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Haboob Manifesto, Pt. 3.4: Kuumba

My dad insisted that I had “piano fingers” when I was a little person; in order to foster this talent he knew I had to possess, he purchased a small electric organ and study book. The nightmarish thing squatted in a corner of the dining room, where it mocked me everyday. After dinner I was required to practice, which was nothing short of torture.

Let me be clear: I absolutely adore pipe organs. When I have had an opportunity to visit a church when away from home I have made the choice based on the availability of a working pipe organ in the sanctuary.

I also adore horror movies. I don’t mean the “blood and guts” junk that passes for horror movies today. I am talking about films created between the 1940s and early-1970s. The ones that showed up on “The Late Late Show,” “Creature Double Feature,” or “Chiller Theater.” Real horror movies like the ones featured on those shows often had pipe organ music in the score.

Let me also be clear: the organ in our dining room was no pipe organ.

That thing wheezed more than made music, and the air that came out of it with the depression of each key smelled like bad breath. I hated it.

Eventually, after many bouts of crying in front of the keyboard, my dad figured out that just maybe I didn’t have “piano fingers” after all. I was thrilled.

Fast forward a few years, to the point when I decided I wanted to be a musician. I chose the flute first, and eventually caused insanity for my parents (who must have gone into major debt to buy the thing) by announcing that I was moving on to the tenor saxaphone, which lasted until I found out that I would need to carry it (I was in marching band, after all). At that point, my career as a musician came to an abrupt, crashing, and un-spectacular end.

I did get back in the music business during my undergraduate years. I was on-air as a disc jockey with our college radio station. It was the best experience of those four years. It was due to having met my most excellent friend, Don Buchanan, who was really a musician. We lost each other and when I found him again, it was too late.

I remember all of these different and quirky music-related things on this fifth day of Kwanzaa, known as Kuumba, which is the principle of creativity. This principle suggests that we are to leave the world more beautiful than it was when the previous generation left it for us.

My attempts at music creation did not contibute to beauty, but Don’s did. I still miss him, because not only was his music a contribution, his personhood definitely made the world a better place.

I pray to leave a positive, if not permanent mark on the world someday. I pray that such a mark will leave the world a better place.

In what way will you exemplify Kuumba in your life, in your community, and for future generations?

As we prepare to usher in a new year, Kuumba is a good reminder that helps us consider in what ways we are making the world a better place.

Be safe and enjoy your New Year celebrations.


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  2. Tanya April 2, 2013 11:55 pm

    I enjoyed this story. I especially enjoyed the scenario of “That thing wheezed more than made music, and the air that came out of it with the depression of each key smelled like bad breath. I hated it.”
    That just made me laugh. I tried several instruments when I was younger. I was not successful, so I told people that I play music, ” it’s the tape player.” Okay well I said it when it was the 70’s. I tried the flute…no success and the clarinet was the worst. I couldn’t figure it out. I tried so hard to read musical notes too, but I could not grasp it even with all the choirs I have been in and my last was at First Assembly of God (North Hills). I miss the singing and the contata’s, but I don’t miss my younger years of the musical instruments. lol…so when I was younger I just stuck to creative writing. I still have all my poems I have written since I was 15 yrs old. Some day I will publish them.

    • AR Neal April 3, 2013 3:58 am

      Wow! I didn’t know you sang…since you wrote First Assembly first, guess you stopped before the move to Shandin Hills School? I would have loved to hear you sing!

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