Janis Ian: A “Songwriter’s Songwriter”

Janis Ian (born Janis Eddy Fink, April 7, 1951) is an American songwriter, singer, musician, columnist and science fiction author.

“She was younger than forever.

She was older than goodbye.”

Wiki– “Born to a Jewish family in New York City, she was primarily raised in New Jersey and attended East Orange High School in East Orange, New Jersey and the New York City High School of Music & Art. Her parents, Victor (a music teacher) and Pearl, ran a summer camp in upstate New York. In that Cold War era they were frequently under government surveillance because of their left-wing politics. Ian would allude to these years later in her song God and the FBI.

As a child she admired the work of folk pioneers such as Joan Baez and Odetta. Starting with piano lessons at the age of six or seven, Ian, by the time she entered her teens, had learned the organ, harpsichord, French horn, flute and guitar. At the age of 12, she wrote her first song, “Hair of Spun Gold,” which was subsequently published in the folk publication Broadside and was later recorded for her debut album. In 1964, she legally changed her name to Janis Ian (her new last name being her brother Eric’s middle name).

At the age of 13, Ian wrote and sang her first hit single, “Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking)”, about an interracial romance forbidden by a girl’s mother and frowned upon by her peers and teachers. Produced by George “Shadow” Morton and released three times from 1965 to 1967, “Society’s Child” finally became a national hit upon its third release after Leonard Bernstein featured it in a CBS TV special titled Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution. The song’s lyrical content was taboo for some radio stations, and they withdrew or banned it from their playlists accordingly; in her 2008 autobiography Society’s Child, Ian recalls receiving hate mail and death threats as a response to the song, and mentions that a radio station in Atlanta that played it was burned down. In the summer of 1967, “Society’s Child” reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100, the single having sold 600,000 copies, and the album 350,000.”

An astonishing performance by 16 year old Janis on the Smothers Brothers show…

“Ian relates on her website that, although the song was originally intended for Atlantic Records and the label paid for her recording session, the label subsequently returned the master to her and quietly refused to release it. Years later, Ian says, Atlantic’s president at the time, Jerry Wexler, publicly apologized to her for this. The single and Ian’s 1967 eponymous debut album were finally released on Verve Forecast; her album was also a hit, reaching #29. In 2001, “Society’s Child” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which honors recordings considered timeless and important to music history. Her early music was compiled on a double CD entitled Society’s Child: The Verve Recordings in 1995.

“Society’s Child” stigmatized Ian as a one-hit wonder until her most successful single in the United States, “At Seventeen”, a bittersweet commentary on adolescent cruelty, the illusion of popularity, and teenage angst, as reflected upon from the perspective of a 24-year-old, was released in 1975. “At Seventeen” was a major hit, receiving tremendous acclaim from critics and record buyers alike—it charted at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It won the 1975 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance – Female beating out Linda Ronstadt, who was nominated for her Heart Like a Wheel album; Olivia Newton-John; and Helen Reddy.

Ian performed “At Seventeen” as a musical guest on the debut of Saturday Night Live on October 11, 1975. The song’s album, Between the Lines, was also a smash and hit #1 on Billboard’s Album chart. It was quickly certified Gold and later earned a ‘Platinum’ certification for sales of over one million copies sold in the US. Another measure of her success is anecdotal: on Valentine’s Day 1977, Ian received 461 Valentine cards, having indicated in the lyrics to “At Seventeen” that she never received any as a teenager.”

This was one of my dad’s favorite songs; I nearly wore out the album as a kid and still have his 45…

“Ian reached the pop charts only once more after “At Seventeen” (“Under the Covers”, #71 in 1981), though she had several more songs reach the Adult Contemporary singles chart through 1980 (all failing to make the Top 20, however). She walked away from her CBS contract in 1982 while it still had three albums to go. Ian deliberately spent much of the 1980s and early 1990s without a record deal. During the 1982–1992 period she continued to write songs, often in collaboration with songwriting partner Kye Fleming, which were covered by the likes of Amy Grant, Bette Midler and Marti Jones. She also studied under acting coach Stella Adler and struck up a close friendship with her, which continued until the latter’s death in 1992.

Ian finally became one of the first “indie artists,” resurfacing in 1993, with the release of Breaking Silence and its title song about incest. She also came out as a lesbian at the time of the release of that album. On 6/25/1993, Ian appeared on The Howard Stern Show, where she performed a “new” version of “At Seventeen” about Jerry Seinfeld.

Ian’s album, Folk Is The New Black, was released jointly by the Rude Girl and Cooking Vinyl labels in 2006. It is the first in over 20 years where she did all the songwriting herself.

Other artists have recorded Ian’s compositions, most notably Roberta Flack, who had a hit in 1973 with Ian’s song “Jesse”, also recorded by Joan Baez and Dottie West; Ian’s own version is featured on her 1974 album Stars (the title song of which has also been oft-covered, including versions by Cher, Nina Simone and Barbara Cook). Other artists who have recorded or performed songs written or co-written by Janis Ian include Amy Grant, Jeanette Dimech, Sheena Easton, Michele Pillar, Mel Torme, Michelle Wright, Bette Midler (“Some People’s Lives,” a song written by Ian and her then-partner Kye Fleming, became the title song of her 1990 album), Jann Arden, and Japanese singer Shiina Ringo (covered Ian’s breakthrough Japanese hit, “Love Is Blind”).

Ian continues to tour, with a round of concerts scheduled for the United Kingdom in the Spring of 2014, and a series of appearances in the US after that.” 

My all-time favorite Janis song…Enjoy!

2014 Tour Dates

Janis Ian on Facebook

How Blogs Are Building A Friendlier World

This is an OUTSTANDING speech. Mena is incredible, funny, inspiring…Enjoy!

TED – “The founding mother of the blog revolution, Movable Type’s Mena Trott, talks about the early days of blogging, when she realized that giving regular people the power to share our lives online is the key to building a friendlier, more connected world.”

Reinventing Superwoman

Tia Matza is a Professional Actor/Dramatist and Native Angeleno pushing the boundaries of her body and spirit in the name of storytelling… 


Jacqueline du Pré

Jacqueline Mary du Pré 

~ 26 January 1945 – 19 October 1987 ~

As a former cellist, Jacqueline has always been one of my idols. She played with a passion and joy that lit up the world & she dealt with her debilitating illness with such dignity and grace…what a shame that her life and career were cut so short…but what a blessing her music was – and still is – to the world. I hope you enjoy these pieces below as much as I do. ~Reb

Wiki- Jacqueline was born in Oxford, England, the second child of Derek and Iris du Pré. Iris was a talented concert pianist who taught at the Royal Academy of Music. At the age of four du Pré is said to have heard the sound of the cello on the radio and asked her mother for “one of those.” She began with lessons from her mother, who composed little pieces accompanied by illustrations, before beginning study at the London Violoncello School at age five.

From an early age, du Pré was entering and winning local music competitions alongside her sister, flautist Hilary du Pré. Her main teacher from 1955 to 1961, both privately and at the Guildhall School of Music in London, was the celebrated cellist William Pleeth. In 1960 she won the Gold Medal of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the same year participated in a Pablo Casals masterclass in Zermatt, Switzerland. In 1962 she undertook short-term studies with Paul Tortelier in Paris, and in 1966 with Mstislav Rostropovich in Russia. Rostropovich was so impressed with his young pupil that at the end of his tutorship he declared her “the only cellist of the younger generation that could equal and overtake [his] own achievement.”

In March 1961, at the age of 16, du Pré made her formal début, at Wigmore Hall, London. She was accompanied by Ernest Lush, and played sonatas by Handel, Brahms, Debussy and de Falla, and a solo cello suite by Bach. She made her concerto début on 21 March 1962 at the Royal Festival Hall playing the Elgar Cello Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestraunder Rudolf Schwarz. She performed at the Proms in 1963, playing the Elgar Concerto with Sir Malcolm Sargent. Her performance of the concerto proved so popular that she returned three years in succession to perform the work. At her 3 September 1964 Prom Concert, she performed the Elgar concerto as well as the world premiere of Priaulx Rainier’s Cello Concerto. Du Pré became a favourite at the Proms, performing every year until 1969.

In 1965, at age 20, du Pré recorded the Elgar Concerto for EMI with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir John Barbirolli, which brought her international recognition. This recording has become a benchmark for the work, and one which has never been out of print since its release. Du Pré also performed the Elgar with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Antal Doráti for her United States début, at Carnegie Hall on 14 May 1965.

Du Pré performed with several prestigious orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, New Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. She regularly performed with such famous conductors as Barbirolli, Sargent, Sir Adrian Boult, Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta and Leonard Bernstein.

Du Pré primarily played on two Stradivarius cellos, one from 1673 and the so-called Davidov Stradivarius of 1712. Both instruments were gifts from her godmother, Ismena Holland. She performed with the 1673 Stradivarius from 1961 until 1964, when she acquired the Davidov. Many of her most famous recordings were made on this instrument, including the Elgar Concerto with Barbirolli, the Robert Schumann Cello Concerto with Barenboim and the two Brahms cello sonatas. From 1969 to 1970 she (like Casals before her) played on a Francesco Goffriller cello, and in 1970 acquired a modern instrument from the Philadelphia violin maker Sergio Peresson. It was the Peresson cello that du Pré played for the remainder of her career until 1973, using it for a second, live, recording of the Elgar Concerto, and her last studio recording, of Frédéric Chopin’s Cello Sonata in G minor and César Franck’s Violin Sonata in A arranged for cello, in December 1971.

In 1971, du Pré’s playing declined irreversibly as she began to lose sensitivity in her fingers and other parts of her body. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in October 1973. Her last recording, of sonatas by Chopin and Franck (the latter originally for violin) was made in December 1971. She went on sabbatical from 1971 to 1972, and performed only rarely. She started performing again in 1973, but by then her condition had become severe. For her January tour of North America, some of the less-than-complimentary reviews were an indication that her condition had worsened except for brief moments when her playing was without noticeable problems. Her last London concerts were in February 1973, including the Elgar Concerto with Zubin Mehta and the New Philharmonia Orchestra.

Her last public concerts took place in New York in February 1973: four performances of the Brahms Double Concerto with Pinchas Zukerman and Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonicwere scheduled. Du Pré recalled that she had problems judging the weight of the bow, and just opening the cello case had become difficult. As she had lost sensation in her fingers, she had to coordinate her fingering visually. She played only three of the four concerts, cancelling the last, in which Isaac Stern took her place on the program with Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Du Pré died in London on 19 October 1987 at 42, and is buried in Golders Green Jewish Cemetery.

The Vuitton Foundation purchased her Davidov Stradivarius for just over £1 million, and made it available on loan to Yo-Yo Ma. Russian cellist Nina Kotova now owns the 1673 Stradivarius, named by Lynn Harrell the Du Pré Stradivarius in tribute. Her 1970 Peresson cello is currently on loan to cellist Kyril Zlotnikov of the Jerusalem Quartet.

Honors – Du Pré received several fellowships from music academies and honorary doctorate degrees universities for her outstanding contributions to music in general and her instrument in particular. In 1956, at the age of 11, she was the second recipient (after Rohan de Saram in 1955) of the prestigious Guilhermina Suggia Award, and remains the youngest recipient. In 1960, she won the Gold Medal of the Guildhall School of Music in London and the Queen’s Prize for British musicians. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1976 New Year Honours. At the 1977 BRIT Awards, she won the award for the best classical soloist album of the past 25 years for Elgar’s Cello Concerto.

After her death, a rose cultivar named after her received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. She was made an honorary fellow of St Hilda’s College, Oxford, whose music building bears her name. In 2012, she was voted into the first Gramophone Hall of Fame.”

Commemorate Jacqueline du Pré with a donation to MS research

Michaela DePrince – Junior Company, Dutch National Ballet

Excerpts, DanceTabs – “At only eighteen, the dancer Michaela DePrince has already lived several lives. As a small child, practically a toddler, in Sierra Leone, she lost her parents. Her father was killed by rebel fighters in the civil war that ravaged the country from 1991-2002 (aided and abetted by Charles Taylor, the leader of Liberia). Her mother died soon after. After a year in an orphanage—during which time she witnessed the gruesome killing of her teacher, again by rebel forces—she was adopted by a New Jersey couple, Elaine and Charles DePrince, along with her best friend, Mia. (Her parents, Elaine and Charles DePrince, lost three sons to HIV, with which they had been infected by tainted blood transfusions in the eighties. Elaine DePrince has written about the horror of this experience in her book Cry Bloody Murder). One of the few bright spots in her life at the orphanage was coming across a photo of a ballerina in a glossy magazine. She kept it as a kind of talisman. Perhaps because of that, not long after moving to the United States with her new family—she has ten brothers and sisters, most of them adopted—she asked for ballet lessons.

Soon, her parents enrolled her at The Rock School in Philadelphia, a rigorous pre-professional program, which eventually led to her participation in the Youth America Grand Prix competition in 2010, for which she received a scholarship to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York.

In 2012, at seventeen, she became the youngest dancer at Dance Theatre of Harlem, and performed with the company on tour and during its New York run. 

However, it hasn’t been an easy road. In addition to the usual rigors and sacrifices of ballet training, Ms. DePrince has said in interviews that she has encountered racism along the way. When she was eight years old, a promised role in The Nutcracker was eventually given to another dancer because, as she was told, “people aren’t ready for a black Marie.”

MH: What made you want to become a ballet dancer, and what has sustained your love of the art form?

Michaela: Dancing while you cooked, dancing while you washed clothes in galvanized washtubs, dancing while you waited at the well to draw water…that was a part of the African culture.  I loved to dance.  I was lithe and limber, so I suppose that when I discovered there was such a thing as ballet, it was a natural progression from African dancing to ballet.  The magazine that I found made me want to become a ballet dancer, the lessons that my American parents provided for me and the opportunities they gave me to attend the ballet even as a little girl, probably sustained my love of this art form.” Read Full Article & Interview on DanceTabs

Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I A Woman?

“Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon, that look down upon your brothers and sisters, and which they see as they look up to them, though they are ever so far away from us, and each other.”

Sojourner Truth

1797 – November 26, 1883

Wiki–  “Sojourner Truth was an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. Sojourner Truth was named Isabella Baumfree when she was born. She gave herself the name Sojourner Truth in 1843. Her best-known extemporaneous speech on gender inequalities, “Ain’t I a Woman?”, was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves.

Truth was one of the ten children born to James and Elizabeth Baumfree. James Baumfree was an African captured from the Gold Coast in modern-day Ghana. Elizabeth Baumfree, also known as Mau-Mau Bett or Betsy to children who knew her, was the daughter of enslaved Africans from the Coast of Guinea. Colonel Hardenbergh bought James and Elizabeth Baumfree from slave traders and kept their family at his estate in a hilly area called by the Dutch name Swartekill (just north of present-day Rifton), in the town of Esopus, New York, 95 miles (153 km) north of New York City. Charles Hardenbergh inherited his father’s estate and slaves.

An albumen silver print from approximately 1870 by Randall Studios

When Charles Hardenbergh died in 1806, nine-year-old Truth (known as Belle), was sold at an auction with a flock of sheep for $100 to John Neely, near Kingston, New York. Until that time, Truth spoke only Dutch. She later described Neely as cruel and harsh, relating how he beat her daily and once even with a bundle of rods. Neely sold her in 1808, for $105, to Martinus Schryver of Port Ewen, a tavern keeper, who owned her for eighteen months. Schryver sold her in 1810 to John Dumont of West Park, New York. Although this fourth owner was kindly disposed toward her, his wife found numerous ways to harass Truth and make her life more difficult.

Around 1815, Truth met and fell in love with a slave named Robert from a neighboring farm. Robert’s owner (Catlin) forbade the relationship; he did not want his slave to have children with a slave he did not own, because he would not own the children. Robert was savagely beaten and Truth never saw him again, learning later he died from those injuries. Dumont eventually forced Truth to marry an older slave named Thomas. She bore five children: Diana (1815), fathered by Robert; and Thomas who died shortly after birth; Peter (1821); Elizabeth (1825); and Sophia (ca. 1826), fathered by Thomas.

The state of New York began, in 1799, to legislate the abolition of slavery, although the process of emancipating New York slaves was not complete until July 4, 1827. Dumont had promised to grant Truth her freedom a year before the state emancipation, “if she would do well and be faithful.” However, he changed his mind, claiming a hand injury had made her less productive. She was infuriated but continued working, spinning 100 pounds of wool, to satisfy her sense of obligation to him.

Late in 1826, Truth escaped to freedom with her infant daughter, Sophia. She had to leave her other children behind because they were not legally freed in the emancipation order until they had served as bound servants into their twenties.

She later said: I did not run off, for I thought that wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be all right.

She found her way to the home of Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen, who took her and her baby in. Isaac offered to buy her services for the remainder of the year (until the state’s emancipation took effect), which Dumont accepted for $20. She lived there until the New York State Emancipation Act was approved a year later.

Truth learned that her son Peter, then five years old, had been sold illegally by Dumont to an owner in Alabama. With the help of the Van Wagenens, she took the issue to court and, after months of legal proceedings, got back her son, who had been abused by his new owner. Truth became one of the first black women to go to court against a white man and win the case.

On June 1, 1843, Truth changed her name to Sojourner Truth and told her friends: “The Spirit calls me, and I must go.”

She became a Methodist, and left to make her way traveling and preaching about the abolition of slavery. In 1844, she joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry in Northampton, Massachusetts. Founded by abolitionists, the organization supported women’s rights and religious tolerance as well as pacifism. There were 210 members and they lived on 500 acres (2.0 km2), raising livestock, running a sawmill, a gristmill, and a silk factory. While there, Truth met William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and David Ruggles. In 1846, the group disbanded, unable to support itself. In 1847, she went to work as a housekeeper for George Benson, the brother-in-law of William Lloyd Garrison. In 1849, she visited John Dumont before he moved west.

Truth started dictating her memoirs to her friend Olive Gilbert, and in 1850 William Lloyd Garrison privately published her book, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave. That same year, she purchased a home in Northampton for $300, and spoke at the first National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Truth spoke about abolition, women’s rights, prison reform, and preached to the Michigan Legislature against capital punishment. Not everyone welcomed her preaching and lectures, but she had many friends and staunch support among many influential people at the time, including Amy Post, Parker Pillsbury, Frances Gage, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, Laura Smith Haviland, Lucretia Mott, Ellen G. White, and Susan B. Anthony.

Several days before Truth died, a reporter came from the Grand Rapids Eagle to interview her. “Her face was drawn and emaciated and she was apparently suffering great pain. Her eyes were very bright and mind alert although it was difficult for her to talk.”

Truth died on November 26, 1883, at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan. More than 3,000 people crowded into the Battle Creek Tabernacle to pay their last respects to the black heroine. Uriah Smith presided at the services. Ellen Bradbury Paulson, who attended the funeral, said of Sojourner Truth: “She was a good SDA.” She was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek, beside other family members and many Seventh-day Adventist pioneers.” More

Warriors Walk Alone

“A penny bank full of butterflies
Will never cocoon into enough cash
To pay for the expectations of spectators
Gypsy haters
Wash your colorful wings in the well
Know that all your wishes
Add to our spicy bitches brew
We are who was sent to you
So, who sent you?
When the shit goes down
Will you remember which way the blue bird flew?”

“…meditate while they criticize it/burn sage for the liars who print it/turn
down the stove/only boil with natural fire/burn down their house/watch the
words melt /save the ink/write a new song/return to the ocean/leave them
to the mermaids/carry your pepper spray/wear your hooker books/tease
them/make them prove their identity/brand it to their bodies/force them to pin a star to their clothes/convert the masses/design the logo/create a real revolution

when no one’s looking
so they’ll never see us


Stagecoach Mary

Wiki- Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary (c. 1832 – 1914), was the first African-American woman employed as a mail carrier in the United States, and just the second American woman to work for the United States Postal Service.

Fields stood 6 feet tall and weighed about 200 lbs, liked to smoke cigars and she usually had a pistol strapped under her apron and a jug of whiskey by her side. Born a slave in Hickman County, Tennessee around 1832, Fields was freed when American slavery was outlawed in 1865. The Native Americans called Fields “White Crow” because “she acts like a white woman but has black skin.” Local whites did not know what to make of her.

One schoolgirl wrote an essay saying: “she drinks whiskey, and she swears, and she is a republican, which makes her a low, foul creature.” 

 “Born a slave somewhere in Tennessee, Mary lived to become one of the freest souls ever to draw a breath, or a .38.” -Gary Cooper

Brown Girl Collective – “Mary’s mother Susanna was the personal servant to the plantation owner’s wife, Mrs. Dunnes. The plantation wife also had a daughter who was born within two weeks of Mary, and named Dolly. Mrs. Dunne allowed the children to play together. Over the years Mary was taught to read and write and the two girls became best friends. At sixteen, Dolly was sent to boarding school in Ohio and Mary was left all alone.

Mary’s father worked in the fields on the Dunnes’ farm. He was sold after Mary was born. Mary’s mother wanted her daughter to have a last name, so since her father Buck worked in the fields, her mother decided her last name should be Fields. So thus Mary Fields came to be. After Mary’s mother passed away, Mary became the head of the household at the young age of fourteen.

After Dolly went away to boarding school, The Civil War began. The slaves were left to fend for themselves. It was during this time that she learned many life survival skills. She learned how to garden, raise chickens and practice medicine with natural herbs.

Around the age of 30 Mary heard from her dear friend Dolly. Dolly was now a nun and was renamed Sister Amadaus. The Sister asked Mary to join her at a convent in Ohio. Mary immediately began her twenty-day trip from Tennessee to Ohio. Mary remained with the Ursuline Sisters for many years – even when Dolly relocated to the St. Peter’s Mission in Montana. Mary never married and she had no children. The nuns were her family. She protected the nuns.

Mary wanted to follow her friend to Montana, but was told it was too remote and rustic. However, that all changed when Mother Amadaus became ill with pneumonia and wrote to Mary asking for her support and healing. Mary wasted no time and departed for Montana by stagecoach in 1885. At 53 years old Mary started her new life in Montana. Mary helped nurse Mother Amadaus back to health. The sisters were all in amazement of this tough black woman. Mary was no stranger to rolling a cigar, shooting guns and drinking whiskey. She grew fresh vegetables that were enjoyed by the Sisters and the surrounding community. Mary was forced to leave her beloved mission and the Sisters after a shooting incident. Mary shot in self-defense, and was found innocent, but had to find a new home.

Wells Fargo had the mail contract during that time and was looking for someone for the Great Falls to Fort Benton route to deliver the U.S. Mail. It was a rough and rugged route and would require a person of strong will and great survival skills to maneuver the snowy roads and high winds. Mary immediately applied at the ripe age of 60 years old. It was rumored that she could hitch a team of horses faster than the boys half her age and due to her toughness, she was hired! Mary became the first African American mail carrier in the United States and the second woman. Mary was proud of the fact that her stage was never held up. Mary and her mule Moses, never missed a day and it was during this time that she earned the nickname of “Stagecoach,” for her unfailing reliability.

The townspeople adopted Mary as one of their own. They celebrated her birthday twice a year since she didn’t know the exact date of her real birthday. Mary Fields was known as Black Mary and Stagecoach Mary. She was considered an eccentric even in these modern times. She was six feet tall and over 200 pounds. By the time she was well known in Central Montana, she had a pet eagle, a penchant for whiskey, baseball (which was a new sport at the time) and a heart as big as the gun she was famous for carrying. Mary wore a buffalo skin dress that she made herself – you might say she drew attention wherever she went – even in a small western pioneer town. Mary was a local celebrity and her legend and tales of her adventures were known by surrounding communities and neighboring states.

Gary Cooper (the actor) had his mail delivered by Mary as a young boy in Cascade County. As an adult, he wrote about her for Ebony Magazine in 1955. Her wrote of her kindness and his admiration for her. The famous western artists Charlie Russell drew a sketch of her. It was a pen and ink sketch of a mule kicking over a basket of eggs with Mary looking none to happy.

Mary retired her post in 1901 and passed away in 1914. She is buried at Highland Cemetery at St. Peter’s Mission. Her grave is marked with a simple cross.

Cheryl Glenn as “Stagecoach” Mary Fields in the August 7, 2010 presentation for Filling in the Gaps in American History (FIGH), Inc. at the NYS Museum.

When I Was 14

This…absolutely knocked me back in my chair…

“When I was 14, I got down on my knees because he said I would
if I loved him.
And what did I know then?
when I first betrayed my body.
Sold it for a kiss and a smile,
thought to please at any cause,
left to fight for independence in the backseat of cars.
On stained leather interior dank with the smell of expectations
I traded integrity for security and called it love, leaving pieces of an empty shell falling behind my mother patting my head and saying
“What happened to that nice boy you were dating? ”.
Well, I pushed memories farther down
buried beneath piercing sunlight,
dreams my knight would come to save
and prayed
scraping already skinned knees
while I cried myself to sleep.
So I bit the apple in confusion,
abandoned my innocence
beneath the tree of knowledge
and became as bitter as the fruit
I couldn’t refuse.
Time and again,
giving in,
giving up,
always wanting something more than pick-up lines,
promising more than promiscuity,
clothing myself in false hopes,
enclosing my weariness in frail arms for years… Cars turning into bars with one lamp,
and piles of discarded clothing,
and I heard myself say “no” over and over.
But he didn’t hear me,
wouldn’t listen when he called me a “whore, bringing me down and took the only innocence I had left.
And I was searching still for purity,
lurking in hidden corners,
hips swinging, lips pouting,
trading and shattered innocence
for bared and braised and offerings
I learned how to control
and three years of vengeance passed
while I was that woman despised.
Well, they begged for plastic perfection
found in the temptation inches from their faces and I could feel the longing,
the lies when they said “You’re so beautiful”
And it wasn’t enough
And so he loved music more than me,
loved work more than me,
loved money more than me,
loved her more than me.
And I loved him more than me.
And I gave in
to where I thought love hid;
to the times I thought it was real.
We give in to what men want,
we paint ourselves with what we think are the colors of the rainbow,
when we’re really cloaked in hips and lips,
the brutal realities that leave us grasping
tatters of the illusions of love and longing
and the shattered threads of innocence.
Until we wear our own colors
and part the curtains we draped over our mirrors in mourning
and look ourselves in the eye, and say
“With you I feel like Isis and I am beautiful”

Ring The Alarm

Yeah, it’s me again, your friendly neighborhood poet. 
Ring the Alarm. Shit is Hectic. 
You better get up, get out, and do something. 
Before they change your name from human to refugee, if you’re not already. 
Wake up, wake the fuck up, and ring the alarm.

SoulSpazm – “As a poet and performance artist, Ursula Rucker has enchanted critics and fans across the globe with her diverse repertoire, captivating vocals and accessible poetic verse.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, she began documenting her observations of the world when she was just a girl. A graduate of Temple University’s journalism program, Ursula kept her creative writing as a prized, personal possession until she was prepared to share with the world. In 1994, she introduced an open-mic night audience at Philadelphia’s Zanzibar Blue to the beauty and urgency of her poetry.”

Natalie Daise: Becoming Harriet Tubman

Natalie Daise, a storyteller out of Beaufort, S.C.  portrays four people at turning points in Tubman’s life, including Harriet’s mother, her first slave owner, a field worker and Harriet herself.

This excerpt introduces one of the characters: Harriet Tubman’s mother, Harriet Green.

Daise chats with The Post and Courier about life as a professional storyteller, as well as what it took to get into the life of Harriet Tubman.

A lot of people will remember you from your family’s Nick Jr. show Gullah Gullah Island. How has your storytelling evolved since then?

Daise: I was already a storyteller before the show. My husband had written a book about Gullah culture called “Reminiscences of Sea Island Heritage.” He interviewed a lot of the elders on St. Helena Island and I brought those stories to the stage. At one performance, we met an executive producer from Nick and she said, “We could do a show with you guys!” I was pregnant with my second baby at the time and we shot the show in Orlando until he was five.

Why did you decide to tell the life story of Harriet Tubman?

Daise: People tend to think of African American culture as starting in slavery, but really that was just a transitional period. While I was telling stories about the Gullah culture, I came across Charlotte Forten, who was the first black instructor to white students on St. Helena Island in 1862. In her journal, she mentions coming into Beaufort, South Carolina, and having lunch with Harriet Tubman. I thought, “What?! How did I not know about this? Actually Harriet Tubman spent quite a bit of time in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

You portray four characters at formative moments in Harriet Tubman’s life. How did you decide which people to include in Becoming Harriet Tubman?

Daise: The first voice that came to me was her mother’s because of the research that I’d done, but I also felt I could really identify with her as a mother. I also chose a field hand because one of the iconic stories they tell about Harriet is how she got her skull fractured. I thought it’d be interesting to hear it from the field hand’s point of view because he was really the catalyst of that moment for her. Harriet Tubman is also included, but she does not tell her story until the second half because she is created really by her circumstances.” Full Interview

via Natalie Daise on YT – “A group of film and theater students from a nearby after school program came to my presentation of Becoming Harriet Tubman. After the show they met with me to ask a few questions. This is my response to “How did you start?” Since a lot of folk have asked that I thought I’d post it. It’s a bit fuzzy and jumpy, so I apologize in advance!”

And, because I was one of the people who first became familiar with Natalie via the Gullah Gullah Island TV show when my kids were little…the theme song. It was a GREAT show and even I learned from it!  ~Reb

Maria Tall Chief: Prima Ballerina

Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief (Osage family name: Ki He Kah Stah Tsa; January 24, 1925 – April 11, 2013) was considered America’s first major prima ballerina, and was the first Native American to hold the rank.

“If anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add but when there is no longer anything to take away” 

Named for her paternal and maternal grandmothers, Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief, known as “Betty Marie” to friends and family, was born in Fairfax, Oklahoma, on January 24, 1925, to Alexander Joseph Tall Chief (1890–1959), a member of the Osage Nation, and his wife, Ruth (née Porter), of Scottish-Irish descent. Porter had met Tall Chief, a widower, while visiting her sister, who was his mother’s housekeeper at the time.

As a child, Ruth Porter had dreamed about becoming a performer, but her family could not afford dance or music lessons. She was determined that her daughters would not suffer the same fate. Betty Marie was enrolled in summer ballet classes in Colorado Springs at age 3. She and other family members performed at rodeos and other local events.

At age five, Tall Chief was enrolled at the nearby Sacred Heart Catholic School. Impressed by her reading ability, the teachers allowed her to skip the first two grade levels. Between piano, ballet, and school work Tall Chief had little free time, but loved the outdoors. In her autobiography, she reminisced about time spent “wandering around our big front yard” and “[rambling] around the grounds of our summer cottage hunting for arrowheads in the grass.”

In 1933, the family moved to Los Angeles with the intent of getting the children into Hollywood musicals. The day they arrived in Los Angeles her mother asked the clerk at a local drugstore if he knew any good dance teachers. The clerk recommended Ernest Belcher, father of dancer Marge Champion.

Bored with school, Tall Chief devoted herself to dance in Belcher’s studio. In addition to ballet, which she had previously been doing all wrong and went back to square one, she learned tap, Spanish dancing, and acrobatics there. She found tumbling very difficult, and eventually quit the class, but later in life put the skills to good use. The family moved to Beverly Hills where schools offered better academics. At Beverly Vista School, Tall Chief experienced what she described as “painful” discrimination and took to spelling her last name as one word, Tallchief. She continued to study piano, appearing as a guest soloist with small symphony orchestras throughout high school. Continue reading

The Moon And The Nightspirit


Another powerful & moving piece of spoken poetry from Sarah Kay…