A couple of weeks ago, I went to see Jackie Taylor’s musical: “Dynamite Divas” at the Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago.  It is “A Tribute to Women of Soul” with four principal actresses portraying Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack and Nancy Wilson. 

They also performed songs by other women of soul. Two songs by Nina Simone really spoke to me.  I can’t (shouldn’t?) write the whole title of one of the songs.  It’s called “Mississippi God*#%.”  The song talks about racism in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and beyond.  The actresses briefly discuss the song’s relevance to contemporary U.S. 

Ms. Simone’s other song is titled “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.”  “…Oh what a lovely precious dream to be young, gifted and black, Open your heart to what I mean In the whole world you know There are billions of boys and girls Who are young, gifted and black, And that’s a fact!…”

I hope our school districts know, believe and will act on this premise.

Last Saturday, I (and others in the library on Chicago Avenue near Main Street) observed a police car with flashing lights pull up to the corner near the library.  Another police car drove up.  Officers were observed talking to a known panhandler who is mentally disabled.  The officers said there had been a complaint about panhandling. 

“…it ain’t no joke when a man is broke walkin’ around with his hands in his pockets broke

… Help me, help help me, help me, help me.  Ooooooh Survival  Survival of the fittist…”

(from “Survival,” sung by the O’Jays, written by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff) 

It is interesting how complaints about panhandling got such a response as compared to the delayed or non-existent responses to residents’ calls about drug dealing.  Tsk, tsk, tsk. 

Last but not least: Tomorrow, Jan. 1, is recognized and celebrated as the beginning of the New Year for many people in many countries.  It is also the last day of the week-long observation of Kwanzaa (Dec. 26 – Jan. 1), which is celebrated with feasts and the exchange of gifts. 

Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 and celebrated in 1966-67 to honor “African heritage in African-American culture.”  Kwanzaa embraces seven core principles: Unity; Self-Determination; Collective Work and Responsibility; Cooperative Economics; Purpose; Creativity; and Faith. 

It’s year’s end. Happy Kwanza! Happy New Year!  A toast to enlightenment and compassion in the New Year!

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...