jimmie Walker’s J.J. character on Good Times, was often criticized for being silly and buffoonish. Black critics of the time felt that those characters gave bad images to impressionable young black kids watching (particularly the characters’ lackadaisical attitudes toward school). But What’s Happening!! was just a comedy. Rerun and J.J., just like Lucy, Ralph Kramden and Carol Burnett’s many characters, were essentially just comedic characters designed to entertain and make people laugh. If there were characters like this in the dramatic landmark miniseries Roots, for example, criticism could be justified (imagine Kunta Kinte yelling “DY-NO-MITE” during that horrible whipping scene).

In hindsight and in all fairness, Rerun was a black kid who was just trying to find his way. His constant eating habits were a sign of insecurity as well as an emptiness he was trying to fill on the inside. Like all teenagers, Rerun was searching for self, his place in the world. When he was cracked on by Shirley or Dee or anyone else, the hurt was evident in Rerun’s eyes; but he persevered, trying to make something of himself. He had big dreams beyond his inner city neighborhood of Watts and wanted to do better and become better, hence his desire to be a professional dancer and an actor before he eventually landed a job at ABC as a TV studio page in the program’s last season.

After What’s Happening!! went off the air in April 1979, Fred continued to do dance work and even reappeared for a brief time as a Soul Train dancer in 1984. He also did some film and TV work, including appearing as Sugar Pimp Dorsey in the 1982 movie Vice Squad and appearing as a breakdancer named Bobo on a 1984 episode of the television sitcom Alice.

In 1985, Fred returned to television in the series What’s Happening Now, which featured all of the original characters of the classic What’s Happening!! series. Rerun had a job as a car salesman, while Roger became a fledgling writer and Dwayne became a computer programmer. However, Fred’s stint on the show was short-lived as he left after one season (the show itself was cancelled in May 1988)
Fred had sporadic work here and there (including a 1993 episode of Martin and in Snoop Dogg’s music video “Doggy Dogg World,” which celebrated 70s black film and TV icons). He moved to New York City in 1997 and opened up an acting school called Rerun’s Acting School. I was one of his students and I had the pleasure of going to his studio suite on West 33rd Street every Saturday morning. I was surprised at how deep his actual voice was. He said he made his voice go high whenever he played the younger role of Rerun. He would have me perform monologues and create commercials and do other acting exercises. I learned so much from this man not only about the acting business but the business of acting and the entertainment business as well.

Fred shared a story with me about the child actress Reina King (sister of actress Regina King) who played Carolyn, Roger Thomas’ adopted daughter on What’s Happening Now. There was an episode which spoofed The Wizard of Oz–in which Carolyn played Dorothy, and the lines called for her to become hurt and sad that her dog Toto was taken away by the Wicked Witch. Reina laughed it off, looking at the plot matter as silly. Fred told me he took her aside and told her that she was an actress and had to take this seriously, so she eventually was able to get through the lines. But this is how Fred was in his acting class. He was totally serious about the acting profession and show business in general. He wanted to be sure that I remembered lines, went to rehearsals prepared and maintained my energy level (I actually made him cry during one of my recitations and he got up and gave me a hug).

Fred also taught dance classes as well at his school and I learned steps from him that I still do today.
I would sometimes go with Fred to a restaurant across the street where his photo was on the wall along with other celebrities. As he would eat his breakfast, I would also see him taking his medicine for his diabetes, which he shared with me he was battling.

Eventually, Fred moved his acting school to Los Angeles, in the hopes of getting more clients. We became good friends during his time in New York City. Once when I was at a dance party, Fred was a special guest and he gave me a shout out as one of his students. I never forgot that.
Fred did some more film work, such as 1998′s In The Hood and 2000′s Big Money Hustlas. Before he moved back to Los Angeles, he had shared with me some footage of an independent film he was working on with Sinbad. He also appeared on the TV sitcom Scrubs and did a cameo in Will Smith’s “Will 2 K” video, pop locking down the Soul Train line. He also appeared in the 2003 film Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. His last TV appearance a few weeks before his passing was on the program Classmates, which reunited former classmates. Fred appeared with Charles Bradshaw, a beefy football player whom he thanked for defending him when other kids teased him because of his weight.

Fred’s last movie role was in The Land of Merry Misfits which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. In our last correspondence, he told me he became a minister and I was very happy for him.

In October 2003 I got a call from former Soul Train dancer Damita Jo Freeman that Fred had passed away, succumbing to Type 2 diabetes. I was saddened to hear about the loss of my friend and I miss him to this day.

Fred Berry, to me, will always be remembered as a lovable, fun person who was smart and intelligent and I was honored to have known him and call him a friend and I learned so much from him. Indeed, Fred “Rerun” Berry, like his famous red tam, will forever be an icon.

Source​–Stephen McMillian

Stephen McMillian is a journalist, writer, actor, filmmaker, performer, former Soul Train dancer, Soul Train historian and soul music and movie historian.

Fred Hammond is an anointed praise and worshipper who’s changed the lives of millions through his Psalms Tags: fred hammond psalms anointed true worshipper word life production feature

For three amazing decades, singer/songwriter/producer/musician Fred Hammond has been a Gospel music arbiter, consistently pushing the genre into to new melodic territory. The Detroit native ascended from bass-playing sideman for The Winans; to founding member of the trend-setting sextet Commissioned; to creating the further renowned ensemble Radical for Christ, to becoming a highly influential solo artist and producer in his own right. Unforgettable songs such as “Blessed;” “No Weapon; “King of Glory;” “Celebrate (He Lives);” “Let the Praise Begin” and more have lifted the spirits of millions both cross-culturally and cross-generationally. His 1998 release Pages of Life: Chapters 1 & 2 is a double platinum-seller and his award wins over the years have recognized his excellence in all areas upfront (Best Male Vocalist, Best Album and Best Song) as well as behind the scenes (for songwriting and producing). He is a multiple Stellar and Dove Award winner and his last CD, Free to Worship (2006), netted him his first Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album. His new CD, LOVE UNSTOPPABLE, finds Fred in a powerfully persuasive mode.

From traditional gospel to funk, acoustic rock and even a cappella pieces, Fred Hammond’s new 15-song set pulls from a sprawling musical palette to mold his musical messages. “I just knew this album was going to have love somewhere in the title,” he states. “My spirit is in a love place again…like two albums ago when I released Somethin’ ‘Bout Love. At first I thought the title was going to be The Love Event. Then I encountered a friend who was trying to encourage me through a tough time. She came by The Warehouse, saw the challenges I was facing and told me, ‘When a man has a dream, he is unstoppable.” That was a powerful statement. It led me to reflect on how God’s love for us all is unstoppable. Right then, I knew I had my title.”

LOVE UNSTOPPABLE is filled with many remarkable moments, including the opening “Prelude” which features his son reciting a heartfelt prayer and his daughter singing beautifully, closely following in her fathers footsteps. This leads into the galvanizing opening number “Awesome God” which is certain to light the fire of praise under any audience. “I’ve been studying my audiences,” Hammond shares, “and they love simple hooks that they can sing along to. ‘Awesome God’ is a lot like my song ‘Glory to Glory’ with the joyful repetition in the chorus. We just have folks shouting out, ‘God-God-God-God!” Similarly, the hand-clappin’, high energy first single, “They That Wait,” is a dizzyingly melodic and marvelous song of faith team-up with gospel great John P. Kee. Fred has been test performing this number prior to the album release to great response. Hammond programmed the more traditional “Find No Fault” early in the sequence (track #4) to assure fans that though he is eclectic in his musicality, he still has a deep appreciation for the foundation on which it all began. “Sometimes, people expect gospel to be gospel,” he shares. “I like writing new songs that feel like something you’ve been singing all your life.

Back in the day, one thing the old saints would say is ‘Through it all I find no fault in him.’ They were paraphrasing Pilate from Jesus’ trial when he said, ‘I find no fault in this just man.’” But Hammond could not resist slipping in a little Caribbean twist at the end – a revisionist through and through. The universal Fred Hammond vibe prevails in the acoustic feel good “Nobody Like You” and especially the wrap-around warmth of “Best Thing That Ever Happened,” sure to be a fan favorite. Then there is the balmy Brazilian feel of “Thoughts of Love” on which Hammond seems to channel his inner Cassandra Wilson (the sultry jazz singer). “I could easily do a whole Latin album based on how I feel about that music,” Fred confesses. “That song is a tribute to all my Latin brothers and sisters – all live instrumentation like Santana or something. Down the line I plan to even record something in Spanish.”

On a more soulful note is the deep backbeat R&B groove of “Take My Hand,” a song that has a fittingly strong back story. “When you have a public life, you often find that you have to keep up a strong front even when you’re going through a hard time. My pastor’s family was recently going through an issue and I’ve never seen his wife so broken... That same week, one of my best friends lost her grandfather, who was like a father to her. She’s usually reserved but I saw her broken, too. So I wrote ‘Take My Hand’ for them. I’d just been in that seat when my Mom passed a year and a half ago. Sometimes you don’t have the strength for a whole lot of praise and worship. You just have enough to say, ‘Lord, take my hand and walk with me on this one.’ One thing is certain, every year there will be loss, trials and issues. This song says, ‘Lord, I’m at my lowest point. If you don’t pull me through, I’m not going to make it.’”

LOVE UNSTOPPABLE boasts several more profoundly introspective selections, one of which dates back 20 years ago: the a cappella interlude “I Need You Right Away.” “I wrote that in 1989, a time when I didn’t have any money but a wife and child to care for. Our house was raggedy and I had made some bad business decisions. I was standing in my kitchen one day and what you hear on ‘I Need You Right Away’ just poured out of me. But The Lord would not let me put that song out until now. I kept thinking I was going to ‘finish’ the song, but it wouldn’t happen. This year, God said, ‘Just put that what you sang that day out. It is perfect as it is.’ So now it’s an interlude that leads into ‘Best Thing That Ever Happened.’” Deepest of all of Fred Hammond’s latest offerings is the confessional “Lost in You Again,” a song that proves even someone with as much praise and love to share as Mr. Hammond still questions the fervor of his faith. “’Lost in You Again’ is probably the most special song of the album – my personal testimony of the last ten years of my life. My musicians Calvin and Philip sent me some tracks and I gravitated to this mid-tempo track. The music grabbed me and I immediately started writing it. Some songs take hours. This one just flew out. I didn’t even have a pen. I just grabbed my iPhone, went to the memo page and started singing into it.

I sang about how we as Christians are always searching and the how stuff we find isn’t always the stuff we want. ‘I found all the heartache, the pain, the drama and the shame / My search won’t end until I’m lost in you again.’” “Sometimes we get really cynical after life has done a job on us,” Hammond continues. “While I was writing that song, one of my life-long friends came to hang out with me for the weekend – and the song came to life during this visit. After sitting and talking and catching up on all the years gone by, we went to church. He had on some clothes he probably wore the last time I saw him 20 years ago, but just as pressed and clean as can be. He got in church and when the word of God started, he got so enthralled that he jumped out in the middle aisle and ran across the church like he’d been going there for years! Even though he has had major life issue challenges, he’s always had an energetic love for God. It brought tears to my eyes, because it’s so easy to let life’s issues wear you down to where it affects your worship. I know that after great losses and very difficult periods in my life, sometimes it feels like my own energy has been beaten out of me.

Without even knowing it, my friend made me realize how much I want that kind of expressive worship back. The other person who always had great fervor for God was Pop Winans – from when I was with the group into his old age, he never changed. So ‘Lost in You Again,’ is really saying that I sure could use some of what he’s got. I think we all can.” Closing his powerful latest masterwork with the gentle pair of “Thank You” and “Lord How I Love You,” followed by the big funk of the party time closer “You Make Me Happy,” Fred Hammond covers the full spectrum of emotions God-fearing folks are experiencing at this critical time in history. “It is my hope that these songs touch people, because I know many who are hurting and confused. Along with the big songs, I wanted much of this album to have to have an intimate, introspective look. I think people truly need that energy right now.”

Source: http://www.myplay.com/artists/fred-hammond/bio

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