by Angie Mack Reilly 2020
I feel invisible
Do you feel invisible
We feel invisible
I feel invisible
Do you feel invisible
We feel invisible
Photo also by Angie Mack Reilly
Angie is a lifetime arts advocate and leader with proven and documented success who is looking for benefactors to help her keep launching forward. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the podcasts, television appearances, radio interviews, articles and videos that feature Angie and her work:
- World Music Foundation
- Parrot TV (New York)
- TMJ4 Milwaukee
- Grafton Chamber of Commerce
- Riverwest Radio
- Milwaukee Rep
- Paramount Records: The Key to Understanding Black History and the Foundation of American Music
- Sessions with Sandy
- Grave Stories with TR Rongstad
- Music Interview with Z.M. Wise
- Delta Download Mississippi Blog
- Livia Peterson Feature Story
- Creativity Portal
- Women as Visionaries
- Amerika’s Addiction
Follow Ozaukee Talent on Facebook to see samples of work
Follow Ozaukee Talent on Instagram to see samples of work
Pandemic Poem: No Fear
Photo and Poem by Angie Mack Reilly*
There is no fear
when you know that
the motive in your heart
There is no fear when
you know that your reasons
Yes. Mistakes happen.
Imperfection is human.
There is misunderstanding.
and generations of biases
and egos and not knowing
and the break down
and the shake down
and it all comes tumbling down
*grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.. intentional
The Music of Milwaukee Radio Host Ben Merens
by Angie Mack Reilly 3.9.20
New Release! Listen to “Babylon” by Ben Merens on Hot Seat Records
A Master of Improv
Have you ever seen the show, “Who’s Line is it Anyway?”
It’s an improvisational comedy television show. One feature is that the actors are asked to make up comedic lyrics and a melody on the spot while a band plays music that they’ve never heard before. NOT an easy task!
I have always marveled at the show’s actors’ ability to do this. Decades of teaching music and drama has taught me that improvisation requires a heightened sensitivity and a rapid mind. Improvisation is done without any preparation. It requires having a wealth of knowledge to pull from as well as a bravado of spirit.
This is why I like to listen to jazz. In my opinion, jazz is one of the most difficult and advanced musical art foms to master. Why? Because of the improvisation. Likewise, stand-up comedy. It requires a high skill level of improvisation that is extremely difficult.
Like I was saying. Very few people have this high level of skill that entails composing music, creating lyrics and creating a melody on the spot.
Ben Merens has this skill.
Having been in journalism for over 30 years, Ben is somewhat of a celebrity in the Milwaukee area. Most people know him as the longtime radio host for Wisconsin Public Radio’s At Issue With Ben Merens on the Ideas Network.
As a live radio host, Ben has had to improvise on every program. He has literally spoken on thousands of shows without a full script. Again, not many people can do this.
I find it fascinating that Ben has taken this strongly exercised skill of improvisation and has applied it to music.
Ben came over to record some music recently and met my son Joshua for the first time. Within minutes of meeting Joshua, Ben created a comedic song complete with lyrics, melody and music. The song played on the ironic fact that Joshua is a baker who cannot eat gluten. Check it out.
“Yes. God must have a sense of humor you see. When a baker cannot eat gluten. I think that’s God’s stand-up comedy.” – Ben Merens
Ben explained to me that all of his experience in radio has taught him amazing focus and mindfulness. He is a keen listener which can be a rare commodity in today’s self-centered and busy world. In fact, Ben has written a book called People Are Dying to Be Heard. He is an experienced keynote speaker on the topic of communication. He conducts workshops that help people and organizations find their unique story or voice. His ability to understand people also fuels his ability to create on-the-spot songs.
“And the only constant in life is change. And we all must be willing to rearrange” – Ben Merens lyric from One Hundred Voices
People who have the ability to improvise are highly adaptable. They quickly adjust. They are keenly sensitive. Aware. Flexible toward change. Adaptability knows how to feed an audience while feeding off of the audience. Because no two audiences are the same, you will find that no two versions of Ben’s songs are the same. He adjusts the song to fit the environment.
Forget buying mood lighting at a party. Hire Ben to come and entertain your guests in a way that they won’t ever forget! I’m serious! Hire him to speak or sing at your place of worship, school, workplace or event. Ben has a long track record of connecting with audiences of all demographics.
The Background and the Vision
Ben and I recently started connecting after a music event that we both attended in Cedarburg. The more I have gotten to know him, the more I have appreciated what a gem of a human being he is. Ben loves people. Pure and simple. And he uses his talents to help others in a variety of creative ways. We have a similiar intuitive, improvisational and heartfelt manner in which we share our talents with others. We both understand adaptability or, as I like to call it, fluidity. Ben recently invited me talk with him about creativity on his Riverwest Radio show called Just Talking. You can listen to the link below.
Because of how creatively compatible we are, I thought that it would be great to work on a creative project with Ben. Since we both love networking, I thought that we should invite others who want to join us. It’s a bit improvisational. The musicians and singers will have to be adaptable. But we want to communicate a message as a performance public art piece. Not perfect. But heartfelt. Because a lot of people need a glimmer of light right now. Please join us.
100 Voices: Public Performance Art
Event has been cancelled and will hopefully be rescheduled due to Covid-19 crisis
A Place of Inspiration: Harlem
Written by Angela Mack (c) 2004
The time period between 1918 and 1929 contained an explosion of African American immigration, literary and artistic expression in Harlem, NY.
The Harlem Renaissance, also known as “The Negro Movement” was the time period between 1918 and 1929 in which there was an explosion of African American immigration, literary and artistic expression in Harlem. As Langston Hughes wrote in his manifesto for the Harlem Renaissance, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”, it was a time of “present vogue in things Negro”.
During this time, African Americans were excelling in blues, jazz, theatre, clubs, musicals, intellectual dialogue, literary works, visual arts and an overall sense of unity and community. Duke Ellington, Louise Armstrong, and Billie Holiday are famous names associated with the music of that era. A new pride swelled in the hearts of many African Americans and Aaron Douglas was an artist who portrayed the beauty of being black through his African-inspired themes. Zora Neale Hurston, a friend of Langston Hughes, was a famous female writer of the day who flaunted her unique fashions as well as her literary works such as the play, “Color Struck” and the novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. There were many more African American artists of all types as well as intellectual thinkers who were caught in the momentum of the new black culture.
Why did the Harlem Renaissance occur? First, during World War I, many African Americans moved north with the hopes of finding jobs and escaping inequality in the south. Harlem was a newly developed city that desperately needed tenants in its new townhouses and apartments. Eager to occupy the new buildings, landlords rented to blacks. By 1914, Harlem was considered a “black city”. This move north is also known as being the “Great Migration”. With this great amount of blacks in one place including many from the West Indies and other countries, it was a prime location to hold discussions. Many of these discussions led toward greater artistic expression and literary works.
Magazines from era added fuel to the movement. The well known W.E.B. Dubois was the editor of the NAACP’s magazine, The Crisis. Charles Johnson was the editor of the Urban League’s magazine, Opportunity. There was also the socialist magazine called The Messenger. The NAACP, the Black YMCA, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, and the Urban League Office were all located in Harlem which helped unify the interests of the African Americans who longed for an ending of segregation and a redefining of what being black meant. This led to the popular thought of nationalism. Marcus Garvey, through the United Negro Improvement Association, preached a message of racial redemption. He also cast a vision for an independent black Africa and provided “The Black Star Line” to transport people.
The effects that the Harlem Renaissance had upon the African American culture were numerous. It taught future African American generations that there is power in black unity and pride. It lifted their self image as a race and showed America that blacks are beautiful and very capable of expressing themselves intellectually and emotionally through the arts and literature. Blacks had a newer prominence in American culture and a strong civil rights presence which aided in latter 50’s and 60’s civil rights movement. It was foundational in laying the groundwork for African American expression and thought in America. The Harlem Renaissance gave America as a whole many great artists of all types to learn from. In addition, the jazz erected from the era has become a vital part in American musical history and lifestyles. Many whites took interest in the art produced by their black “neighbors”.
The Harlem Renaissance has had a direct impact on me. My home of Grafton which is just north of Milwaukee, WI recorded at least 1/ 4 of the blues music in this time period of the Harlem Renaissance. Charles Patton began with recording over 28 of his songs just down the road from me in the Old Chair Factory building by the Milwaukee River. “Son House”, Ida Cox, Skip James, Louise Johnson, and many more rode the train north to record in the New York Recording Laboratories subsidiary, Paramount Records. These “race records” are extremely valuable and I have been in contact with various officials in Grafton and around the around the world over bringing this part of Grafton’s history alive. I am working on developing a web site toward its resurrection and hope to get a non-profit organization set up to raise funds for a permanent exhibit and yearly blues festival in Grafton in honor of its Delta Blues artists and Paramount Records.
The Harlem Renaissance embraced the talents of male and female artists alike who were primarily from the working class (although many were in Harlem to earn their education). It taught us what can cause inspiration in a community and among a people: unity, freedom of expression, openness to discussion, the merging of the arts with social issues of the day and intellectual thought. The Harlem Renaissance was a time of great momentum and hope. I hope that the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance comes to life in my home village, Grafton, WI.
A Harlem Renaissance Poet
Harlem Renaissance writer, Langston Hughes
“The Weary Blues” From the Eyes of a Musician
(c) Angela K. Mack 2/05
Langston Hughes is a fascinating African American writer who has written many poetry books such as The Weary Blues, Fire Clothes to the Jew, Shakespeare in Harlem, Montage of a Dream Deferred, and Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz. His autobiography is titled, The Big Sea. He has also written children’s books, musicals, and the Manifesto for the Harlem Renaissance titled, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” and so much more!
Many of his poems contain jazz and blues rhythms. Langston Hughes got swallowed up in the jazz scene in Harlem during its Renaissance and his passion came out in many of his poems. His poem, “The Weary Blues” is a great example of such a poem. Yet other than the musical fingerprints found in this poem, incredible symbolism involving what was going on historically during the Harlem Renaissance can be found as well.
Contrary to what the title suggests, this song is not solely set up to a blues rhythm. It is primarily structured around jazz rhythms. These rhythms combined with the words make for fascinating interpretation.
First of all, “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes is dripping with clever words of onomatopoeia. Not only do many of the words sound like their meanings, but they sound identical to jazz specifically. The type of jazz that is expressed in this poem through onomatopoeia and specific imagery is the sort of jazz that one would listen to in a club late at night close to “bar time”. It’s that “droning drowsy syncopated” blues played by the “Negro” “by the pale dull pallor of one bulb light” that is described in his poem. When I read this poem, I envision a dimly lit smoke-filled room with a few people left to linger over their final drinks.
The opening line, “droning a drowsy syncopated tune” suggests a song that has a depressing tone and is repetitive”. As I read it out loud, I hear the words “droning” “drowsy” and “tune” as jazz chords that are held for a longer duration than the rapid word “syncopated”. The words “rocking back and forth to a mellow croon” give the poem an almost melancholy or whining feel. It is here that the rhythm of the jazz tune is established. The repetitive phrase, “He did a lazy sway” ends the first musical phrase and makes for a nice hook. It is here that the reader of the poem or listener of the jazz tune becomes engaged.
“To the tune o’ those Weary Blues” is the beginning of the musical refrain. This refrain ends with “Coming from a black man’s soul. O Blues!” The exclamation point suggests that the music in this poem is emphasized here. This chosen punctuation on “O Blues!” “Sweet Blues!” and then “Oh Blues!” again indicate a slight musical climax or place in which the song is lifted out of its depressed state. This adoration and celebration of the blues is exemplified as being the source of hope. These phrases with exclamations are louder than the rest. They are accented musically.
I love how Hughes uses words of onomatopoeia in the refrain that sound musical. Words such as “moan”, “swaying”, “rickety”, and “raggy” explain the diversity that exists in jazz. Some instruments play repetitively while others improvise in syncopation. In other words, some instruments “sway” and “moan” as if depressed. Yet, in jazz, there is always that overcoming joy that exists as notes hop and dance against the laws of musical gravity. This defiance of gravity is visually expressed in the rickety stool which I imagine lifting off of the ground slightly with each sway.
This dichotomy in jazz, I believe, can be taken as being symbolic for the time in which this poem was written. Langston Hughes once wrote about the Harlem Renaissance, “It was the period when the Negro was in vogue.” During World War I, many African Americans moved north with the hopes of finding jobs and escaping inequality in the south. Harlem was a newly developed city that desperately needed tenants in its new townhouses and apartments. Eager to occupy the new buildings, landlords rented to blacks. By 1914, Harlem was considered a “black city”. This move north is also known as being the “Great Migration”.
Harlem, in its day, was symbolically a series of syncopated rhythms that overcame and defied the moaning gravity of suppression. During this time, African Americans were excelling in blues, jazz, theatre, clubs, musicals, intellectual dialogue, literary works, visual arts and an overall sense of unity and community. There was a NAACP office in Harlem as well as the Universal Negro Improvement Association, and the Urban League office. The Harlem Renaissance was a time of extreme momentum much like the music of Duke Ellington who was a famous pianist during the era. Also carrying much momentum in this time period were the railroads which were popular and aided in expansion overall in America. The jazz loved by all at that time was as fast sounding as a train! Likewise, the Harlem Renaissance was a fast explosion of creativity that burst out of many depressing years of segregation and inequality for the blacks.
This syncopation of the Harlem Renaissance was sandwiched in between 1919 in which the race riots of Chicago contributed to 76 African Americans being lynched and 1929 when the stock market crashed. The Harlem Renaissance was an amazing and legendary time in history. It was definitely something to shout about with an exclamation point! It appeared to be a type of new beginning in the lives of African Americans.
“The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes refers to new beginnings as the jazz pianist sings, “I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’ And put ma troubles on the shelf.” Again, there is a sense of hope. The word “shelf” most likely ends on the musical tonic denoting a feeling of finality and a sense of “home”.
Harlem was a home to Langston Hughes. He moved there in 1921 after graduation and after spending time with his father in Mexico who was non-existent for most of young Langston’s life. Originally, he went there to attend Columbia University to study mining engineering. His lawyer father urged him to go to school for that and he also provided the money to do so. However, Langston dropped out after two semesters. It wasn’t his passion. The music, dance, and literary discussions of Harlem had captivated his interests.
Langston Hughes traveled a lot throughout his lifetime. However, he always managed to return to Harlem. At age 21, he joined a crew ship that sailed for Africa and also landed in Holland, Spain, Italy, and France. Hughes also traveled to Haiti and the Soviet Union in his lifetime. But Harlem was his home. He knew it so well that he wrote the Manifesto for the Renaissance titled, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”.
“The Weary Blues” takes a turn as did the Harlem Renaissance. Eventually, the Great Depression, the invasion and commercialism of whites in the area, poverty, gang violence, and more inequality came crashing down on the burst of creativity. The poem reads, “Thump, thump, thump went his foot on the floor.” Musically, these thumps are a series of notes that could be played in rhythmic unison among the instrumentalists. They are simple and quick. They break the momentum of the poem and transition it back into a depressed state. The singer continues in a typical I, IV, V chord blues pattern, “I got the Weary Blues And I can’t be satisfied. Got the Weary Blues And can’t be satisfied— I ain’t happy no mo’ And I wish that I had died.” Ah yes, the droning, drowsy, swaying and moaning continues. The song returns to the familiar and ends with “While the Weary Blues echoed through his head. He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.” The song ends on the tonic of its scale.
Finally, after studying and analyzing the life and works of Langston Hughes, I see the “The Weary Blues” as being intensely symbolic. In it, Hughes expresses well the dichotomies in jazz by using carefully crafted and opposing onomatopoeia. These poles explain, ultimately, the plight of the African-American artist. They also explain the intensity, hope, and community that he so loved about Harlem music and nightlife. This poem has been interpreted on a literal and musical level. I have also attempted to interpret this poem from the eyes of African Americans as well as from the eyes of Langston Hughes.
However, being one of the greatest writers ever, he is able to explain in a few words what I have been attempting to say all along,
“But jazz to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America; the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul–the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile”.
– from “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” written by Langston Hughes (1926)
Syncopation and improvisation are the two main aspects of jazz. I now understand why Langston Hughes insisted on combining syncopation and words of onomatopoeia in “The Weary Blues” as well as many other poems. Jazz is overcoming music. It is one of the most advanced forms of music. It defies gravity and is full of joy. It contains elements of surprise and momentum in the midst of familiar and repetitive beats. Perhaps, in my own words, this is his subtle message in combining jazz with his poetry:
EVEN WHEN THINGS DO NOT CHANGE, IMPROVISE ANYHOW! CREATE SOMETHING UNIQUE. PLAY YOUR OWN TUNE PROUDLY! RISE ABOVE THE GRAVITY OF DEPRESSING AND REPETITIVE CIRCUMSTANCES AND OVERCOME!
The Weary Blues
by Langston Hughes
Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway . . .
He did a lazy sway . . .
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
Coming from a black man’s soul.
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan–
“Ain’t got nobody in all this world,
Ain’t got nobody but ma self.
I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’
And put ma troubles on the shelf.”
Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more–
“I got the Weary Blues
And I can’t be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can’t be satisfied–
I ain’t happy no mo’
And I wish that I had died.”
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.
Feather, Leonard. “Weary Blues Langston Hughes”. Audio recordings of poems with music.
Hughes, Langston. “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”. (1926). The Nation.
Hughes, Langston “Langston Hughes 1902-1967.” (with poems written by Langston Hughes). The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. (2004). 1288-1338.
National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar of Kenyon College. (1998)
Nichols, K. Pittsburg State University. “Jazz age culture”. (2003).
PBS. “Langston Hughes: A Biography.” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/americancollection/cora/ei_hughesbiography.htm
Photos taken from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/446630488016755716/?lp=true
Who are the Innocent?
by Angie Mack Reilly (c) 2020
Who are the innocent?
Yes. The unborn are innocent.
And the sexually abused
are also innocent.
Those wrongly stolen from are innocent.
Those who are falsely accused are innocent.
Animals are innocent.
Our environment is innocent.
Those who are sick
and refused care
The frail can be innocent.
The racially targeted are innocent.
Justice for all?
Is there justice for the innocent?
How can one group of innocent
be more important than another
group of innocent?
Those who did not commit a crime
Who is defending the innocent?
Perhaps your party and my party
are defending different kinds of innocence?
I don’t see society defending the innocent
like it once did.
I see people denying the innocence
and refusing to look at it altogether.
Even destroying innocence.
Denying medical assistance to kids.
Photo taken by Angie Mack Reilly at a hate rally in West Allis
The Girl with the Colorful Mind
(c) 2004 Anglea K. Mack
Photo by Angie Mack Reilly
Joy was playing in the corner. She loved the fresh smell of wood in the woodworking station in Mrs. Garphy’s kindergarten room. She especially enjoyed that particular spot because it was quiet. Other than the music corner, it was the only place in the room that made any sense to her. The corner enabled her to think, to feel, and to be her own person. The other children usually preferred the train station, the housekeeping station, and the painting station which left the woodworking station to be a place of solitude. It was a place where she could explore with her hands and her mind as she whistled like her father.
“Joy, it’s time to clean up and come over to the art table. We are going to work on our Christmas crafts”, said plump Mrs. Garphy in her soft “teacher” voice. “I hate the art table,” thought Joy as she smelled each piece of smooth wood before dropping it into the yellow bin. She heard a lot of noise in the room. As she looked behind her, the other children were cleaning their stations as well. Marcie was cleaning up the housekeeping station. No, she was actually bossing the other children to clean up for her. “Look at Marcie,” murmured Joy. “She thinks she is so great because she has long shiny blond hair. She always has to be the mom.”
Joy hated the housekeeping station. She hated being bossed by Marcie. Joy played in there once, but never again after being told by Marcie that she had to be the “baby brother” while the other children laughed. Joy was the only girl in the room who didn’t have long hair. Her hair was different. It was black, short, and kinky. Her skin was also dark brown. She was the only brown-skinned girl in kindergarten.
When Joy and the other children finished cleaning up their stations, they walked over to the art table. Joy found a spot on the end away from anybody else. Immediately, she saw a Styrofoam plate with little pieces of red, black, and white felt. Next to that, was a plate full of glue with a Popsicle stick. Joy raised her hand. “Mrs. Garphy, what are we making?” Tying a smock around Bobby, Mrs. Garphy answered, “We are making our special Christmas gifts to bring home.”
Joy was really excited. She wondered if they were going to make Christmas stockings. Then Joy glanced over at Marcie who was whispering into Becky’s ear, looking at Joy, and laughing. Joy quickly looked back down at her art supplies. “Why is she so mean? Doesn’t she know that I could whoop her butt anyway?” Joy asked herself.
As Joy looked up to find Mrs. Garphy, she saw the funniest thing ever. Mrs. Garphy was carrying empty roles of toilet paper in her arms and under her double chin which made her look like she had a triple chin. Joy burst out laughing hysterically. “Mrs. Garphy has toilet paper rolls!” she blurted to the classroom. The other children slowly joined her with their tiny giggles. Joy was laughing so hard that she had her hands on her belly, her head tilted back, and both legs up in the air. In fact, she had to keep herself from falling backwards in her chair. “These are for our special Christmas project,” commanded the now stern Mrs. Garphy.
“Christmas project? HA! HA! HA!” Now Joy was really making a scene. Somehow, the sacredness of Christmas and the ordinary item used to wipe butts seemed like a funny contradiction to her. She couldn’t help from laughing. It was just too funny. It was just too unreal for her to grasp. “Mrs. Garphy must be playing a joke!” she shouted. But as she glanced up at Mrs. Garphy, Mrs. Garphy didn’t have a “joking face” on. She had a mean face. That mean face was glaring down at Joy. “Joy, I want you to go sit in the hallway immediately.”
Joy went out to sit on the cold marble hallway floor outside of the classroom. She hated the brown speckled floor. As she observed the floor, she noticed how dirty it was and began to scribble in its dirt. She felt really sorry. She didn’t mean to get into trouble. She wondered if, like Marcie and the other children, Mrs. Garphy hated her, too.
Joy started to get a pain in her stomach and held it tightly. She really wanted to go home. She thought about playing in her neighborhood with her other friends who looked and acted a lot more like Joy than the children in the suburban school. Joy thought about how she played jump rope with Tisha and Natasia just the day before. Joy began to rap their favorite jump rope song, “Donald Duck is a one-legged, one-legged, one-legged animal. Donald Duck is a two-legged, two-legged, two-legged animal…..” She hit her hands on the cold marble floor as she sang. She noticed how when she slapped the floor, it made a nice high-pitched drum sound. Then she looked up at the classroom door that was shut. She wanted to bang on the door to see how it sounded. But she restrained herself.
Suddenly, Mrs. Garphy opened the classroom door. “Are you ready to do your art project now?” she asked.
Joy answered an obedient, “yes”.
When Joy walked into the classroom, she saw a little Santa shaped like a toilet paper roll. She really wanted to giggle but instead she bit her lip as hard as she could. Joy dutifully made her toilet paper Santa with her plate of felt and her glue. She topped it off with a cotton ball beard and set it to dry.
Next, it was music time. This thrilled Joy tremendously. She loved to sit right next to the piano and sing. However, she didn’t like looking at Mrs. Garphy’s big bottom in her brown polyester pants as she sat on the bench to play. They sang “I’m a little teapot”, complete with hand motions. Then they sang “Where is Thumkin?” Joy liked that song. She loved putting her fingers behind her back only to bring each finger in front of her at the appointed time. Joy pleaded, “Mrs. Garphy, can we sing it again?”
“Of course!” she answered.
Joy held both hands behind her back. As she eagerly waited, she felt a hard tug on her hair. “Ouch!” she whispered and turned around. It was Marcie. “You’re stupid”, whispered Marcie. “You stink, too!” Joy tried to ignore her. As Mrs. Garphy played the piano with her back away from the children, Joy decided to handle Marcie on her own by ignoring her. Marcie continued to poke Joy in the back. “Nobody wants you here”, whispered Marcie. “You don’t belong here.” Even though Marcie’s poking hurt Joy’s back, Joy continued to ignore her. Marcie started to kick Joy. “Everybody hates you! You’re black!”
Just then, Joy felt something like a fire burn inside of her belly. She was angry. She was so angry that she wanted to stand up and punch Marcie in the face. But, instead, she closed her eyes. She began to sing to herself, “I feel red, so red. I’m mad and my mind is red.” She hummed the tune that immediately popped into her mind. Then Joy thought about Marcie bossing everybody in housekeeping and how she was envious of her long blonde hair. With the same melody she sang, “I feel green, so green. I’m jealous and my mind is green.” Continuing with her eyes closed and shutting out everything and everyone around her, she thought about being in the hallway and how rejected she felt. She sang, “I feel brown, so brown. Nobody loves me and I feel so brown”. At this point, Joy was in some other realm. She was completely oblivious to her surroundings. With her eyes closed, she hummed and sang the lyrics in her head, “I feel light blue, so light blue, when I do what I like to do. I feel yellow, so yellow. When I’m happy I feel so yellow. I feel white, so white. When I obey I feel so white”.
By this time, all of the children and Mrs. Garphy were staring at Joy. Joy finished her song in her head and then opened her eyes. Even Marcie was still. Everybody was still and staring. Mrs. Garphy broke the silence, “What are you singing, Joy?”
Joy answered, “It’s nothing….just a song in my mind.”
“Can we hear it?” asked Mrs. Garphy.
A confidence swept over Joy. “Yes, you may.” She stood up, cleared her throat, and sang:
“I feel red, so red. I’m mad and my mind is red.
I feel green, so green. I’m jealous and my mind is green.
I feel brown, so brown. Nobody loves me and I feel brown.
I feel light blue, so light blue. When I do what I like to do.
I feel yellow, so yellow. When I’m happy I feel so yellow.
I feel white, so white. When I obey I feel so white.”
Mrs. Garphy and rest of the children (besides Marcie) stood up and clapped. “What a talent!” Mrs. Garphy boasted. “Joy, we are so happy to have you. Thank you for sharing with us your colorful mind.”
by Angie Mack Reilly
Stretching a rubber band.
Stretching a muscle.
Stretching the truth.
Stretch a note.
Stretch a line.
Stretch a piece of gum.
Stretch your imagination.
*photo taken by Angie Mack Reilly at Kohler-Andrae State Park