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Bill Withers is an artist to be remembered Tags: bill withers music hall fame word life production new quality entertainment

Bill Withers was simply not born to play the record industry game. His oft-repeated descriptor for A&R men is “antagonistic and redundant.” Not surprisingly, most A&R men at Columbia Records, the label he recorded for beginning in 1975, considered him “difficult.” Yet when given the freedom to follow his muse, Withers wrote, sang and in many cases produced some of our most enduring classics, including “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lean on Me,” “Use Me,” “Lovely Day,” “Grandma’s Hands” and “Who Is He (and What Is He to You).”

“Not a lot of people got me,” Withers recently mused. “Here I was, this black guy playing an acoustic guitar, and I wasn’t playing the gut-bucket blues. People had a certain slot that they expected you to fit in to.”

Withers’ story is about as improbable as it could get. His first hit, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” recorded in 1971 when he was 33, broke nearly every pop music rule. Instead of writing words for a bridge, Withers audaciously repeated “I know” 26 times in a row. Moreover, the two-minute song had no introduction and was released as a throwaway B-side. Produced by Stax alumni Booker T. Jones for Sussex Records, the single’s structure, sound, and sentiment were completely unprecedented and possessed a melody and lyric that tapped into the zeitgeist of the era. Like much of Withers’ work, it would ultimately prove to be timeless. Reaching Number Three pop and Number Six R&B, “Ain’t No Sunshine” would go on to win the Grammy for Best R&B Song of the year. The song has since been covered more than 250 times, sampled by a bevy of rappers, and is routinely featured in movies and TV shows.

Born in 1938 in Slab Fork, West Virginia, one of 13 children (only six survived past infancy), Withers spent much of his childhood shuttling between his mother’s home in nearby Beckley and his father’s home in Slab Fork. For African-American males growing up in that part of West Virginia, working in the coal mines was about the only option available. In fact, Withers was the first male in his family not to work in the mines, opting instead to join the navy at the age of 17. Slowly learning to overcome a debilitating stammer under the employ of Uncle Sam, Withers elected to stay in the navy for nine years.

While serving overseas, Withers arranged for his mother to move from West Virginia to San Jose, California, where he joined her upon being decommissioned in 1965. For the next two years, Withers worked a variety of jobs, while cruising the local music clubs most evenings. Whenever the opportunity presented itself, he would sit in, singing blues standards with such West Coast stalwarts as Clifford Coulter and Johnny Heartsman.

His then-girlfriend bought him a plane ticket to New York, where he stayed with his sister, whose landlord happened to be Clarence “C. B.” Bullard, Atlantic A&R man and manager of Harlem’s legendary Record Shack. Bullard arranged for Withers to record a single for a short-lived West Coast label owned by Hy and Sam Weiss and Mort Garson.

Chasing the dream, in 1967, Withers moved to Los Angeles to work with Garson, who produced and arranged Withers’ first single, “Three Nights and a Morning,” the only release on the obscure Lotus Records. When “Three Nights and a Morning” sank without a trace, Garson introduced Withers to jazz pianist Mike Melvoin, who then recommended him to Charles Wright (“Express Yourself”); Wright, in turn, connected Withers with keyboardist Ray Jackson, then a member of Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. Withers was working for McDonnell Douglas, and then Weber Aircraft, assembling washrooms and air stairs; he used his earnings to record demos with Jackson of “Justified” (later recorded by Esther Phillips), “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh” (subsequently cut by Diana Ross), and a couple of other songs.

After being rejected by several labels and industry moguls, the tape eventually landed in the hands of Clarence Avant, founder of Sussex Records. Liking what he heard, Avant wanted Bones Howe, who’d just produced several Fifth Dimension hits, to produce Withers’ first record. Avant’s friend, Stax VP Al Bell, had a stroke of genius and suggested that Booker T. Jones produce the record. Jones opted for a stripped-down ensemble, employing Booker T. & the MG’s bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn and drummer Al Jackson, with Jones himself handling keyboards and guitar. Stephen Stills sat in on piano on a couple of tracks, including “Grandma’s Hands.”

During a third session, held six months later, Chris Ethridge and Jim Keltner replaced Dunn and Jackson. Jones crafted the ethereal string arrangement for “Ain’t No Sunshine” and suggested that Withers bring his carpet-covered drafting board to the studio – it was the same board Withers used at home to stomp out the beat while playing acoustic guitar. It was also Jones who convinced Withers that repeating “I know” over and over again would increase the tension in the song exponentially.

In 1972, by the time Withers was ready to record his second album, Still Bill, Jones had relocated to Northern California. Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band had recently split up, and Ray Jackson, drummer James Gadson, guitarist Benorce Blackmon, and bass player Melvin Dunlap had joined forces with Withers, creating one of the greatest unsung ensembles in R&B history. Rehearsing the new material in Gadson’s garage, Withers – with the help of Al Bell – persuaded Avant to let him produce himself.

“Al Bell is my guardian angel,” asserts Withers. “Clarence is a business guy. Al Bell is a music guy who did business. Al Bell got me!”

The result was an extraordinary sophomore effort that includes both “Use Me” (Number Two pop and R&B) and “Lean on Me” (Number One pop and R&B). Heavily in demand, Withers then wrote songs for both José Feliciano and Gladys Knight, while turning down opportunities to write soundtracks for what he considered to be degrading blaxploitation flicks. Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall and +’Justments followed, the latter producing three R&B hits, before Sussex Records went bankrupt in 1975. Columbia bought the company’s tapes at auction and, in a separate deal, signed Withers to a long-term contract.

Four albums, Making Music, Naked and Warm, Menagerie and ’Bout Love appeared on Columbia in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1979, each album getting further and further away from the funky, sparse sound that had originally made Withers such a success. When Withers blanched at a Columbia A&R man’s suggestion that he record a cover of “In the Ghetto,” his career was placed on hold.

“I couldn’t get into the studio from 1979 to 1985,” he says.

Unable to record for his own label, Withers cut “Soul Shadows” with the Crusaders in 1980 and then the Top Five hit “Just the Two of Us” with Grover Washington Jr. in 1981. The latter appeared on Washington’s label, Elektra, and won Withers his second Grammy for Best R&B Song. Staying on the jazz-pop tip that had worked so well with the Crusaders and Grover Washington Jr., Withers recorded a Number 13 R&B hit with Ralph MacDonald, “In the Name of Love,” released on Polydor in 1984, and in 1985 recorded – under his own name – a final album for Columbia, Watching You, Watching Me.

“I didn’t navigate that corporate thing well,” explains Withers. “They would have some A&R guy that had nothing to do [with me] culturally, didn’t understand at all where I was from, or what I was doing or why. . . . That’s when it ended for me.”

Since 1985, withers has spent his time raising a family, living off his considerable songwriting royalties, and enjoying life out of the spotlight. On occasion, he will write a song at the request of a friend, contributing two such compositions to Jimmy Buffett’s 2004 album License to Chill, one to George Benson’s 2009 CD Songs and Stories, and most recently, in 2013, penning “I Am My Father’s Son” for the unveiling of a statue of basketball great and Withers’ friend Bill Russell.

Withers’ gifts are many and varied. His ability to address fundamental aspects of the human condition not commonly considered in popular music, such as friendship (“Lean on Me”), the importance of one’s grandparents (“Grandma’s Hands”), and male vulnerability (“Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Let Me in Your Life,” “I Hope She’ll Be Happier” and “Better Off Dead”) sets him squarely apart from most rock and R&B artists. His knack for simple, memorable, yet poignant turns-of-phrase is equally remarkable, and his melodic gifts are extraordinary.

Alongside Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway and Gil Scott-Heron, Withers was the leading figure in the nascent black singer-songwriter movement of the early 1970s. In addition to his quintessential ballads, he also crafted funky groove-based songs such as “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?,” “Use Me” and “Railroad Man,” situating himself squarely within current and past African-American traditions. He penned a number of songs addressing social issues specific to black culture, history, and living conditions, including “Harlem,” “Cold Baloney” and “I Can’t Write Left Handed,” all featured on the superb 1973 set, Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall. The latter track may be his finest moment on record, with Withers masterfully articulating the incredibly moving lyric with a variety of blues and gospel vocal devices.

Withers’ songs have proved to have a life of their own. In 1987, Club Nouveau cut a dance version of “Lean on Me” that topped the pop charts, settled at Number Two R&B, and garnered Withers his third Grammy for Best R&B Song. Originally a Number Six R&B hit for Withers in 1977, a 1988 remix of “Lovely Day” by Dutch DJ Ben Liebrand reached the UK Top 10. Eight years later, Meshell Ndegeocello had a Number One dance hit with a cover of “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?” That same year, Blackstreet, featuring Dr. Dre, hit the top of the charts with “No Diggity,” featuring a prominent sample from “Grandma’s Hands.”

Other artists who have sampled Withers’ recordings include DMX, Jay Z, Akon, Kanye West, Tupac Shakur, Fatboy Slim, and R. Kelly. In addition, Withers’ songs have been covered by a staggeringly diverse array of artists, ranging from Michael Jackson, The Temptations, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Isaac Hayes, Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, and Gil Scott-Heron to Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Maroon 5, Brian Eno, Michael Stipe, Alt-j and the cast of Glee.

In 2005, Withers was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Two years later, “Lean on Me” was enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Source: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame  

- See more at: https://rockhall.com/inductees/bill-withers/bio/#sthash.RkukWftA.dpuf


Jazz Legend - Ethel Waters
Category: Voices of Jazz
Tags: Black Swan; Broadway; Columbia Records; Cotton Club; His Eye is on the Sparrow; On

Abstract: Born in Chester on October 31 1900, Ethel Waters was an African American singer and actress famous for her style of “blues” as well as for leading the way for black entertainers of her time. Her career peaked during the roaring 1920s and continued throughout the 1930s during which time she completed the majority of her 259 recordings. Waters is best known for her performance of “Stormy Weather” at the Cotton Club in New York City, as well as her role of Hagar in On with the Show. She is also known for writing two critically acclaimed autobiographies, His Eye is on the Sparrow, which focuses on her beginnings and achievements as an entertainer, and To Me It’s Wonderful, which describes her participation in the Billy Graham Crusades that she toured with in her later years. Waters died in 1977 of heart disease.


Ethel Waters was born the daughter of Louise Howard, on October 31 1900, at her great-aunt Ida’s home in Chester, Pennsylvania. Waters was a product of rape. At the age of 13, Waters’ mother was raped by John Waters (pianist). Waters said about her childhood, “I never was a child. I never was coddled, or liked, or understood by my family. I never felt I belonged. I was always an outsider.” Waters’ never had a relationship with her mother. Louise Howard moved away when Waters was a child, leaving her to the care of her grandmother, Sally Anderson. However, Waters’ spent most of her time with her aunts, Vi and Ching, because her grandmother worked long hours.

Though both alcoholic with terrible lifestyles, Waters’ aunts loved to sing. Waters wrote in her autobiography, Eye is on the Sparrow: “Vi had a sweet, soft voice. Ching’s was bell-like and resonant…One of the first pieces I remember Vi singing was ‘I Don’t Want to Play in Your Yard.’ Ching’s favorites were ‘There’ll Come a Time’ and ‘Volunteer Organist.’ But in the beginning it was always the story in the song that enchanted me.” These last few words explain Waters’ style of singing more than anything else. Waters was always able to tell a story with her music, though she would not figure this out until later in life.

As a young girl, Waters was exposed to a lot of negative things. She befriended a prostitute and witnessed the sexual relationships of her older sisters (they all shared a room). She grew up fast. Though she was exposed to these things, she didn’t allow them to influence her. Waters’ first steady job was at the Harrod Apartments in Philadelphia. She was a maid—a very humble job compared to what she would soon land. On October 17 1917, Waters’ seventeenth birthday, her friends convinced her to perform at a Halloween party. She sang a blues ballad which the crowd and a black vaudeville team (a group who would perform variety shows), Braxton and Nugent, loved. They approached her after the show and offered her $10 a week to join their team. Waters then began her steady ascent to fame.

Her first performance was in 1917 at the Lincoln Theater in Baltimore. She sang solos and was known as Sweet Mama Stringbean because, “I was so scrawny and tall.” Though the crowd was tough, and often louder than the performances, Waters’ voice would always capture the audience. One night Waters decided to add a new song to her show. She took the song, “St. Louis Blues” and sang it more slowly, with more pathos. She says, “You could have heard a pin drop in that rough, rowdy audience.” Her version of the song is now a classic and known to be the greatest blues song every written.

However, she was not involved with the most honest people. Waters soon found out that Braxton and Nugent were pocketing extra money from her act. At the time two other females were performing with Braxton and Nugent, as the Hill Sisters. After finding out about the scam Waters immediately left and the Hill Sisters followed. They decided to travel together as their own act.

They performed the same songs they did in Baltimore. One of them was Waters’ famous song, “St. Louis Blues.” They moved from theater to theater, performing for a different crowd every time. Though the Hill Sisters had good times, the trio did not last. The original Hill Sisters, Jo and Maggie, were jealous. There was backstage rivalry which stemmed from Waters’ success. Though they were a trio, Waters soon felt singled out and unwanted.

The trio turned into a duo, with just Jo and Ethel Waters. Though they traveled and sang together, Waters often took the spotlight. Once, Waters landed a job at 91 Decauter Street in Atlanta. That same night, Bessie Smith was on the bill. Smith had a lot of say with the managers, and forbid Waters to sing any blues while Smith was there. However, during Waters’ performance, the crowd began to shout, “Blues! Blues! Blues! Come on, Stringbean, we want your blues!” The manager was forced to revoke the ban placed on Waters. Bessie Smith personally gave Waters permission to sing “St. Louis Blues” and said to Waters after the show, “Come here long goody. You ain’t so bad. It’s only that I never dreamed that anyone would be able to do this to me in my own territory and with my own people. And you know damn well that you can’t sing worth a--” Waters had come into her own. She was a one-woman act.

“I still had no feelings of having roots. I was still alone and an outcast,” Waters says about her time with the Hill Sisters. After being injured in a car accident in 1918, Waters went back to Philadelphia. She placed her singing career on hold and began washing dishes at an automat. She did this until Joe Bright, a black actor-producer from New York, persuaded her to go back on stage. Wearily, in 1919, Waters accepted Bright’s offer and performed at Lincoln Theater in Harlem. It was during her second week at Lincoln Theater that her acquaintance, Alice Ramsey—a dancer—invited her to sing at Edmund’s Cellar. Waters began working there for $2 a night.

Her salary came from the audience in the form of tips. There were no set hours for work. Waters said, “There was no set closing time…I used to work from nine until unconscious.” Again, she changed her style of singing. Andrea Barnett writes in All-Night Party, “A pianist, Lou Henley, challenged Ethel to expand her repertoire, urging her to tackle more complex, ‘cultural’ numbers. But to Ethel’s surprise, she found that she could characterize and act out the songs just as she did with her blues. Audiences were enthusiastic.” More and more people would come to Edmond’s Cellar to watch Waters perform and tips became so good that musicians all around Harlem began looking for a chance to perform there. Waters’ finally began making a name for herself. Waters even went to Chicago at the request of Al Capone, who wanted her to sing at his bar. In 1929, with James P. Johnson as her accompanist, Ethel was singing songs like, “Am I Blue?” in On with the Show, where she was now making $1250 per week!

In All-Night Party, Andrea Barnet says, “Ethel’s versatility and inventiveness were beginning to serve her well. She had the sexual swagger of singers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, yet her voice was softer. Ethel’s style was crisp and urbane, more northern.” She soon was noticed by Black Swan Records. She began recording with them and released a record with two sides. “Oh Daddy” and “Down Home Blues” were on that record, which sold 500, 000 copies in 6 months. Waters had recorded with pianist, Fletcher Henderson. The duo was so successful that they toured through the South and became the first black musicians to broadcast on the radio. Ethel continued to perform with various artists: female pianist, Pearl Wright, dancer, Ethel Williams (suspected to be her lover). She was living a lavish lifestyle, but her music never reflected her extravagant lifestyle. Instead, they reflected a more negative side of Waters’ adult life.

Ethel Waters held a few rocky relationships in her lifetime. She once dated a drug addict and thief. She married and divorced three times, though she rarely talks about two of her marriages. There are also rumors that Waters was bisexual. Though she tried to keep this private, she was often seen fighting in public with whichever girlfriend she was with at the time. The nature of her relationships was often reflected in her music; her songs are full of heartbreak. There was also another aspect of Waters music that must be noted. According to Barnet, “…besides the sweeter quality of her voice, she was just as likely to take a more droll, comedic view of male-female relations, making mischievous sport of both sexes.” Though singing was a great part of Waters career, she also became an actress.

Waters acted in a number of films and Broadway plays. In Waters’ opinion, her greatest role was that of Hagar in Mamba’s Daughters on Broadway in 1939 where she gave 17 curtain calls on opening night. In Mamba’s Daughters Waters plays a woman sent to exile after committing a minor crime. Consequently, she has to leave her daughter, Lissa, to the care of her mother, Mamba. Years later, Hagar must make one more sacrifice for her daughter, who is on her way to fame and fortune. She felt that Hagar paralleled her own mother’s life, and she put all of the emotion that she had into each performance. She was also the first black woman to ever star in a dramatic play on Broadway. In 1950, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Pinky. In the movie, she plays the grandmother of Pinky, a young light-skinned woman, who passes for white while attending school in the North. In that same year she won the New York Drama Critics Award for her role in the play, The Member of the Wedding. Her co-star was the actress Julie Harris. Waters continued to land a number of roles in films and plays. She performed in Cairo (1942), Cabin in the Sky (1943), The Member of the Wedding (1952) and was even a guest on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1972.

Ethel Waters also wrote two autobiographies. In 1951, His Eye is on the Sparrow was published. Her second autobiography, To Me it’s Wonderful, was published in 1977.

Ethel Waters’ career began to slow as the blues began to fade out of pop culture, but she was able to continue her career largely because of her ability to identify with the characters she played and the songs that she sang. Waters died on September 2, 1977, in Chatsworth, California. She will always be remembered for her incredible vocal and theatrical performances, and for being a woman who broke racial boundaries by playing in black and white vaudeville companies and earning equal praise in both.

Decades after her death, three of Waters’ singles were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame: “Dinah” in 1998 for Traditional Pop, “Stormy Weather” in 2003 for Jazz, and “Am I Blue?” in 2007 for Traditional Pop.


  • His Eye Is on the Sparrow. (with Charles Samuels) New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1951.
  • To Me It’s Wonderful. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., 1972.


  • Barnet, Andrea. All-Night Party: The Women of Bohemian Greenwich Village and Harlem 1913-1930. New York, New York: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004.
  • Carr, Larry. “Ethel Waters.” Jazzateria.com. 2004. 15 Oct. 2004. .
  • Gourse, Leslie. Sophisticated Ladies. New York, New York: The Penguin Group, 2007.
  • Marks, Peter. “A Familiar Tale of Sacrifice, traversing Today and ’39.” New York Times 25 Feb. 1998 .

This biography was written by Julia J. Spiering, Fall 2004; revised and extended by Joanne A. Gedeon, Spring 2010.


BRUNCH WITH SPOKEN WORD-Featuring today’s guest, “Chaquis Maliq” Tags: chaquis maliq brunch with spoken word word life production feature

Today I will be chatting with the talented songstress, Chaquis Maliq. Thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to interview you today. First of all I would just like to say that I am a big fan of your work. I’ve previously watched a few video clips of you performing, and I found out that not only are you an amazing talent, but very cool and down to earth. I have to point that out because it is so hard finding good talent today that has not allowed their ego to override their gift. How do you remain so humble?

 Well, that is something I believe you learn or it’s already apart of your persona. I’m not a boaster and never have been. Believing you always have room to improve and havingGod in your life plays a big factor in remaining humble. I didn’t always have this voice, so to me God can take it away at anytime. Therefore, I have been checked by God and understanding humility will keep you humble.

 Yes, it definitely will. How old were you when you first realized that you could sing?

LOL! I thought I could sing as a child, truth is...I could not sing as a child. I just sang loud and obnoxious. I was always making up songs and singing the wrong words to popular songs. But to answer your question I have been working on this voice for years. In 2006 is when the voice came through. Even my own mother didn’t believe I was singing when I let here hear my first project “The Demonstration Vol. I” . She asked where I got all the people to sing my background vocals LOL!

Hmm, I never would have guessed because you have such an excellent voice. So, outside the mainstream industry who inspires you the most?

I’m not sure if my role models are considered not mainstream or at least there were at one time. I am inspired by India Aries’ journey and mission with her music. She keeps God in her music...ok ok she made the song “Brown Skin” but that’s her prerogative. Overall she uplifts, learns, teaches, lives, and grows...and you hear it in her music. Her mission is admirable and I intend to create music for the same reasons.

I love India Arie. Her music is definitely uplifting and soul saving. What challenges do you face as a female artist?

Ha! Being a female artist is a challenge in its self. My final answer is coming.... (smiles) Well the music industry has been said to be dominated by men, so that plays a factor too. I’ve ran into a lot of men in this industry that basically just tried to tear me down. Saying things, like: “You can’t start a label without $15,000”- “You can’t write to this kind of production”- “You don’t have a lead voice”-or them not wanting to help at all. Sooooo, I took matters into my own hands and persevered. I used those things that would hinder an average person, and used them as motivation.

I most definitely can relate. That’s why it is utterly important for us girls to stick together. So we know you as an artist right, but what is the side of you that the public never sees?

Hmm… They never see...me display my Love Life. I believe that it’s personal...yes some songs are inspired by it. But if I’m with a guy and truly have feelings...it’s between me and him, not me, him and the world. I don’t believe in Trophy Relationships....

This is true!! I noticed that you have worked with various youth programs and non-profits that serve young people. You have also performed at national events that have called attention to human rights. I commend you for that. Who inspired you to work for change within different communities throughout the world, and how?

Well, I’m from San Francisco and I was born a humanitarian (Smiles). I’ve always worked with different youth programs whether is through school or church. I also, did revolutionary spoken word/theatre…so, it in me. My father is also a mentor and started a young men’s program. It’s in my blood :)

That’s awesome. So tell me, what songs are you the most proud of and why?

Well, I’m actually proud of the songs that I am currently working on with me and my guitar. It’s been a little over a year since I have been composing on my guitar but I love it and wouldn't change it for the world. They are not released on CD/Digitally yet. It’s coming sooner than later.

Oh, I love the sound of the acoustic guitar. It brings so much life to music. That’s one of the things that I admire the most about you. Now tell me, If you could put together your own personal dream band, who would you select and why?

OH WOW! Hmm... Sheila E, Missy Elliot, Lauryn Hill, K-OS, Esperanza Spalding, Jason Mraz…I know...what a combo lol

Lol~You got to love it though. I'm pretty sure that they would produce an amazing sound. What do you enjoy the most in your career?

Meeting awesome, loving people, traveling and uplifting people with my music.

What’s next for you? Where we can pick up a copy of your CD, and please give us the links to your website and fan pages for those who would like to follow you.

My official website is chaquismaliq.com

Follow me on Twitter @chaquismaliq


My first project, “The Demonstration Vol. I” can be downloaded for free at:


My second project can be purchased at the following links







CD Baby


Thank you so much for having Brunch with Spoken Word!! I enjoyed

chatting with you, and I look forward to all of your future projects.

Thank you for having me, Spoken Word. I really appreciated this. See you soon.


BRUNCH WITH SPOKEN WORD-POLITICKING WITH TODAY’S GUEST, “RIKKINELL” Tags: rikki nell tv cultural awarness word life production brunc with spoken word

It is such an honor to chat with Rikki today. Rikki and Nell are the founders of RikkiNell.com which began in 2010. They started RikkiNell TV to be able to network with others that know and understand the importance of unity within the “so called” Black (Melanin) Community. Their passion is to give knowledge regarding our history as well as give tools for the future. Their goal is to let others know how important it is to know thyself. There are but few people within the black community today that understand the importance of education and cultural awareness. Rikki and Nell both do, and we commemorate them on their efforts in pushing forth such knowledge back into black communities throughout the world. Please check out some of the educational groups they promote on their website which include metaphysics and spirituality, natural hair, healing herbs and spices, and healthy eating. Please check them out at: http://rikkinell.com . Also, you can watch RikkiNell TV every Monday all day on Word Life Production Online Television Network. www.wordlifeproduction.spruz.com or www.wordlifeproduction.com

Rikki, thank you so very much for joining me today!! Now one of the things that interest me the most about you is the fact that you are motivated to educate people on topics that are not often promoted in the black community in certain parts of the world. In my opinion, it is very important to know thyself. What or who inspired you to promote awareness?  While Nell and I were studying a few years ago regarding metaphysics, Kemet, health, and other topics, we were finding it more and more difficult to find resources to feed our hunger for knowledge.  This is the main reason why we decided to start an online community because we knew that we were not alone and that others felt the same way.  We want to provide a place where we can learn from one another to grow to higher heights.

Could you tell some of our viewers the importance of cultural awareness and the benefits behind it? It is like the Ghanaian saying, Sankofa, which means to move forward, you need to return to your roots.  With cultural awareness, we are able to learn from our past, grow from it, and move forward.  This also benefits our children so they can be confident within themselves and live a life without limitations.


I totally agree with that. What I’ve learned about my culture has definitely enlightened me enough to totally change my life. It also left me hungry for more. The sad part is that much of what I learned was in college.  African American history was not an accredited history at the college I attended. It should because it plays a major role in the establishment of the USA. In fact other cultures in this country should be required to take it as well.  What do you think we in the black community could do to improve our educational system? If you are talking about the public educational system, I do not think this is a place for our children, period.  How can we improve a “system” which is designed to teach our children to be mainly corporate slaves.  Nell and I home-school our children but meet up with different families in the community so our sons and daughters can learn different topics that are not common in the mainstream school.  Now I understand we do live a society that for many families, homeschooling is not going to happen.  In this case, I think that we as a community can improve our children’s education by teaching the importance of a entrepreneurial spirit, gardening, carpentry, sacred geometry, and more topics which are not typically learned in school.  This should be done in small settings so children can get the attention they need. 

Interesting. I have a few people that home school their kids. Although my kids attend school, my husband and I are very strict on education and we make sure that they know the importance of education as well. I do remember my oldest son attending a school that had stapled books for reading. Then once we were able to get him into a better school, there were laptops and the whole nine. Now I know that you are familiar with Lyndon Johnson and the things that he accomplished while serving as President of the United States. One of the things that Lyndon Johnson established was the Head-Start Program which was founded back in 1965 as a summer program for kids in order to prepare them for public school in the fall. It would later become an all year program. When the government passed a bill on budget cuts in the US educational system, after over forty years the head start programs was one of the first to go. What are your thoughts on that?  Head Start was intentionally set up to meet emotional, psychological, and nutritional needs of children while at the same time preparing them before they go to kindergarten.  Black children are enrolled in these pre-kindergarten programs at a higher rate than White children (Flores, G,; Tomany-Korman, S.; & Olson, L. (2005), Does Disadvantage Start at Home? Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health-Related Early Childhood Home Routines & Safety Practices. Archives of Pediatric Adolescence, 158, pp 158-165) which will definitely make a huge effect on our community if this program ends.  The sad thing about it is that many families are dependent on this program.  On the flip-side, did this program actually work for our children and their families? Some say it did, others say it did not.  I truly believe in self dependency.  Even though the program could have seem something positive, we as a people should know that anything given to us by anybody, can be taken away.


That is so true. I’ve also heard from some that it did not work as well as it did. I was a part of the head start program. We learned a lot. I’ve watched them with other kids in the past and the program seemed helpful. However, in the last few years I heard some complaints about what the kids were learning there, and that some were not prepared for Kindergarten. Now the Head-Start Program ended right in the middle of the school year. The parents were asked to stop bringing the kids for a few weeks until they were able to secure funding. However the government would later go on to provide proposed funding. What advice could you give parents who were affected by this bill?  I would say that this would be a prime time for parents to use their gifts and nurture their children the best way they can.  We can depend on ourselves.  Parents can partner with other families they trust and maybe even work out a schedule with them to ensure children are being taught and taken care of. 


That’s great advice!! Back in 1989, KRS-One started the stop the violence movement in response to the violence in hip hop and the Black communities. This was a stepping stone to advance a vision of hip hop’s original principles to the music industry. In the last few years there has been a rise in the number of black homicide victims. What do you think could be done today to restore those same principles established during the stop the violence movement back into hip hop and the black community? Great question! We should support artists who truly have messages that ignite the brain to think and empower the spirit.  Parents, we should cut the TV off for a while.  There is not a whole lot of good on there anyway.  This will allow families to do more productive things together and be more in tuned within themselves and with one another. We should also show genuine love to one another.  Love conquers hate. 


I love the way you put that. I must say that your network is totally inspiring to me, so I must ask what you hope to achieve in the next five years. I see myself with more knowledge, wisdom, and overstanding.  I also see myself being more spiritually enlightened and my thirst for growth heightened.


I’m utterly amazed at how well you stay committed to your goal to enlighten the black community. I know that it can be exhausting from time to time. What gives you the drive to continue working towards your goal? When a person comes to me and mentions that they were able to learn something which helped them on their journey, that moves me tremendously.  My children give me motivation because I want them to be strong and courageous within themselves. They should be proud of who they are and show the next generations to come these principles and much much more.


I would just like to say that I’ve enjoyed our conversation today. I’m very glad that you took the time out to chat with me. Thank you so much!! Could you please give us the links to where fans can follow you? The pleasure is truly mine for having this conversation with you and I am truly honored being here.  The community can check us out on RikkiNell.com.  We have other links but we are rarely there. LOL!  Best place is to check out our site. Thanks again, and I look forward to chatting with you again in the near future!

APPRECIATING THE ART OF SPOKEN WORD ARTIST-EMICHELE PAUL Tags: emichele paul poet with a purpose word life production underground network

EMichele Paul is a United States Marine, published poet, mentor, and founder of PoeticWorks. She has hosted, produced, and promoted open mics in San Diego for over 5 years. She has also performed in California, North Carolina, Texas, Iraq, and Japan, produced Battle of the Poets in 2005 and 2008, and V.I.P Poetry Extravaganza at the world famous NuyoRican Poets Cafe in NYC. She is the founder and past host of PoeticWorks Radio, the 2010 National Poetry Award winner for the best online spoken word radio show.

She was a panelist for 2 community panel discussions. In 2004, she published her debut book of poetry, "Yes Girl...Even YOU!!!", March 2010, celebrated her highly anticipated CD, "Quiet Confidence" and is currently working on her sophomore book of poetry due out in 2011.

In 2009, she began writing freelance articles, covering local venues and events. Since then, her reputation for providing relevant, unbiased reviews and recommendations have increased visibility and improved the image of several San Diego and North County San Diego based arts and entertainment venues and events. She now writes weekly reviews covering several events, venues, and artist and their products at their requests. She was recently dubbed an "expert in the field" of open mics and entertainment by several artists and venues.

EMichele is originally from Beaumont, Texas. After graduating from West Brook Sr. High School in June 1990, she enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. While on active duty, she served in two combat tours to Al Taqaddum, Iraq and a humanitarian mission in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years of honorable service in June 2010.

EMichele Paul is a full time student at University of Phoenix in San Diego California where she is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Communications (Marketing and Sales).

She was recognized in 2008 for being one of San Diego's most influential minority women.

Contact Info: EMichele Paul


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