moment sublime, smile
compose dog day sunlit gaze
tick! time is tender
— ava wood
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
I suppose Shakespeare was right, but with a name as uncommon as Valaida, I’ve always believed that my name somehow influenced my tastes and style. You see, my mother named me after Valaida Wynn Randolph, her roommate and friend at Bennett College. And Ms. Randolph’s mother named her after the legendary jazz musician Valaida Snow.
If you’re unfamiliar with Valaida Snow, you are not alone. Somehow, after her death in the 1950s, her star failed to continue shining brightly as was the case with her contemporaries and fellow musicians Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker.
Here’s a little more about Valaida from Wikipedia:
She was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Raised on the road in a show-business family, she learned to play cello, bass, banjo, violin, mandolin, harp, accordion, clarinet, trumpet, and saxophone at professional levels by the time she was 15. She also sang and danced.
After focusing on the trumpet, she quickly became so famous at the instrument that she was named “Little Louis” after Louis Armstrong, who used to call her the world’s second best jazz trumpet player besides himself. She played concerts throughout the USA, Europe and China. From 1926 to 1929 she toured with Jack Carter’s Serenaders in Shanghai, Singapore, Calcutta and Jakarta.
Her most successful period was in the 1930s when she became the toast of London and Paris. Around this time she recorded her hit song “High Hat, Trumpet, and Rhythm”. She performed in the Ethel Waters show Rhapsody In Black, in New York. In the mid-1930s she made films with her husband, Ananias Berry, of the Berry Brothers dancing troupe. After playing New York’s Apollo Theater, she revisited Europe and the Far East for more shows and films.
Valaida lived an amazing, storied life, performing around the globe and thriving through trials and triumphs. Below is one of my favorite stories about her (hence the orchid accents here).
In fitting fashion, while performing at the Palace Theater in New York City, she collapsed on stage, suffering a fatal cerebral hemorrhage, and was buried on her birthday. Her final curtain call given with flair. Brava!
So today, on the anniversary of her birth (109 years ago) and her burial at age 51, I am remembering the Queen of the Trumpet Valaida Snow (June 2, 1904 – May, 30 1956), a jazz musician extraordinaire and my namesake, once removed.
Here’s a link to a YouTube video about Valaida’s life.
This is a story about Riley R. McGimpsey (28 Mar 1845 – 20 Apr 1934), my great-great-grandfather, as told to me by my elder cousin Nettie McGimpsey McIntosh for my book Giving Back:
Despite common perceptions, Black men have long been industrious. And evidently my grandfather Riley was as hardworking as men of any race come. I call him a Black entrepreneur, but back then industrious is the word people used.
I archive and keep our family’s history. I have scoured over family artifacts and Census data. Some time in the mid-1800s on the McGimpsey farm in Burke County, North Carolina, a slave named Clarissa gave birth to a son she named Riley. While born into slavery, Riley eventually became a sharecropper who sold his part of the produce—corn, wheat, molasses and such. Documents I have come across show his products sold as far away as Mullins, South Carolina, which was hundreds of miles from the farmland of Fonta Flora. He even owned one of the county’s few reaper-binders and loaned it out to others.
Fondly remembered and respected by people all over the county, my grandfather prospered in farming and with various small enterprises. He grew well known for giving away fresh produce and all kinds of things to community people, regardless of color. Riley was born a slave, but died an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Don’t let a meager start or scant resources limit what you do in life.
The portrait above is on display at the History Museum of Burke County. Riley is seated on the far right and his wife Christian V. Moore McGimpsey is seated next to him. Their daughter Mary Maldonia, who is my great-grandmother is seated on the far left.
Fast forward one hundred and ten years: There will be a family reunion this summer, kicking off at the History Museum of Burke County, with five more generations—the far-flung descendants of Maldonia McGimpsey and the man she would later marry John Wesley Fullwood. Cannot wait!
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” — Marcel Proust
It requires “new eyes” to see a picture reframed. This quote sums up much of our TEDx Talk, which premiered Friday on BlackGivesBack.com. My 1621 days of discovery changed my sight on everything. And the voyage continues…. VF
You can finally see it for yourself as I am delighTED to share this TEDx video with you today! Oh and…you can read further about A Picture Reframed, my co-presentation at TEDxCharlotte 2013, here and here. Enjoy!
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” — William Shakespeare
March 15, 44 B.C.: Beware of any friends named Brutus! Julius Caesar laughed off a soothsayer’s warning and was assassinated by his frenemy 2056 years ago today. from Goodreads.com
The Ides of March, while clearly not a good day for Julius Caesar, has inevitably been a great day for me. And today has been no except. More on my birthday weekend tomorrow.
Until the lion writes his own story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. — African proverb
Sharing glorious stories of African American philanthropy at Poor Richard’s Book Shoppe during Black History Month 2013 with members of New Generation of African American Philanthropists! (Photos by Michael Sales)
We’re Bringing “Giving Back” . . .
Here’s your invitation!
We’re Bringing ‘Giving Back’ at Poor Richard’s Book Shoppe is a free and family-friendly gathering, centered on Black Philanthropy. The evening of the 23rd will include:
- Book talk with the author and photographer of “Giving Back”
- Readings from members of New Generation of African American Philanthropists
- Q&A and audience engagement about the book’s themes and messages
- Celebration of culture and history #BHM
- Book signing
- And more!
Poor Richard’s, a family-operated business in uptown Charlotte, is a full-service, independent bookstore and multi-cultural venue.
New Generation of African American Philanthropists (NGAAP-Charlotte), a CIN giving circle, comprises member-donors who pursue a mission “to promote philanthropy—the giving of time, talent and treasure—among African Americans in the Charlotte region, with the goal of enhancing the quality of life within our communities.”
We’re aiming to do for philanthropy what Justin does for sexy. Well…we’re certainly trying.
UNLIMITED: Ideas Take Shape is this year’s theme for the annual, daylong creative forum. As collaborators on Giving Back, Charles and I will share what we learned while pursuing our idea of reframing portraits of philanthropy.
Here’s a taste of what you’ll experience . . .
After attending the last two years, I can tell you that TEDxCharlotte features a dozen or so selected presenters who share their ideas and 300+ participants who come to . . .
- hear bold ideas…about technology, entertainment, design and other stuff
- experience informative, entertaining and/or inspiring presentations
- see innovative art projects and short films
- network and connect with a mix of people
- learn about new topics
- find inspiration
- maybe cry
- eat (really, really) well
- let loose
- dance a little
- never forget the day
Seeing you at TEDxCharlotte 2013 would be great!