I took the picture of the Mahalia Jackson statue last week in New Orleans near Congo Square. To tell the truth that first sentence that I just wrote is so full of so much I don’t think I have the words to express what my body is feeling in this moment. To top it off I ran across and watch Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia tonight on Amazon Prime.
I was struck by her gift of music and her deep faith that had her commit to only singing for God. I was struck by this thread that keeps showing up in my life around deep wounds and amazing gifts, maybe that's because its in all of us. I was struck by her friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and also by her commitment to caring for and feeding people.
Not sure where all this will take us but lets see…
Mahalia had a voice that transported you to someplace else, a voice that brought spirit here on earth. There were moment while watching the movie where the actress Danielle Brooks singing A Motherless Child as Mahalia brought me to tears, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to hear Mahalia live. I went to a performing arts school from seventh to twelfth grade and was a vocal music major. I say this just to say that I know what it feels like to be transported by the music coming through you. I use to say it felt like flying. It felt like freedom. So seeing her in this movie took me back. It breathed life into that cold statue of her that I took a picture of last Friday. I breathed life into me.
Mahalia, coming out of the New Orleans in the south, the granddaughter of a slave carried the wounds and scars of that place, of that time. She thought God required perfection and she tried to be that and expected that from some of those closest to her. Sitting in the center of Congo Square on the bricks I could feel the pain of this place. I found my guard go up, it was too much for me to let it in in that moment. Somethings I can let flow through me but not there, not now. It was too much.
One of the reasons that I was so struck by her relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was because they both understood what it meant to walk in deep faith. They understood this about each other. I felt closer to both of them as I heard them talk about when they could hear God and the moments that they couldn’t. In the movie Dr. King said, “I get this feeling God wants something from me and I don’t know if I have the strength to give it.” I feel this at times. I feel this kind of faith that you can only understand when you have experienced hearing the ancestors yell at you when you stood in the middle of a slave pen, or when you receive a call from your dead mother. It felt comforting to know that they had each other.
And last I’ll share that hearing the Danielle Brooks singing His Eye is On the Sparrow I felt like I was sitting in my granny living room (of course on the floor because the furniture was for company) as the song played out of her old console record player and she sang along. Such a sweet memory. My grandmother was also one who's door was always open, who was a cook among cooks, and who always had enough to share.