Saturday, February 28, 2015

Selma Is More Than A Place; Selma Is A People!

Selma is more than just a place; it is a PEOPLE. 

For the past few weeks, I have been working my tail off the last week for a project with my job to take a funder delegation down to Selma for the 50th Anniversary of Selma to Montgomery March. I have been so excited about the event but the closer that I get to March 6-8th the more my feelings are changing form joy to fear. Over the past few months, my feelings for my city have gone from being deeply disappointed by the countless stories of murders of people that I know, unexpected deaths, rising unemployment and a growing sense of hopelessness; however with the release of the film Selma I have experienced feelings of pride, love and   supreme elation over both the new beautiful film Selma and growing interest in this small rural community. 

As the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee gets closer I am filled with both EXCITEMENT and CONCERN. My excitement is rooted in the belief that people from all over the world will head to Selma next weekend to commemorate the amazing work of the civil rights movement. However, my CONCERN is that when everyone leaves and the celebrities are gone, the cameras are gone, and the President is gone...will America still care? Will we care enough for the people of Selma and the Blackbelt that we will be willing to work with them to create vehicles that bring in investment, attract jobs, strengthen local businesses and support leaders that are working to increase the quality of life for Selma's citizens? How many national organizers will plan "strategy meetings" in Selma without organizing and/or even including voices from the region? How many events will be so VIP focused and cost prohibited that many of the people of Selma will not be able to afford or attend? How many people will capitalize on the freedom movement of Selma but have worked against change at every turn? How many of us will come see the President, buy our t-shirts, eat our smoked turkey legs, and then head east of Highway 80 back to our homes...and think no more about the people of Selma. 

So much of my life has been spent in this little town. I can't tell you how many countless conversations I have had with my friends on "how can we help our community." Many of us really tried to keep the legacy alive and worked tirelessly for years on quality of life issues. I ran for public office, created businesses, organized election turnouts, protested injustice, built relationships, loved, danged, played, and worked with hundreds of youth because I so badly wanted to make a difference. In many ways I think we made a difference; however I struggle everyday feeling like I simply gave up. Did I move to Atlanta start a new lifeand career because I felt frustrated? Perhaps  I  left Selma because it was the site of me feeling like I failed at so many of my high hopes and dreams. But what I know for sure is that Selma taught me perseverance.  

Selma is the place where I learned about creating lasting friendships, hanging out a the Brown Y as a teen, eating barbecue sandwiches at Lannies, organizing for social justice, working with brilliant young minds, raising my children, and  opening my first businesses. Selma is the place that I felt the BIGGEST HOPE that change can actually happen but ironically its also the place that I felt the BIGGEST sense of HOPELESSNESS. Selma Lord Selma! Thinking about Selma sometimes gives me headaches BUT it is my LOVE for the PEOPLE of Selma of why I can't let it go. Selma is more than a place; Selma is a People. A people that I love. 

Not sure of why I am writing this other than I feel very FULL emotionally. I so want to see remarkable change in this community. I want to see bold and innovative leadership. I want to see happy people leading a purposeful life. I want to see investment that translates hope in
to economic opportunity. I want to see the children of Selma receive a quality education and feel safe. I want to see churches do more than talk about Jesus but do the work of the Messiah. I want to see beautiful black men feel proud and productive. I want seniors to have excellent care and experience true Golden years. The thought of this brings me to tears as I write this.

I am in my feelings today because I soooo want to stand in LOVE but fear is lurking behind. The FEAR that people will celebrate next weekend but the lives of Selma's citizens won't be changed. The fear that tons of resources will be placed in this community for "the commemoration moment" but not a dime will be left behind to support the long-term growth of the community. the fear that when the cameras leave Selma will go back to business as usual. The fear that the people of Selma will wait for someone to come save the city when we have the power to be self-determined. 

My current struggle of LOVE & FEAR are real for me today. Therefore, I will just PRAY for this moment. I will pray that God grants some of us an extra dose of courage to work for real social change in the blackbelt. I pray that God will touch every person that walks across that bridge to recommit themselves to help bring justice and equality to all of God's people. I pray that leaders in Selma will have the humility to know when to ask for help, the openness to receive the help and the integrity to get out the way and let others lead. I pray that those that TALK about change will turn their words into ACTION. I pray that God grants us all peace and understanding so as we go forward that TRUE social change really takes place in that community. I pray that God shows me and the many others like I can best be of service. Amen 
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Monday, October 6, 2014

Remembering Marcus

There is an African Proverb that says “You are not truly dead until there is no one left who remembers you.”

For the past few days I have been silently grieving and missing my baby brother Marcus who died 11 years ago. I have tried my hardest to avoid and/or dodge the feelings of grief by attending live music shows, eating out with friends and even watching hours of black classic (and black exploitation) films. I have done just about everything I could do to forget the pain of my loss. But in the process I have also forgotten that I must honor his memory and our love.

His death was unexpected and was very tragic. He died at our family home Thanksgiving Day 2003. This is my grandparents wedding anniversary and through the years it has been the MOST IMPORTANT holiday in my family. Ironically, the day that had been the most cherished day in my family tradition is now the day that holds the most painful memory in my life. It's the day my brother committed suicide.

Many people never knew I had a brother because I never talk about him anymore.  It's not because Marcus wasn't an extremely interesting person but because the memory of him brings back a pain that feels much too heavy to bear. So in many ways I have cut off the memory of him so that I can cut off and minimize the pain. For years I have tried to file the memory of him in the back of my mind and only allow myself to access those memories once a year...on his birthday.

One of my Facebook friends recently and unexpectedly loss her husband so she always writes posts about her deceased husband.  I know that his loss is very painful for her but I have noticed that the painful posts are gradually transforming into new posts with her recanting beautiful memories about their life together. I know that the pain is still there but I can see the presence of grace, peace, and healing through her words and posts.  She is teaching me how to grieve but also how to heal. I realize that most of the people that I know who talk about their past love ones seem to have a more balanced relationship with loss and are able to share beautiful memories about their deceased love ones. Therefore, I have decided to open my heart and talk more about the people that I love who have now transitioned from this life. Love never dies.

Yes, I have decided that I am going to talk and share more funny stories about my brother Marcus. I'm going to start sharing joyful memories about my brother... like the time he brought a young girlfriend to visit me and totally forgot her name. I can see him right now standing in the den with this young woman trying to impress her but totally drawing a blank on her name.  He simply looked at me to get him out of the awkward moment and he then looked back at the young woman flashing a great big grin with those beautiful deep dimples.  Somehow his smile, charm and a quick embrace made the young woman immediately forgive him forgetting her name.

One of my most cherish memories is how much he loved and talked about his little girl, Rachel. Marcus was crazy about his only child Rachel and called her a Daddy's girl. He always talked about how he wanted to do more for her because he wanted her to be happy. She was his heart and his 'spitting image'! My brother loved our family and he really loved me.  I know without a shadow of doubt that my brother thought the world of me.  He thought that I could do anything. I was Super Sister to the rescue. He confided in me and always said that he was proud of me. My brother loved me unconditionally.

My brother will not be forgotten because I will not allow the world to forget him. I am going to walk through the fullness of both the painful and joyful memories and share with the world the stories about MY BELOVED BROTHER.

Marcus Christopher I REMEMBER YOU! 



(Photo of Marcus and his daughter Rachel)

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Being that I have been a singer all of my life you would think that this is an obvious statement but quite the contrary.  It has taken me almost 40 years to finally settled in a place of personal peace and unconditional self acceptance that I have actually fallen in LOVE my own voice! 

I've always thought that I had a nice voice and that I could sing. I grew up really really liking my voice. I liked that I could almost imitate anyone alto or soprano as a child.  I liked that I could always harmonize with the tunes on the radio. And I liked the fact that I could even show-off with a couple of runs down the scale as well.  I really LIKED my voice. 

Then there were times as a teenage that I realized that I had a little power and some "umph" behind my voice. I would belt out a Mother's Finest tune, sing-a-long with Chaka Khan, croon with Marvin Gaye and imitate Atlantic Starr.  During those moments I felt joy because I knew that I could hold my own with these singers that I really admired. I really LIKED the fact that my voice could imitate theirs. But I didn't LOVE my OWN VOICE.

Even as an adult, I performed with a girls group and band that I loved dearly. While I thought we were the baddest girls group on the left of the Alabama River I  always felt that in some way I needed to hold back because my voice was...okay. I won awards, state medals, radio contests and even a contract and still I felt in the back of my mind that my voice was okay but maybe not "good enough." 
I really LIKED my VOICE but I didn't LOVE my VOICE.

Then after a seven year hiatus from performing, I found myself unexpectedly singing backup for an established artist and once again faced with the reality that I really liked my VOICE but I didn't LOVE IT!

Then all of a sudden my world was changed with a simple music video (that I hated quite frankly). The video named I Know I've Been Changed received more than 1.1 million views within 2 weeks. No promotion or marketing. It just went viral on it's own. 

I was so confused by the success of this video that I was forced to read the video comments to try to understand what did people see in the video that I didn't. I read comment after comment and kept seeing the words "spirit" "authentic" "chills" and "beautiful."  I NOW became even more baffled! WHAT?!! Beautiful!? I had on a cheap shirt and tights.  I thought to myself, "There was nothing beautiful about the video."

My hair was a hot mess after being forced to cut off my beautiful thick hair weeks earlier because of a bad salon experience. I was emotionally devastated because of a failed relationship.  I was very resistant to singing back-up in the first place and even initially tried to convince the artist that he should hire a "professional singer."  HOW COULD THIS BE?!  I wanted to sound like Whitney, look like Janet Jackson, be fine like Toni Braxton, tear the house down like Chaka and be loved like Diana Ross! THIS VIDEO DIDN'T REFLECT WHAT I WANTED MY VIDEO TO BE!

When I looked at the video.... all I saw and heard was me and my short comings! Why didn't I do one
of those Mahalia Jackson runs down the scale? Why didn't I dress up in pretty outfits and in pink like a Whitney Houston video? Why didn't I look at the camera and flirt with my eyes like Mariah Carey? 

There I sat staring at a video that received had over 1.1 million views and was crying and embarrassed because I didn't feel deserving of the support. Couldn't people see that I wasn't dressed up, hear that I hadn't practiced the song and know that I wasn't my best? Couldn't they see me????

Then I realized that they did see me.  They saw me and they LIKED what they saw.  Plus, most actually said they LOVED my voice.  So now I was faced with the question of WHY didn't I like what I saw and why didn't I LOVE my own voice.  I thought my voice just wasn't good enough. 

In the past year, I have learned so many life lessons about love, family and life through this music journey.  Ironically, it was my music and my own voice that has brought about my healing. I actually stopped comparing my circumstances to others. I stopped comparing my voice, style and tone to others. I stopped comparing my life to others.  I started living my own experience, writing my own songs and just listening to my own voice and then it happened.  I fell in LOVE with my OWN VOICE.

Now I appreciate and LOVE my OWN VOICE so much that I am BRAVE enough, BOLD enough and SECURE enough to share it with the world. 

Check out my upcoming EP coming in 2014 called Shades of Pink.  It's been a long time coming but I LOVE MY VOICE!!!!!!!!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Check out LaTosha Brown's song "So High"

Take a Moment to Celebrate Black Love!!!!

Twitter: @MsLaToshaBrown

Monday, October 14, 2013

Write IT Down! It Works

Have you written your desires down and committed them to paper? Do you have a dream that has only been explored in your mind? Have you ever created a prayer list, vision board, or some type of visual representation of something that you desire to manifest in your life? 

I can tell you from first hand experience that there is something very powerful about writing down your vision and believing that God will help you manifest your dreams.  There is tremendous value in writing down your vision beyond it being simply a physical reminder on paper.  Writing down your desires on paper forces you to commit to the pursuit of that desire and/or  simply be open to receive.   
Some years ago, I attended a poetry reading at the Shrine of the Black Madonna in Atlanta featuring lyricist and singer Jill Scott.

As I entered the building I unexpectedly heard a voice in my spirit say, "What are you asking of God? You have not because you ask not.  Write your vision and your desires down?" I immediately headed to my seat, took out a writing pad and began to write down a list of desires that I wanted God to grant to me over my lifetime.

Through this process I condensed my desire to ten desires and/or experiences that I wanted to manifest in my life.  Number five (5) on my list was the following statement:

"I want to travel to the Holy Land (Israel) and be baptized in the waters in which Jesus stood."  

Two days after the writing down my ten requests I woke up early that Friday morning and
had an insatiable urge to contact one of my mentors from Alabama. I sat at the edge of my bed and called his office with no particular agenda in mind other than check on him and see how he was doing. His assistant informed me that he was out of the office that morning but said that I was on her list to call but she couldn't didn't have my number.  She went on to tell me that she had been instructed by Dr. Steele to reach out to me and see if I wanted to join him and a delegation of religious leaders on a trip to Israel.  Of course my answer was a resounding "YES."  She  told me that my timing had been "perfect" because this was the final day for submitting the confirmed list of participants to the international partner. 

Twenty-one days later I participated  on  an all expense paid 10 day trip to the Holy Land. Moreover, on day five of the trip the delegation were unexpectedly offered the opportunity to go to the Jordan River to be baptized.  So not only did I go on a FREE trip to Israel but I had the opportunity to get BAPTIZED in the Jordan River.

Since that experience I am more mindful of writing down my vision and the desires of my heart.   This weekend as I looked through some of my papers I found this certificate of baptism.  I am not sure of the exact significance of writing down your vision but I know that in this particular case God granted me the opportunity for this SPECIFIC request in less than 72 hours.       

 And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. ~ Habakkuk