Yes, of course I realize that 2015 has arrived, but in many ways i’m just not ready to accept that fact. Perhaps that is why I’m just now getting around to sending out a New Year post on January 8. I happen to be sitting at home in front of my computer, getting ready to head over to Ann Arbor and greet a fresh new class of U-M IOE 422 Entrepreneurship students. I had to first pause and send this missive though, because if I don’t do so today I might not get around to it before May or June.
2015 seems to have arrived much too quickly, perhaps because the pace of change in our lives has been accelerating so rapidly. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I was 12 years old then, and if you had told me back then that 50 years hence my personal transportation vehicle would require no gasoline, I would have said, “Cool! Does it fly?” If you had told me that I would be able to hold a device in my hand that would allow me to communicate with anyone else in the world, for free, and to gain access to all of the information the human race had created, for free, I would have been dumbfounded. Then if you told me that the President of the United States in 2015 would be a black man named Barack Obama, and that he would be completing his SECOND term in office, I would have said, “Come on — now you’re just messin’ with me!”
Yes the pace of change has been downright dizzying. Yet if you told me in 1965 that 50 years hence the mighty Buick factory complex in Flint would be a barren field; that the huge AC Spark Plug complex where I spent my days as a General Motors Institute co-op student was similarly leveled; that the elementary, junior high, and high schools I had attended were all shuttered, and that City of Flint was trying mightily to recover from basket-case status, I would have asked, “Was there a war?”
Ten years ago this year, I lost my beloved sister Bernice, but in many ways it still seems like only ten months ago. She was perhaps my closest confidant, someone I spoke to nearly every day. I still miss her, a lot. Yet in the midst of all that 2005 sadness, there was some personal joy. I got to fulfill a long-held dream as I performed the title role of “The Wiz” at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey, my home at the time. A few weeks later, another dream was fulfilled, as I produced a concert that brought Karen Smith of Montego Bay, one of my favorite performers in all the world, to New Jersey to perform at the sparkling new Two River Theater in Red Bank. I performed the opening act, and my friend Karen put on an amazing show, one that many in Red Bank said was the best they had ever attended. That was one of my best evenings on this planet, not least because so many of my favorite people were in the audience.
Ten years, seemingly gone in an instant.
This past year, 2014, my mother went “on to her reward,” as she liked to say. Her departure is still hard for me to talk about. Perhaps I’ll be ready to deal with it in 10 years. Perhaps in 50 years.
This year, new challenges, and hopefully new joys, await. I have lots of plans for 2015, and one simple resolution: to sing more. Somewhere between 2005 and now, the joy of singing has been diminished — not altogether absent, just lessened. I’m going to try to recapture that joy in 2015. As a way of encouraging myself to do so, and to have you encourage me to do so, I’m posting here one of the selections from that 2005 concert, my rendition of the Luther Vandross song “Don’t Want to be a Fool.” It has some autobiographical elements.
“Time passes much too quickly, when we’re together laughing. I wish I could sing it to you, woh no, I wish I could sing it to you.” Beginnings, Chicago Transit Authority, 1968.
Happy New Year.