Armed with the promise of McDonald’s sausage biscuits and cheese danishes, my older brother and I were bribed to church on dimly-lit Sunday mornings. The ethnic landscape in Ontario, California during the late 80’s was less than colorful, however, it seemed that every African American in Southern California was at our church weekly, dressed in their Sunday best. The sermons were electric. “Praise Jesus'” and “hallelujahs” were belted from the pews to confirm that the audience stood in solidarity with the preacher man. As a pre-teen, I waited patiently to “catch the Holy Ghost” so I too could c-walk down the aisles alongside the salt-and-pepper haired women waving laced handkerchiefs, and the men with their S-curl finger waves. I waited patiently to no avail.
Fast forward some twenty-odd years to January 14, 2015. The geographic location was different but the demographics and the amount of times I overheard someone say “Ooh child. Now you know she ain’t got no business wearing that” was the same. Replace the podium with a mic stand, the choir with a young hip band, and the pastor with Erykah Badu. It was #BlackChurch all over again. I felt as at home as sweet potato pie on Thanksgiving Day. Her performance was magical. “Praise Jesus” adlibs were replaced by “I love you” and “Go ‘head now.” As she took us on a journey through her life’s works, I believe I caught the Holy Ghost on this faithful evening. I was uncontrollably pulled from my chair and danced like fire on a Duraflame log.
The car ride home with my wife was also reminiscent of the drives home from church with my mother as a kid. We recapped the message of the sermon and discussed how we could apply it to our lives. Throughout her performance, Badu spoke about being a real person, a real person with the same bills to pay. She joked about how when she started her career in music, she was young, thin, and enthusiastic. And now, she is old(er), full-figured, and still dope.
I might have fallen more deeply “in like” with Badu that night. It was refreshing to feel that she might be the same amazing person on and offstage. A real person. A regular person. A regular person with a dream. A regular person with a dream that was brave enough to pursue it. I couldn’t help but imagine Badu asking us to “turn to your neighbor and say” something like “God don’t bless no mess” because #BlackChurch. Or maybe “The Lord told me to tell you” something like “Give God 10% off the top” because #BlackChurch loves the offering, and according to Badu, she is giving part of the proceeds of her sales to a fund; her brand new shoe fund. Thank you San Manuel Casino for bringing us Erykah Badu. Thank you Erykah Badu for taking me back, way back, to #BlackChurch.