Though this is a “bonus” DJ Lady Luck post for the month, I take this moment to celebrate my father – who, to me, is the epitome of resilience and what it means to be resilient. In honor of him, I choose to use this “musical moment” for one of life’s little surprises – birthdays! Why? Because, today marks his 84th year of life against the odds!
“My story is a freedom song from within my soul. It is a guide to discovery, a vision of how even the worst pain and heartaches can be channeled into human monuments, impenetrable and everlasting.” – Coretta Scott King
Well, helllloooooooooooooooooo everyone!
It’s your girl DJ Lady Luck, back to bring you some bonus tunes this month – but more importantly, I’m here to give a huge birthday “shout-out” to my daddy! The first man to tell me I was “his sunshineeeeeeeee, his only sunshineeeeeeeeeee” and the only one who made this little girl feel like I brightened his life just by being in it… even on the cloudiest of days!
You know I’ve got photos and stories (and music) to share! So, let’s get this party started first with images of him doing what he loves the most – fishing!
Whether it’s boat fishing or pier fishing; fresh water, salt water, or some body of water in between; the old days when he’d haul in a net-load of herring or the more recent ones where he’s got nothing to show but an empty cup of bait – my father belongs on and to the waterways of eastern and northeastern North Carolina…and thankfully, he instilled in me a love of this land I call home and the nourishment it’s always provided us, body and soul.
Now, switching gears – I’ve got a smooth tune by a “relatively new to the US audience” artist named ALA.NI, a London-born lady who now resides in Paris. Singing behind a vintage 1930s RCA ribbon microphone, her voice and overall sound is reminiscent of the songstresses and crooners who would’ve been popular during the time my dad was born.
So, let’s head there with ALA.NI and her song “Suddenly” (2017):
But, as much as this song’s throwback sound speaks to a simpler time, the 1930s was the time of the Great Depression. And, my father was born into a home life of hardships, complications, and even tougher choices waiting to be made. He grew up enduring an alcoholic father, witnessing (and trying to protect) an abused mother battling domestic violence but succumbing to tuberculosis at age 28, and then – around the age of 8 or 9 – being split apart from his three siblings to become a relative’s free farm labor for the next 10 years of his young life.
So, from an early age, he “earned” his resilience – working from sun up to sun down on his uncle and maternal aunt’s farm in order to survive the adversities life handed him. At age 19, after meeting and marrying my mom, he then worked to provide for a quickly growing family. Many of the jobs he had were tough ones to earn a living from, especially the first – logging cypress and gum in the swamps of eastern North Carolina. But on a team of only three men, he did the hard labor of two by cutting and felling, then roping up those trees for harvest.
And when it came time to deal with his own weaknesses (alcoholism and smoking), he did – in spades – by quitting both cold turkey through his faith and willpower as well.
On top of that, having not received an education beyond the third-grade level would create for my father another set of challenges that – with my mother by his side, he would not only rise to face but creatively overcome to be (or land work as) a skilled welder, electrician, warehouse maintenance man for a tobacco company, and lastly a self-employed lawn-care craftsman.
Despite it all, he never forgot the hard lessons life taught him.
How? Simply put – he used what he learned from observation and experience to apply it to his everyday walk of faith – becoming in time a loving husband, devoted father, engaged community member and civil rights activist, pop band manager and touring gospel group member, cancer survivor three times over, and a proud person of documented mixed heritage who descends from the African slaves of Somerset Place plantation near Creswell and from members of the “free people of color” Machapunga-Tuscarora community of Piney Woods near Jamesville (all in eastern North Carolina).
And, again, thankfully he instilled in me a desire to be a learner of my ancestry/heritage and a keeper of the community.
So, bringing this back to the music, I’ve got a hot piece that’s a raw flip side to ALA.NI’s tune. This one is titled “Get Up!” (2017) by Canadian Plains Cree rapper Drezus.
And on that note, I’d like to formally say “happy birthday” to my father – a King, who has lived (and continues to live) up to his name by modeling resilience, servant leadership, wisdom and faith on a daily basis to all around him.
May you always have your happy place.
DJ Lady Luck