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Jody Watley: New Tour, New Music and New Shalamar

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By Mary L. Datcher
Speical to the NNPA via The Chicago Defender

 

 

If you grew up in the era of cultural identity, sexual exploration, political uprise and post-Vietnam—most likely you’re either a baby of the late 60’s and 70’s period. Each of us could probably recount a song, album or musical artist that influenced our daily moods. As we developed our musical palette into the 80’s, the world of hip hop, punk rock, funk and post disco transcended into dance—launched the power of a new generation of young women entertainers who took centerstage.

Among this breakout group of artists, was Jody Watley—a former member of the R&B group, Shalamar. A native of Chicago, Watley relocated and was raised in Los Angeles often gracing the Soul Train dance floor. Signed to Dick Griffey’s Solar Records, Shalamar was a regular fixture on Soul Train. Joining the group at the age of 18, Watley shared the spotlight with fellow group members; Jeffrey Daniels and Howard Hewitt. The group topped the R&B charts with hits such as “Second Time Around”, “A Night to Remember” and “There it Is” making them one of the most sought after groups on the international circuit. After a 3-year run with the group and creative differences, Watley left the group.

“As a child I wanted to do a lot of things – sing, dance, design and own my own business. The beginning days of Shalamar was a learning experience for me from ’77-’83 over the course of those albums there was a lot going on. The business was wrong, no one in the group was getting along and my Dad had died in 1982. It changed my life. I didn’t want to take things for granted, not wasting time, not wanting to be around people who were negative.” she said.

Soon after, she moved to England for some soul searching, where she participated on the Band Aid charity concert organized by rockstar, Bob Geldof to raise money for anti-poverty efforts in Ethiopia.

She explained. “When I left the group in ’83, most of all I wanted to be happy in my life. As long as I’m happy, I’m good. I moved to England and lived there for 3 years. I made a plan for myself in what I wanted to do, what kind of music I wanted to do. I was able to do something that not many singers from a group are able to do. To establish your own identity and create hits on your own. It doesn’t happen that often.”

Returning to the U.S., after a couple of years performing at the Band Aid charity concert, she pursued her dream of going solo as an artist. At the time, Jheryl Busby was the President of the Black Music Division at MCA Records and signed Watley knowing she had a unique appeal with the potential of crossing over into the Pop music market. Watley trusted him immensely.

“Coming back to the U.S. and I met with the various companies. When I met with Jheryl Busby, we just connected right away. He got my creativity, he instantly appreciated the fact that I knew what I wanted. All of artists at the time, had looked the same to me.” she said.

“My first album cover, I wanted to be black and white because it’s timeless. I like classic Hollywood glamour. He said, ‘black and white’ album covers don’t sale and I told him mine was going to sell. He loved it and had so much respect for me from the beginning. It wasn’t because I was girl, or just trusting the label but as a woman he empowered me. He empowered MCA Records to rally with us and me to make it happen.”

As we witnessed her rise as one of the most influential Pop music entertainers during the late 80’s into the 90’s, Watley earned a Grammy for Best New Artist, for her debut single, “Looking for a New Love” following up with another hit, “Still a Thrill”. She’s been recognized for numerous accolades for a style fashionista, gracing international magazine covers and holding her place among Pop music royalty like Madonna, Janet Jackson and Tina Turner.

“Through the moments when some people at the company didn’t think I sounded Black enough or I wasn’t street enough. Not everyone is going to get it but that’s how you become a trendsetter. I’m not trying to be Janet Jackson. I’m a freestyle girl, I’m doing fashion – the jumbo hoop eye rings, the ripped jeans so they were like, ‘what is this?’”

Most of us can remember her collabo with Hip Hop Gods, Eric B. and Rakim on “Friends” infusing R&B Dance with Hip Hop meshing the two worlds together.

With the music industry changing, being married, divorced and raising two children as a single mom—has not stopped Watley’s continual drive in her career. She’s taken time out in between projects to raise her children, nurture her independent label and release music throughout the last couple of decades.

“My daughter just graduated from college. My son is currently in college so in the midst of being ‘Jody Watley’ , to be a sane person and to have grounded children is really number one. I’ve never been afraid to step away from the spotlight and take my son and daughter to their school events. To be there to cheer them on because time goes very fast.”

Today, we still see her influence with the next generation rocking the mega hoop earrings, chunky gold jewelry, ripped jeans and a freestyle spirit of creating trends from Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus and others. Everything goes full circle.

“I was determined to have it to be my own style–how I looked, the songs I was writing, who the photographers were and who I was working with. It was an easy transition and I still enjoy being a solo artist. The unique thing with the new Shalamar it feels very collaborative. It’s refreshing for me to not think of every detail.”

Watley not only has a new project gearing up for a summer release but she has recently brought together new members to launch the new Shalamar. After years of re-issues of the Shalamar catalog through various companies between the U.S. and abroad, Watley was frustrated at her likeness and image being misused. After a long search and the advice of her attorney, she found out the group’s name had not been trademarked.

“In life and in business, you have to have good people around you that are trying to protect you. That’s what led me to it. It was a thorough process for two years so that there was no shady business going on. With a trademark, it’s a long and exhaustive process. So, with a brand – what do you do with it? How can you make it fresh and honor the legacy of it but also bring some younger people on board? Make it something that is marketable and not for just the older fans – the classics.” she said.

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Arts and Culture

Marin City Juneteenth Festival Celebrates Unity in the Community

Marin City celebrated the Eighth Annual Juneteenth Festival on Saturday, June 22, at the Rocky Graham Park. This year’s theme was Umoja, which means Unity in our community. This year, the festival organizers distributed a program flyer that acknowledged and appreciated the 40+ hardworking vendors who brought “art, treasures, service, and culinary delights to our International African Marketplace” and the friends and supporters of the Juneteenth Festival.

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From top left: Ain Ashby and Mariah Ashby at the Happy Juneteenth booth, Cynthia Williams at the Center for Domestic Peace booth, Sarah Turner, Anne Deverb, and Nancy Miller at the Come to The Table booth, Tony Swan and June Farmer at the Marin County Flood Control booth, Desirae Rogeb, Yero Massamba, and Ngona Badila at the O Greena-Ancient Remedies booth, People dancing, ChaintiAna Thomas, The Juneteenth Festival stage. Photos by Godfrey Lee.
From top left: Ain Ashby and Mariah Ashby at the Happy Juneteenth booth, Cynthia Williams at the Center for Domestic Peace booth, Sarah Turner, Anne Deverb, and Nancy Miller at the Come to The Table booth, Tony Swan and June Farmer at the Marin County Flood Control booth, Desirae Rogeb, Yero Massamba, and Ngona Badila at the O Greena-Ancient Remedies booth, People dancing, ChaintiAna Thomas, The Juneteenth Festival stage. Photos by Godfrey Lee.

By Godfrey Lee

Marin City celebrated the Eighth Annual Juneteenth Festival on Saturday, June 22, at the Rocky Graham Park. This year’s theme was Umoja, which means Unity in our community.

This year, the festival organizers distributed a program flyer that acknowledged and appreciated the 40+ hardworking vendors who brought “art, treasures, service, and culinary delights to our International African Marketplace” and the friends and supporters of the Juneteenth Festival.

The back of the flyer says that the program “only accepts sponsorship from organizations, municipalities and individuals aligned with our values of peace, liberation, justice, and healing of the mind, body and spirit.”

Here are the many vendors listed in the program by category:

  • Art, Craft, Clothing

Alecia’s Sweets & Gifts, Atrenia’s Treasures, Magi’s Treasures, Tiffany’s Trendy Treasures, Senegalese Art & Waist Beads Fittings, Superior Boutique, Black Anime Art, Eunice’s Unique Creations, Wise Choices, Belle Noire Accessories, Kimani’s Gifts from Kenya, T-Shirts by Jade, Ms. Cynthia’s Ice Box Magnets, Art/Designed Fashion by Malaak and Ain’s Sweets & T-Shirts, Lumpen Proletariat Digital Gallery, MC Arts Gallery,

  • Food, Snacks, Deserts

Nestor’s Jive Turkey Legs, “Dis Nice’ Jamaican Food, “Delightful Foods” Pies/Cookies/Fresh Juices, Akoma Cameroonian Coffee & Gifts, Abhimanyu’s Vegetarian for Life, Clark’s Lemonade, Eats & Treats by Hope Housing, Ms. Clotile’s Fried Fish & Fries, Bryant Family Gumbo, Bakery and Juices, Ms. Eboni’s Sugar Shack, Roadside Soul BBQ, The Red Truck, Lily’s Burgers, Links & Sides, Mr. Leshawn’s Shrimp and Grits,

  • Wellness and Activities

Play Marin, FMBC Mental Health Advocates, Prayer Booth with Steve and Alesia, “Spyfro Man,” French Tutoring by Jean Pierre, Orianna’s Books, O’Green Natural Cleaning, Face Painting by Ayanna, Marin City Wellness Clinic/First Aid Booth, Marin Health Team’s Smoothie Bike, Performance Art by Olubori, Deep Healing Massage by Gio, and Horse Rides with Jaymo.

  • Community Advocates

Marin City CSD, DWP Flood Project Marin City, Marin City Climate Justice, Center for Domestic Peace, Friends of Golden Gate Village, Marin City Library, Marin City Climate Justice, County of Marin, the Marin Community Foundation, the City of Sausalito, the Marin City Community Services District, MC Art and Culture, Showing Up for Racial Justice, and MCE – Empowering Our Clean Energy Future.

The good Business Neighbors were the Good Earth Natural Foods in Mill Valley, the Marin City Community Development Corporation (MCCDC), Marin City Cornerstone Church, and the First Missionary Baptist Church.

And finally, the program acknowledged the generous friends of the festival: Ricardo Moncrief, Doreen Gounard, Malachia Hoover, Darryl Bozeman, Federico Cortez (owner of “Paws Palace” at the Gateway Mall), Maria Banas, Joan Smith, Kalicia Pivirotto, Jessica Lundy, and the SURJ Marin Volunteers.

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Arts and Culture

Hundreds of Revelers Cheer Parade, Join Fun at Juneteenth Festival in Nicholl Park

A bright sun greeted one of Richmond’s most important community gatherings on June 22: the annual Juneteenth Parade and Festival. Hundreds of people greeted the lengthy parade that began at Kennedy High School, passed under the recently-created Juneteenth Freedom Underpass Mural on 37th Street, and continued on to Nicholl Park, where a colorful festival took place through the afternoon.

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A marching band followed the parade route from Kennedy High School to Nicholl Park. Photos by Mike Aldax and Mike Kinney.
A marching band followed the parade route from Kennedy High School to Nicholl Park. Photos by Mike Aldax and Mike Kinney.

By Mike Aldax, Mike Kinney and
Kathy Chouteau
The Richmond Standard

A bright sun greeted one of Richmond’s most important community gatherings on June 22: the annual Juneteenth Parade and Festival.

Hundreds of people greeted the lengthy parade that began at Kennedy High School, passed under the recently-created Juneteenth Freedom Underpass Mural on 37th Street, and continued on to Nicholl Park, where a colorful festival took place through the afternoon.

Michelle Milam, crime prevention manager for the City of Richmond and an organizer, said the parade boasted 70 entries and the festival had 117 booths staffed with community organizations, businesses, and resources. Soul food was being served by a number of popular local eateries such as CJ’s BBQ & Fish, Snapper Seafood and Cousins Maine Lobster.

The annual event is supported via a partnership between the N.B.A., City of Richmond and Chevron.

The Standard asked dozens of community members at this event what Juneteenth means to them.

“It is a celebration of freedom,” said AJ Jelani, president of the Belding Woods Neighborhood Council.

Jelani founded the nonprofit organization A.J./Sealcraft, which honors African American individuals, organizations, groups, and businesses who contributed to empowering fellow African Americans to improve their communities.

“Juneteenth is a recognition of our culture, our history,” he said. “Our unique past was a functionality of the community. It brought us together.”

Richmond resident Gloria Wilson added, “Juneteenth is a day to remember our ancestors’ struggles for our freedom.”

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia told us the celebration is “about our community coming together.”

“It’s about recognizing the struggles that it has taken up until now, and that there is still work ahead to achieve true equity and equality,” Gioia said.

Gioia noted Richmond is unique for having had an annual Juneteenth parade and festival years before Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday in 2021.

“Richmond has had a great history of winning struggles,” Gioia said. “It is important for us to continue that work.”

“We all have the responsibility to uplift and celebrate how people persevered and continue to persevere in the face of challenge.”

Gioia said that is why the County has an Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice.

“I was just talking to the school board and superintendent about the work we’re doing, and the superintendent was talking about their equity plan for the school district, so it all comes together,” Gioia said. “Agencies working together.”

Richmond City Councilmember Doria Robinson, who helped carry the City Council banner in the parade alongside some of her Council colleagues, said Juneteenth is a celebration of perseverance.

“It’s the day where everyone…can reflect on what happened with slavery and can realize that we all carry that burden,” Robinson said, “and that we all have the responsibility to uplift and celebrate how people persevered, and continue to persevere in the face of challenge.”

Added Councilmember Cesar Zepeda, “Richmond has been at the forefront of making sure that our community is aware of Juneteenth. And just more recently, people are finding out about Juneteenth and celebrating it in their cities. Once again Richmond is at the forefront.”

Fast on the heels of Juneteenth, Richmond will get a jump on Independence Day by celebrating along the waterfront Wednesday, July 3.

The City of Richmond will celebrate the “3rd of July Fireworks & Celebration” July 3 from 5-10 p.m. at Marina Bay Park. The fireworks will start at 9:15 p.m., with the show lasting approximately 20 minutes. Along with the fireworks, festivities will include live music, a selection of food choices and an interactive Fun Zone for the kids. Marina Bay Park is located at Marina Bay & Regatta Blvd. in Richmond.

Also on Wednesday, July 3, “Fireworks at the Point at Riggers Loft Wine Company” will take place from 6-10 p.m. Andre Thierry, a.k.a. “the Zydeco king,” will entertain the crowd while they enjoy a choice of cuisine from five food tents prepared by Chef Frank Miller.

Games, wine, cider, and sodas will also be part of the mix. At 9:15 p.m., the venue—and its bayside patio—are perfectly poised to take in the City of Richmond’s fireworks show, for which beach chairs and blankets are suggested.

Tickets are $35 for adults, $15 for those under 21 and free for kids 5 and under. Purchase tickets here and find Riggers Loft at 1325 Canal Blvd. in Richmond.

For those heading to San Francisco on the Fourth of July, the city’s fireworks are set off via two locations in front of Fisherman’s Wharf: The end of Municipal Pier and barges in front of Pier 39. Transit options from Richmond to San Francisco include the San Francisco Bay Ferry, which will operate on a weekend schedule from Thursday, July 4, through Sunday, July 7—learn more https://sanfranciscobayferry.com/holiday-ferry-schedule

BART will run a Sunday schedule (8 a.m. until midnight) on Independence Day— go to https://www.bart.gov/guide/holidaysfor more information. And visit AC Transit for info on catching a bus.

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Bay Area

The Waiting Begins, Oakland Passes Budget With Uncertainty of Coliseum Funds Coming to Save Them

After 12 hours of deliberation over two days, the Oakland City Council passed their mid-cycle budget Tuesday afternoon. This budget is contingent on the city receiving $105 million from the sale of the Coliseum stadium. Oakland is currently in the process of selling their half of the 112-acre stadium complex, where the A’s are playing their last season before heading to Sacramento, to the African American Sports and Entertainment Group (AASEG) as part of Mayor Sheng Thao’s plan to eliminate the over $100 million shortfall for this year’s budget.

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Oakland City Council passed a risky budget that is contingent on the $105 million sale of the Coliseum stadium, but if it falls through, drastic cuts will have to be made across the city in order to make up for the loss. Downtown Oakland. Photo by Travelview.
Oakland City Council passed a risky budget that is contingent on the $105 million sale of the Coliseum stadium, but if it falls through, drastic cuts will have to be made across the city in order to make up for the loss. Downtown Oakland. Photo by Travelview.

By Magaly Muñoz

After 12 hours of deliberation over two days, the Oakland City Council passed their mid-cycle budget Tuesday afternoon. This budget is contingent on the city receiving $105 million from the sale of the Coliseum stadium.

Oakland is currently in the process of selling their half of the 112-acre stadium complex, where the A’s are playing their last season before heading to Sacramento, to the African American Sports and Entertainment Group (AASEG) as part of Mayor Sheng Thao’s plan to eliminate the over $100 million shortfall for this year’s budget.

Many residents and even a few council members strongly urged the city to not depend on the sale of the stadium to balance the budget, saying that the sale was uncertain and could fall through at any moment.

Councilmembers Treva Reid and Janani Ramachandran criticized Thao and the city administrator for not allowing enough time for the council to review all budget possibilities in order to make the right decision for Oakland.

“This year’s budget process has been an insult to the people of Oakland,” Ramachandran said in a video on her Instagram. “I made the deep mistake of putting my trust in the mayor and the city administrator in their strong belief that the sale of the Coliseum would happen in time before our budget was passed.”

Noel Gallo, who also opposed using the sale as a fallback, asked over multiple meetings whether the city had a written guarantee that the developers were going to buy the site and had the money to cover the sale. Gallo received no definitive answer.

The council also received an alternative version of the budget, which would immediately cut funding to public safety but could be restored if the Coliseum money came in at a later date. Layoffs were not included in either option.

In order to avoid major cuts and possible layoffs, $63 million from the sale would need to come in by September 1.

Should the funds not come in, sworn police positions would drop from 678 to 600, fire stations across the city would have to temporarily shut down, two police academies would close, and several other cuts in many departments would have to be made to make up for the lost money.

Vice President of the Oakland Police Officers Association, Tim Dolan, said in a statement that the passing of this budget with the sale contingency puts the city and its residents in danger.

“These cuts would impact our response for availability to render service calls, directly impairing our ability to protect and serve. With fewer officers, response times will be slower, and our capacity to meet the community’s needs will be drastically diminished,” Dolan said.

Despite the widespread concern from many across the city, Thao praised the council for passing the budget.

“The City has just adopted a budget that invests in the future of Oakland. We must remain disciplined and address our deficit responsibly while maintaining our focus on the issues that matter most to Oaklanders, public safety and clean streets. This budget achieves that goal,” Thao said in a statement.

Programs like Ceasefire, the Film Attraction Initiative, and services to youth and elderly will continue to be funded under this passed budget.

Even if the one-time sale funds come through before the September deadline, Oakland will still have a shortfall of $175 million to deal with next year. But, city staff warned the council that there is no viable way to completely close this gap without cuts to public safety.

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From top left: Ain Ashby and Mariah Ashby at the Happy Juneteenth booth, Cynthia Williams at the Center for Domestic Peace booth, Sarah Turner, Anne Deverb, and Nancy Miller at the Come to The Table booth, Tony Swan and June Farmer at the Marin County Flood Control booth, Desirae Rogeb, Yero Massamba, and Ngona Badila at the O Greena-Ancient Remedies booth, People dancing, ChaintiAna Thomas, The Juneteenth Festival stage. Photos by Godfrey Lee.
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