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The journey begins in December of 1970. I was a sophomore at Catholic University of
America. I was in the music department studying violin performance. That was what my scholarship was for. A few months before I made my acing debut onstage in the Soph show which is a show that showcases the new students in the drama department who are entering their sophomore year. . I wasn’t even in the department but the director , Ted Smith , said I had to sing one of the songs I wrote and he set up a scene just for me
It was all quite new and exciting I have to say because I was featured in the campus newspaper review. And Father Gilbert Hartke, the head of the drama department took a liking to me.
Back to December 1970.
I heard that there was going to be an audition for the Germany tour. During the Christmas holidays Catholic University sent a troupe of musical theater students to perform for military personnel primarily in Germany. It was a United Service Organization/USO TOUR that was made famous by greats like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Catholic University sent a group every year. I auditioned and I made it! Wow. I really had no idea what much of it would mean for me. But it would take place during the Christmas break so I would be clear of classes as well as holidays with my family in Philadelphia. But my family was ecstatic and my father overjoyed. He even bought me a brand new set of luggage! Samsonite hot pink three pieces. Come on now! And wanted to make sure that I looked great – leather jackets leather coats and I believe a leather skirt or two. He loved leather. His baby girl had to be sharp.
Everything was taken care of. And we got paid! Back then $10 a day did a lot. We could go to the commissary. We could eat in the cafeteria. And our hotel accommodations were taken care of. We went to Germany, Belgium and Holland to military installations requesting our Holiday show which was entitled The Best of Broadway. I had a solo. I picked a song that I loved from the Broadway musical Purlie – I got love – sung by Tony award winner Melba Moore. It was also a highlight of our-show. One wonderful memory is preparing to deaprt from the military airport in New Jersey. My father promised he would come and see me before I left but couldn’t make it. He called and they announced my name. I went to the phone and there was my my dad apologizing, and reassuring me all would go well, telling me to have a great time and e how much he loved me and how proud he was of me. I’m getting all ferklempt remembering it.
This is just to give you a taste of what my career has been since that time. I’ve always been on the road. Practically every year since that time I’ve been away somewhere performing. In 1971 we did another Germany /USO tour with Catholic University that one was called Uncle Funkys Mistletoe Revue. An irreverent look on high school days from the 50s. That was also very well received. We jazzed up the costumes so that we look like we belonged in the 70s for the whole show. You know mini skirts and tights sweaters Long straight hair and of course I had a big Afro!
I’ve been to every state in the union I always say except for Idaho but for some reason Boise Idaho always pops in my mind like sweet any in the rock has been to University of Idaho at Boise. Could be. No one else seems to remember that. But that still 49 states.
I’ve been to Canada with Catholic University as well as with Sweet Honey. To Montreal,
Toronto, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Vancouver
I’ve been to the Virgin Islands with the Negro ensemble company doing the show written by Paul Carter Harrison entitled THE GREAT MAC DADDY. that was my very first New York show in February 1977. And it was also my introduction to the Negro Ensemble Company family. It’s truly an honor to say that I’m a part of that family because my training and experience as an actor came primarily from the DC Black Repertory Company which was also started by the actor Robert Hooks. It is a rich legacy.
In 1978 I was asked to be a part of an international company of “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enough” which was going to Australia! What a gas! Australia. This fierce company of women were all a little strange about it because of the horrible racist treatment of the original people of the country. The Aboriginal tribes that had inhabited the island for over 5000 years. They were murdered,disenfranchised ,suffered stolen land and stolen Children. Very similar to our Native American story here in the US. How would we be received? They were very few people of African or African-American descent living there. How would they take the story and have a positive experience of the amazing poetry included in this play? Well we were instructed to do everything with the greatest amount of love we could put in it. So the audiences would understand that the stories were coming from a place of love and loving. I have to say it was a life changer. For many of us. We were very well received we made amazing friends- sisters fell in love and stayed sisters fell in love and went back. And we had wonderful interactions with the aboriginal people there. I took several of Sweet Honeys first album with me and gave them out.
And after a month of hanging out in Melbourne, cast mate AKU KADOGO and I went to Bali! That is a whole other story on its own. Two weeks on that gorgeous island in bliss we took a bus and ferry to Jogjakarta Java then sojourned by train to Jakarta. Then onward to Hong Kong and home. Yes that is a story all its own. Maybe the next blog?
Most of my world travel has come from being a part of Sweet Honey In The Rock. This is a traveling group! The group has travel to every continent-except Antartica and that could certainly come up and we would go. In the early days we traveled around the US a bit. But when I came back in 1989 I came back as a substitute singer to go to Japan and Australia. It was very exciting to go back to Australia to see my friends! And of course the group was a great success there. The woman who brought us there had lost her parents in a car accident a few years back found our music and used it to heal her soul and decided to bring us to Australia at least seven times. We also had the opportunity to go to New Zealand on two of our trips
Another story for another time.
This is everywhere I can remember! LOL.
On the continent of Africa: Zimbabwe, Swaziland – twice,
Mozambique, Uganda, South Africa, Namibia, Ethiopia. Each experience a jewel a sparkling and powerful reminder of my heritage in Africa
On the continent of Europe: Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Holland/the Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain. And we are hoping to go to moldova in the spring. We have also been to Finland and twice to Norway.
We’ve toured extensively around great Britain and to Scotland.
China and Singapore
I went to India on my own- Ganash Puri – Sri Muktananda Ashram.
In South America: Peru, Paraguay and Brazil.
The Caribbean: the Virgin Islands and Jamaica.
It’s so interesting I feel like I’ve been all over kingdom come but I know that I have more places to visit either on my own or with my work. It’s a blessing. Very challenging sometimes whether I was traveling young or traveling at this point in my life. Very challenging. I’ve taken my son on the road with me and that has been such an education and a heart opener for him. He’s also had opportunities to travel as a violinist overseas while in elementary school.
As Willie Nelson sayings: “I’ve been everywhere man I’ve been everywhere”! And looking forward to more glorious and inspiring experiences wherever the road opens brilliantly in my future.