The new year starts with defiant slogans, poems and anxiety and the sore winners telling everyone to get over it-like get over slavery; get over rape; get over racism; get over violations large and small. Get over it. Thus words of resistance and feelings of anguish. So I think this is a good time for the blues. Gutbucket or glamrous–old school or new. We need to have a feeling place, something our voices can stroke. An American invention that despite going in and out of favorite keeps bringing us some of what we need and now we need a lot. I think Laurie Carlos knew and understood how to re-shape the blues for modern times. Take Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday on up to Koko Taylor sprinkle with La Lupe and Celia Cruz (ah salsa) and she wasn’t a musician. She was a consummate actress and director. Her work with Robbie MacCauley and Jessica Hagedorn was innovative-game changing. A maker of theater and a serious mentor to a generation of young artists after he moved hometown New York City to new hometown Minneapolis, which is where I last saw her. Her transition is wrenching. The shawl in this picture is one I bought from Marion DiCaires now Marion DiCaires Lake because Laurie did not think it bright enough. She was the Lady in Blue in the original cast of For Colored Girls and she was amazing. She also looked much like her cousin the incomparable Diana Sands. So a New Blues is upon us and the Lady in Blue has joined many others making art among the stars.
Today starts a new year in the Western calendar and a chance to look forward. We all know given the coming Inauguration that it will not be easy and for many of us it will bring way to much pain. But, we can deal with it by staying vigilant and helping those who are in greater need; by constantly demanding justice; and by doing what ever it is that we do best: write poems, sing songs, heal the sick, minister or counsel, open businesses that offer things people need, paint, sculpt, develop policy that encourage and support the polity. We can do those things. Who knows at the end of this year those seeking progress, justice, and environmental health may be seen as the clear winners. We can plant our gardens not only for sustenance but for beauty: BREAD AND ROSES works for me.