Posts Tagged ‘haitian music’

By: Militant Barbie, Blogger

October 13, 2014

Source: http://militantbarbie.com/post/99945133850/in-defense-of-history-frederick-douglass-manifesto-to



arawaks Arawaks were indigenous people of Caribbean islands, such as what is now present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic

We should not forget that the freedom you and I enjoy to-day; that the freedom that eight hundred thousand colored people enjoy in the British West Indies; the freedom that has come to the colored race the world over, is largely due to the brave stand taken by the black sons, of Haiti ninety years ago.”  -Frederick Douglass’ speech “Lecture on Haiti,” at the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition, Chicago.

As I’ve written in other publications, the African-American presence at 19th and 20th century world fairs and expositions, explores an important part of U.S history that didn’t make it into the textbooks. When I first learned about the Atlanta Negro Building, a 25,000 square foot black arts and cultural exhibition space that was the birthplace of the New Negro or Harlem Renaissance movement, I was dumbfounded. How did I, nor most people I asked, not know about this? Since then, the history of black people in world fairs and expositions has led me in many different directions and on this day, the one where we are forced to celebrate yet again, a man who committed the genocide, enslavement and pillage of dozens of indigenous groups in America, (by the way, Happy Columbus Day) it was only fitting that I travel back to another world fair, this time, in  Chicago.

On May 1, 1893, the city hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ “discovery,” of the “New” World. Blanketing more than 600 acres in mostly Jackson Park, the fair attracted many high-powered civil leaders, politicians and tycoons who hoped to bring economic growth and new opportunities to the White City. Its neighbors, New York City, D.C, and St. Louis contributed to the fair’s efforts, which presented an image of American industrialism, expansion and architectural beauty to the some 27 million visitors that year. Like Atlanta’s Cotton States Exposition two years later, Chicago’s World Fair was an important means of bringing people together to recognize and celebrate America’s growing regions.

The irony of celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage is that the World’s Fair Expo also made room for an exhibit hall called the Haitian Pavilion. A space dedicated to the country of Haiti, it was one of 46 international countries that participated in the fair. On January 2, 1893,  Frederick Douglass, a U.S Minister and Consul General to Haiti, delivered his riveting speech, “Lecture on Haiti,”  to some 1500 people inside the Haitian Pavilion.

But maybe it wasn’t ironic. After all, the island of Hispaniola was where Columbus first landed in 1492, when he thought he reached an island off the coast of China. Inhabited by an indigenous group called the Arawaks, the explorer described Hispaniola as a mountainous region with “plains and pastures, both fertile and beautiful… [and] many spices, and great mines of gold and other metals…”  But not for long. Soon after landing, Columbus built a fort, which historian Howard Zinn considers the first European military base in the West, and enslaved its inhabitants.

By 1497, 125,000 Arawaks were dead.

By 1550, 500 Arawaks were left.

By 1650, no record of the Arawak people existed.

Douglass made many visits to Haiti in his consulate position, and he had a deep appreciation for the country as the first and only nation to ever successfully revolt against slavery. As a former enslaved person himself, Douglass was inspired by Haiti’s revolutionary ways and credited its people as models for African-Americans, as they fought their own battle for freedom and equality. Douglass also highlighted Haiti’s beauty despite its fragile political and economic state, which he believed was capable of better days:

 “NO OTHER LAND HAS BRIGHTER SKIES. No other land has purer water, richer soil, or a more happily diversified climate. She has all the natural conditions essential to a noble, prosperous and happy country.  Yet, there she is, torn and rent by revolutions, by clamorous factions and anarchies; floundering her life away from year in a labyrinth of social misery. Every little while we find her convulsed by civil war, engaged in the terrible work of death; frantically shedding her own blood and driving her best mental material into hopeless exile. Port au Prince, a city of sixty thousand souls, and capable of being made one of the healthiest, happiest and one of the most beautiful cities of the West Indies, has been destroyed by fire once in each twenty-five years of its history. The explanation is this: Haiti is a country of revolutions.”

Douglass discussed Haiti’s evolution from a slave colony to a free black republic following 1804 Haitian Revolution. He encouraged the U.S to improve its relationship with Haiti because the country had great growth potential.

Haiti did more than raise armies and discipline troops. She organized a Government and maintained a Government during eighty-seven years. Though she has been ever and anon swept by whirlwinds of lawless turbulence; though she has been shaken by earthquakes of anarchy at home, and has encountered the chilling blasts of prejudice and hate from the outside world, though she has been assailed by fire and sword, from without and within, she has, through all the machinations of her enemies, maintained a well defined civil government, and maintains it to-day. She is represented at all courts of Europe, by able men, and, in turn, she has representatives from all the nations of Europe in her capitol.

Douglass understood the racial and political reasons why Haiti was having a difficult time creating partnerships with its European neighbors. The1804 Revolution was so fierce, so bold, so extraordinary, that enslavers across the globe imposed new laws to keep blacks from forming future uprisings. This small island forced whites to think harder about the foundation of slavery, as they watched it burst in flames throughout the deep mountains of Saint Dominigue. Despite the chills Haiti gave many white supremacists, Douglass unapologetically praised the nation and urged people to recognize its potential:

With a people beginning a national life as Haiti did, with such crude material within, and such antagonistic forces operating upon her from without, the marvel is, not that she is far in the rear of civilization, but that she has survived in any sense as a civilized nation…

Already she has added five hundred schools to her forces of education, within the two years of Hyppolite’s administration. [Applause,] In the face of such facts; in the face of the fact that Haiti still lives, after being boycotted by all the Christian world; in the face of the fact of her known progress within the last twenty years in the face of the fact that she has attached herself to the car of the world’s civilization, I will not, I cannot believe that her star is to go out in darkness, but I will rather believe that whatever may happen of peace or war Haiti will remain in the firmament of nations, and, like the star of the north, will shine on and shine on forever.

What might happen if schools also taught history from the perspective of the Arawaks? How would our views of Columbus Day change? My exploration into world fairs and expositions has challenged everything I thought I knew about history. The abridged narratives that were selected for me  in college and high school were mere half-truths, fluffy tales of great white knights, and stories of the good cowboy versus the bad Indian. By digging deeper, I learned that history is a collective effort, that involves more than just a “Top Ten List,” of people and places and things. More than just a simple tale of a Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. Douglass teaches us in “Lecture on Haiti,” that every person, every group and culture, had a role in shaping the globe.

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Creole lessons empower the Haitian diaspora in the small Two Moon Art and House Cafe in Brooklyn by the founder of the Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York, Wynnie …

via Creole, Haiti’s Mother Tongue, Brings People Back to Their Roots.

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The following blog post  was submitted by Mr. Ashley Toussaint: www.brothertoussaint.wordpress.com



“Identity Crisis” is an excerpt from a book that I am currently writing. It’s a coming of age story about a Haitian American boy named Johnny Baptiste who grows up in Miami, Florida. The book addresses the common struggles that inner city youth face, such as poverty, crime, peer pressure, school life and identity. “Identity Crisis” exposes the depth of how some Haitian Americans struggle to publicly acknowledge and embrace their Haitian heritage. 

Therefore, as Johnny continues to deny his own heritage, he continues to buy into an idea that he is inferior. Our identity is what makes us unique and authentic. Unfortunately, the stigma of being Haitian will not allow Johnny to embrace who he truly is.
Excerpt from the upcoming book authored by Ashley Toussaint:

“It was a sad sight, but not surprising, at least not to most of the students in the class (95% of the class was Haitian). Ms. Gomez however, was flabbergasted. She could not believe it. She was so excited and eager to share a piece of literature with them, especially sense it was written in their language. But she was sadly mistaken. It was the exact opposite of what she had expected. Instead of excitement, there was lethargy in the room. Instead of pride, there was embarrassment. The looks on their faces and the silence of the classroom infuriated her. And suddenly, the petite soft-spoken Filipino woman ripped them all a “new one”.

“Why don’t you want to read in Creole?!” Why are you ashamed of your culture?!” No one answered. “You should be proud of your heritage, you should be proud of where you are from!” she exclaimed in her Filipino accent. How embarrassing. There stood a 4 foot 6 inch nun from the Philippines teaching a group of black, Haitian-American children about being proud of their race, their heritage and their history. Her words were so precise and simple, yet heavy and sharp. They cut right through Johnny’s heart.

She continued to lecture them about how she had come to America, but was not ashamed of where she was from. By the time she was done with them, they were all humiliated, but for the right reason. “Now who wants to read the third page?” Just about every hand went up. They were strong, proud, black hands of young Haitian-American children, who had never felt like they had a reason to truly be proud. And though Johnny struggled to read his mother’s language, it didn’t bother him. If anything, it was the most beautiful struggle he could ever endure.”

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This blog entry was submitted by artist Gelan Lambert, an artist Haitian descent, versatile in all art disciplines who has been blessed to have graced the stage with legends.  Learn more about Gelan at http://www.facebook.com/GelanLambertJr


haitiusaCornbread & Cremasse!

What a fantastic name for a blog! A homage to two great cultures birthed through Mother Africa!

When I’m homesick for Haitian cuisine, one of the things you’ll find me doing is combing the streets of NYC for Lambi, an aromatic concoction of stewed Creole tomato sauce and conch perched on a bed of pillowy steamed rice. Unabashedly, its my foot stomping Hallelujah go to meal of the day. When its done right, expect a savory festival in your mouth and to be left in a state of culinary euphoria. Legend says that it also has amorous properties; however, that’s another story for another time! Now back to the subject at hand!

After doing some research on cornbread, I discovered that Native Americans created the first
prototype from corn meal. Corn, originally known as maize was the foundation for a plethora of nutritious corn based foods such as corn syrup, corn pudding and succotash, a mixture of beans and corn meal. Subsequently cornbread became an integral part of African American cuisine incorporating various parts of animal scraps, leftovers and root vegetables eventually known as ‘Soul Food’. Symbolic in nature, there is also a direct correlation between traditional African food and Soul Food which speaks to ancestral memory passed down from one generation to the next. On the other hand, Cremasse, is a Haitian beverage that consists of Barbancourt rum, coconut, carnation milk and spices. Usually its imbibed on special occasions and celebrations. In a recent conversation with my mother, I found out that she made Cremasse for her very own wedding! Who knew? My first experience with this special libation was several years ago. I can recall vividly when it touched my palette it reminded me of candy with a strong hint of vanilla ice cream, coconut icy and alcohol. It went down smooth and warmed my entire being. When it ‘Hits’ you, be prepared to R E A L LY feel it!.
I generally don’t take alcohol, but with Cremasse, I always make an exception. LOL!

One of the wondrous things about the digital age is that we can literally immerse ourselves in several cultures at one time, either as a voyeur, an inquiring scholar or student. Technology has made it possible for us to share our thoughts on a variety of different subjects that can be associated with history, art, food or trivia. As an American born Haitian, the journey of investigating my heritage and the constant desire to know more has been my personal mission since my teenage years. This quest has been daunting at times, and even downright frustrating, however the revelations have enlightened and transformed my life beyond words.

Metaphorically, my life in America with my family’s history in Haiti represent my own personal Cornbread and Cremasse. Its poignantly revealed in our collective spirituality, and the way we express ourselves individually and communally as we eat and drink. Each tasty mouthwatering morsel has its own profound story and legacy that speaks to our struggles, triumphs and undeniable beauty and creativity. As a recipient of this great gift, I am more than grateful for the sacrifice of the ancestors, for I always have a personal invitation to remember where I come from through each magnificent cultural meal.


Thank You Cornbread & Cremasse for creating this wonderful space.

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(The following blog post was submitted by Kassandra Khalil, Program Director, Haiti Cultural Exchange:  http://haiticulturalx.org/)



My experience of Haitian culture begins with my grandmother’s hands. Soft like calf leather with strong, deep palm lines and a missing knuckle on her left hand – an accident from her days as a seamstress and a reminder of a hard life. I’ve watched those hands brush my sister’s hair and scrape the bottom of the rice pot with that same cast and pull motion. And there is a clear image in my mind of those hands gathering a long skirt with a quick grab and loud “Humph!” in distaste at my uncle’s off-color humor.


The motions of Ma Laborde’s hands, the stories they tell, and the food it taught me to cook amount to so much of what I consider my identity as a Haitian woman. My grandmother connects me to a country with a deep history of revolution, of art, and nature – all things that resonate with me regardless of my Haitian background. What inspired me to focus on Haitian culture was those passive moments – gestures and often minor acts that I found to be so distinctly Haitian and Caribbean.


For the past few years, I have been working as the Program Coordinator at Haiti Cultural Exchange, an organization that I feel represents that nuance. Together with Régine Roumain, our community of brilliant supporters, interns, committee members and talented artists, Haiti Cultural Exchange has been able to present programs on art and culture from Haitian and the Diaspora that incite discussion, build community, and acknowledge how wide and diverse Haitian culture really is. Laying into these ideas, HCX strives to give Haiti-identifying artists a space to express their link to their country while sharing their personal creativity and individuality as an artist.


As part of this mission, HCX is presenting a six-week festival called Selebrasyon! Placing artists and community in the forefront, Selebrasyon! aims to reinforce intersections inside the Haitian community and will express the multidimensional nature of Haitian Diaspora culture.


Taking place in venues all over the city, Selebrasyon! will highlight some of the best new talents and known names in Haitian culture today. These include our Haitian Flag Day Selebrasyon! on May 18th featuring the traditional “rèlkè” of Jocelyn Dorisme beside the neo-blues sounds of Nadïne LaFond as well as  LirikAyiti: Rasin/Chimen on June 8th featuring the hip-hop influenced rhymes of Lenelle Moïse  and the high rhythms of Patrick Sylvain’s  Kreyòl verse.


From May 18 to June 30, this city will come to life with over 20 Haitian cultural events that will unite the community and bring generations together to remember, learn, and connect around Haitian culture. This is YOUR festival, I hope to see you there.


Check out the official Selebrasyon! Calendar here and see how you can support our ongoing Indiegogo campaign. Special perks  include tickets to Monday Nightcap & Music with Melanie J-B Charles on April 21st , hand-painted tote bags, and original artwork.

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Profile picture for Edson Jean

(Edson Jean was born in West Palm Beach Florida and raised in Delray Beach, Florida. Upon graduating High school, he moved to Miami to study theatre at New World School of the Arts, where he received his Bachelors in Fine Arts degree. Edson went on to write, direct and star in The Adventures of Edson Jean (2012), which scored an ABFF/HBO official selection.) – IMDb Mini Biography

1.  Where and in what environment you were born and raised?
I was born in West palm Beach Florida but raised in the suburban town of Delray Beach. In Delray, there is a big population of Haitians/Haitian Americans that settled further north from Miami. As most young Haitian Americans can agree, my introduction to the Haitian culture was strongly influenced by religion and church. Some Sundays we would go up to three times a day! and up to 5 times a week. Most of the time we were forced to attend. I was one of four children 1 girl and 3 boys, and we thought one time a week on Sunday was plenty. Aside from the blags(Haitian folklore) in the evenings from my mother or grandma, my Haitian experience came from the church.
My adolescent rebellion from going to the church so often was influenced by friends in the neighborhood. Some of Haitian decent and the others African American, would play football in a field adjacent to my home every Sunday after church. I would escape to the field with my brothers and play football with the intention of missing the next service. This invited many embarrassing moments of my mother coming out and gathering her boys in the middle of playing.
2.  How you developed an interest in film making? 
I’ve always been in love with story telling and the power that stories can have over you or grant you. All the credit goes to my mother. She is the best story teller I know! She always told us blags… and boy would she get into it.  Some would make me laugh till I had to beg my mom to let me get some air, and others would scare me to the point of literally running away. Bouki and Malis are the most memorable characters from these stories. My moms compelling talent created my itch for acting, and acting has lead me full circle to telling stories as a writer and director.
3.  Can you give us an overview of the creation, process and journey of the film — and why you thought it was important to include the Haitian angle? You are a main character — is it based on a true story?
Funny you ask. Yes, this is a true story, but it is fabricated for the purpose of crafting the arch of the characters. Adding the Haitian angle is crucial, it’s a part of me. The creation process was very instinctual for me. It was originally a one person staged show in which I played all the characters for my senior thesis during theatre training. (New World School of the Arts-Miami) After performing it, I thought: .”I want to film this.” With no prior film experience before then… and I just did it. Not alone of course, all the actors in the film are my friends and trained at New World School of the Arts with me as well. That, and a small grant from Miami’s Borscht Corp. kicked it all off.
4. Where can your film be viewed, and how can the public can help make it a success?
I’d say check the local listing. The times change frequently, so its best to check your T.V./On Demand guides. It is available on HBO GO/Xfinity/DirectTV and others. (See the links below.) For me, the film is already a success. National airtime is more then I was ever expecting to come from this. I am big on connecting with others though in fact, I encourage it. I love hearing feedback, opinions or just saying hi to people that have seen the film and want to say a few things to the director. Don’t be shy, I’ll reply. Like the facebook page, rate the imdb or email thoughts to Get@edsonjean.com. Let’s continue to tell Haitian and Haitian American stories!

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The following post was submitted by MrJeffDess, author of the upcoming book, Brief Notes of Haitian Son, scheduled to be released May 2013.  MrJeffDess aka Jeffrey Dessources is a writer, professor, public speaker and emcee of Haitian descent who hails from the Big Apple of New York City.

Leve Cecilia

Haitian music was always being played in our apartment.  One record stood out. Not necessarily because of heart wrenching lyrics or because of emotionally captivating vocals. Jean Claude Eugene was no Haitian household name. Without disrespecting the man, I thought he was rather generic. I’m certain there are multiple Jean Claude’s living in small apartments with their wives and families. There’s a Jean Claude in Miami rocking a four pocket guayabera shirt while playing dominoes. Jean Claude of New York is driving a cab. The Jean Claude in Boston sent all 3 of his kids to college. This particular Jean Claude recorded a song called “Leve Cecilia.[1]

More importantly Jean Claude made a video for his hit song.

“Leve Cecilia” was a pioneer. It was one of the first Haitian videos I’d ever seen. It was special because it had the feel of a real video. Like the ones on Video Music Box. It wasn’t some single shot of a vocalist on a beach. There was a plot. The camera work was not high tech by any means but it still felt cool.

I watched as Cecilia slept through it all. Waking up was too much. Jean Claude stood above her bed. He was begging and pleading yet she slept. Some musicians popped up and played their horns into her ear. She just needed to rest her eyes. Cecilia worked at factory. There was a family that needed to be taken off.

Jean Claude sang with sweet sorrow.

“Ou t’e manmam. Ou t’e papam.[2]

If Cecilia played the role of both his mom and dad then the fatigue was more than justified. It was only right.

This video was incredibly memorable. We bared witness to her walking the streets of Brooklyn. She took the subway. Cecilia even sewed at work. It was crazy to see her up and awake at work.

I waited for Cecilia to wake up. There was a feeling that she wouldn’t. Then as the conclusion approached guess who awoke? Cecilia greeted her family. She looked to be happy.

At times the song itself slipped my memory. Then I pictured the video. I watched it over and over; each time waiting for Cecilia to wake up.

[1] Translates into Get Up Cecilia

[2] You were my mother. You were my father.

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As I began to wrap up flag football practice with my kids last Thursday afternoon, I received the most random text message from my wife:

“down to go to a wyclef concert tonight?”

“hells yeah,”  I replied.

However, my blackberry battery was too low to send the reply.  Needless to say, my end-of-practice speech was super short and sweet. Not inspiring at all.

I needed to get to a working phone so that I could talk to my wife. It did not cross my mind to ask my kids, instead, I rushed them back to the school (safely of course) and dashed to my classroom to charge my phone.

“I’m down baby, I’ll be home by 7 ,” I replied back, nearly 20 minutes later.

I hoped that I was not too late.The concert was at City Winery in Tribeca. Consequently, I would have to travel all the way Uptown and back (I work in Brooklyn, but live in Harlem-kind of). It’s going to be a rough Friday morning, I thought to myself, but tonight, we are young.

I don’t know how we got the hook-up, but we had the best seats in the house. We were literally sitting inches away from the stage.

I have been a fan of the Fugees since 1994, “Hey Mona Lisa, can I get a date on Friday…?” We would listen to Fugee La for hours. My neighbor Lory had the disc single (remember those). We used to listen to the clean version, explicit version, remix and instrumental, all day, “We used to be number ten, now we comin’ in at one…” while sitting in her living room playing Sonic the Hedgehog and Mortal Kombat (finish him) on her little brother’s Sega Genesis.

When I got my first job at Bennigan’s in 1997, I used to kill the Karnival album. It was about a 20 minute bike ride from my house to work. I actually used to have a walkman (casette player). I’d blast those last two Kompa tracks, while riding my bike with no hands down 36th street (back home in Miami).

That was almost 20 years ago. Wow!

Now I’m living in New York City and finally getting a chance to see him perform live for the first time. I had always heard about how talented Clef was and how great his performances were. But nothing compares to seeing it with your own eyes.

The Score and The Karnival are two of my favorite albums. However, the reason why I will always be a Wyclef fan is because he played a huge role in helping me to embrace Haitian heritage and to be okay with being Haitian, in a time when being Haitian was not en vogue or cool. Before the earthquake, before the Clintons and before Sean Penn, people made fun of Haitians. They made fun of our parents, our language and our culture.

We were not respected, but Clef transcended all that by letting the whole planet know that he was Haitian and number 1 on the music charts. He made songs in Kreyol; my mother’s language. I used to be embarrassed to admit that I understood it. Now I am proud that I can actually speak it. He draped the Haitian Flag over his shoulders as the Fugees received Best Rap Album of the Year at the MTV Music Awards and every Haitian kid understood what that meant. We were all proud of that moment and the whole world saw it with us.

Wyclef may not be perfect in his private life, business deals or political affairs, but as an entertainer and visionary, he can never be touched .

“Thanks for the performance last night Clef. It was awesome! And thanks for the tickets bae.”

I will never forget the night I told Wyclef it was only 9:30 p.m. when it was actually 10:45 p.m., so he would continue performing, and when his band exited the stage, I was the one who incited the encore, and they came back to play one more time.

***Reprinted with permission from: http://brothertoussaint.wordpress.com/

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There are certain songs that as soon as I hear them, I am transported back to my childhood.

If I had to create a soundtrack for my life the musical influences would run the gamut. There would be Pop ( Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince), Rock(Bon Jovi, Springsteen, Aerosmith) , Hip-Hop (A Tribe Called Quest, De la Soul, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy), classical( Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin), and at the core Haitian music ( Tabou Combo, Skah Sha, Kassav, to name a few).

When I think of Haitian music, so many memories come flooding into my head. I think about the parties that I attended with my parents. I was just happy to be there because I got to stay up late and run around the hall with my cousins. We would sit and giggle at the grown-ups dancing to songs that seemed to last forever. An extra bonus would be if you got to see some grinding going on. The songs went on for what seemed like forever. You’d hear the horns, synthesizer, drums, and found yourself rocking to the beat. Once in awhile the dreaded might happen. An uncle, older male family friend , or worse someone YOUR age would ask you to dance. Your mom would cut you the evil eye and now you had no choice. You begrudgingly went, but spent the entire dance doing a side to side two step and swinging your arms side to side while all the while in a pair of uncomfortable shoes with lace socks.

When this song played, everyone was on the dance floor.

Then there are certain songs that remind me of my Dad specifically. My Dad would have friends over to play dominoes and would have “Tabou Combo” or “Kassav” playing in the background. The music would only be interrupted by the sounds of someone slamming down the winning game piece. I was often their gopher and again I didn’t mind because I got to stay up late once again.

This music is special to me, it defines a part of who I am. My parents aren’t taking me to parties anymore so the music nowadays just serves to transport me back to when I was young.

I still enjoy the music but if you asked me to rattle off the names of some current musicians, I’d be stuck at Wyclef. That’s a shame. I should do better. I will do better. I am going to need your help though. You have to promise to start thinking about your life and what songs/music would represent the various stages of your life. Once you’re done, I would love to hear about it.

Well, l have a start on this life soundtrack of mine. I thank my parents for helping it to be an eclectic mix.

Here’s your assignment for the week: Think about what music defines you? If you had to create a life soundtrack, what would it sound like? I look forward to hearing from you.

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