Happy bEARTHday GP1
October 7, 2019, GP1 would have been 69 years old. In honor of my dad’s birthday, I began the day with playing gospel quartet music, having lunch with my oldest son, and supporting a local business and putting in work. Most of the things I mentioned are pretty self explanatory, but some may not know what gospel quartet music is. Gospel quartet music are songs performed in four-part harmony, with parts given to a tenor (highest part), lead (which usually takes the melody), baritone (which blends the sounds and adds richness), and the bass (lowest part). Some of my dad’s favorite quartets are Canton Spirituals, Mighty Clouds of Joy, and the Williams Brothers. A favorite from my hometown of Mobile (AL) was led by one of his brothers in the ministry, Rev. Hubert Baker and The Believers. Rev. Baker even got a chance to shine on the live version of the Williams Brothers song “Cooling Water.”
My dad loved good music, but gospel music was definitely his favorite. The church where he invested over 30 years of his life, Pleasant View Missionary Baptist Church, had a great music ministry. I’d like to credit this to my father’s leadership. Pleasant View’s choir directors and musicians brought the best out of young people and adults from Mobile’s Trinity Gardens Community and surrounding areas. GP1 loved other things like deer hunting, making money, eating good food, Bachrach suits, fly dress shoes, and Waffle House. I like a lot of the things my dad liked. In my own way, I’m following the example that GP1 left for me and I’d like to share four phrases and lessons that I learned from him.
Hold it In the road and don’t swerve.
This was a phrase that my dad would say to me every time I left home to head back to Tougaloo College, Houston (TX), Jackson (MS) or whatever road trip adventure ahead of me and ‘the bruhs’ (my chapter brothers from the Rho Epsilon Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity) or ‘the boys’ (my friends from Tougaloo College). For my dad, I think it was a directive to be safe while driving. For me, as I’ve reflected on the phrase over the years, “hold it in the road” has become more of a cue to stick to the plan and focus on the goals; “and don’t swerve” is a reminder to stay in your lane, mind your business and do you!
I need to see assholes and elbows!
The first time I heard my dad, the good pastor, say what I knew to be a ‘cuss word.’ I was totally caught off guard as we walked onto a job site where we were building a home. By the way, my father was called to preach, but he made his money and provided for our family working as a general contractor and providing vault and monument services for funeral homes, cemeteries, and families in South Alabama. So, we’re on this job site, building a house in Prichard (a small predominantly African American municipality next door to Mobile, Alabama). My dad loudly states, “I need to see assholes and elbows!” I didn’t know what to make of it and apparently neither did another guy working on the crew. Pops explained, “if I see your elbows moving and your hind parts in motion, that means you’re working.” My dad led by example. He never sat back and watched the work; his elbows and hind parts were always in motion when there was work to be done.
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah!
In old school African American churches, there’s always a hymn or song before the minister of hour or pastor delivers the message. If GP1 led the song before the sermon, tens times out of ten it was going to be “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” and he was about to sho’ nuff preach! Athletes listen to music during pregame activities to get their mind right and focus on the task ahead. “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” was my dad’s turn up song and a personal petition to The Creator to guide, hold and feed his child during this journey. Two things to note here. First, you need a song or something that helps to center you as you prepare for whatever lies ahead. Second, you need to know that God is bigger than anything you’re up against.
Spend time with your kids/grandkids.
This lesson is one I believe I had to teach and/or learn alongside my dad. Most Thanksgivings and Christmases during my 20s, I would drive from Jackson (MS) to Mobile (AL) to scoop Pops and then drive to Lawrenceville (GA) so my Dad and I could spend time with Reggie (my brother), Kim (my sister-in-law), Jared (my nephew) and Christa (my niece). Once Shalon and I started having kids, my trips to Lawrenceville decreased and my brother’s family began to make trips to Coastal Mississippi to spend time with us.
I hope the life lessons shared here help you somewhere along the way. I know my dad made his dash count and it’s my and your turn to do the same. Happy bEARTHday Pops!
P. S. I spent the last part of my day doing family yoga. I wish I had a video of this because it was hilarious.