Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Shock and profound sadness are the best two words to describe my immediate reaction to the news that entertainment legend, Don Cornelius had passed away. Perhaps there is no one who did more to introduce and promote black musicians to Americans than Mr. Cornelius. His legacy is solid and we'll be talking about his contributions for years to come.
After the sadness sunk in, the memories came rushing back. As a child of the 70's - Soul Train was a staple in our house. Before MTV (yes, MTV did play lots of Michael Jackson, Prince and other choice black acts in the early 80s) or BET, Soul Train was a doorway into black music and culture.
Sounds weird but you could hear me and my sister screaming that at the television as we watched. Throughout the hour long broadcast, beautiful black woman after beautiful black woman was flashed across the small screen in living color for all to see. We'd "compete" to see which one of us could claim a woman "to be" for that episode. We'd follow "ourselves" the whole episode and just scream every time "we" were shown on screen.
Every shade of brown, black and sometime beige skin.
Women who looked like me were on display. In a positive way. Every week.
I wanted to be a Soul Train dancer.
I wanted to be a Soul Train featured artist.
Watching Soul Train helped me discover my love of music and my ability to sing. Where else could I sing along to Donna Summer, Natalie Cole or Stephanie Mills? Hitting every note with Deniece Williams gave me the confidence to actually go sing her hit song "Free" in front of people and knock their socks off in the Variety Show my sophomore year of high school.
I was convinced that Don Cornelius would one day introduce me to the world. Alas, that never happened.
However, he did give me years of smiles and cultivated pride in being a black girl in America in the 1970s. I am certain my love of spontaneous dance parties with blasting dance music was inspired by the Saturday morning rush I felt throughout my childhood. And who else would start the Soul Train line at all my melanin challenged friend's parties and weddings?
Don Cornelius gave me the feeling that it was more than ok to be me but it was GOOD to me. How fitting that we start Black History Month reminiscing about Don Cornelius and Soul Train.
I am forever grateful for Soul Train and sometimes still feel tempted to shout at my TV, "That's Me! or wish folks upon my departure, Peace, Love and Soouuuuuuuuuuuulllllllllllllllll.