Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are.
If every moment is sacred, and If you are amazed and in awe most of the time when you find yourself breathing and not crazy, then you are in a state of constant thankfulness, worship and humility.
I was at the Smithsonian for twenty years, and I'm still at the Smithsonian as a curator emeritus, and I still plan to figure out what that means for me at this point in my life.
The first job I had with the Smithsonian was as a field researcher among African American communities in Southwest Louisiana and Arkansas for the festival.
When the culture is strong, you've got this consistency where black people can grow up in these places with this voice just resonating about our special-ness in the universe. And I always say you're in trouble if you get too far away from that core that grounds you.
The voice I have now, I got the first time I sang in a movement meeting, after I got out of jail... and I'd never heard it before in my life.
There is nowhere you can go and only be with people who are like you. Give it up.
When I started graduate school I was interested in the culture of the Civil Rights Movement.
I think the Civil Rights Movement changed that trajectory for me. The first thing I did was leave school. I was suspended for my participation in Movement demonstrations in my hometown, December, 1961.
And I used to think that proof that I had religion was whether I knew how to sing all of the songs.
I organized Sweet Honey In The Rock in 1973. The music was sanity and balance.
I just don't think one person has that much to contribute to any subject.
I learned that if you bring black people together, you bring them together with a song. To this day, I don't understand how people think they can bring anybody together without a song.
It makes sense that whatever the topic is, it's more compelling if you can provide the audience with a range of perspectives, and you can cross disciplines. And you don't have to control what people take out of it.
I started graduate school in 1971, I started working at the Smithsonian in the festival in 1972. I went full-time at the Smithsonian in 1974. And I got my doctorate in 1975.
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