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by  Michael P Coleman

As communities nationwide are tip-toeing into various reopening “plans,” I realize that I’ve been getting quite good at this sheltering at home thing. It’s really a remarkable feat for an extreme extrovert like me.

But yesterday, I had to venture out to the pharmacy to refill a couple of prescriptions, and what I found there was shocking.

Read MPC’s full column, and help talk him down after what he saw at Walgreens in Sacramento yesterday!

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Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

COVID Convos — Meet California’s Surgeon General, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

by Michael P Coleman

COVID Convos is a series of original columns conceptualized to give you something else to think about as we manage the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully, they will provide you with a different perspective about an issue related to the crisis… or a brief smile. Remember, with COVID-19: this too shall pass.

When faced with any battle, it is comforting to know that someone is on the inside, in the trenches, who has the knowledge, tools, temperament, and abilities that are required to get the job done and lead an army to victory.

In our fight against the novel coronavirus, we have that person in Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, California’s first Surgeon General.

En route to a recent briefing with the governor, Burke Harris checked in to set the record straight on a number of pernicious COVID-19-related myths. During our wide-ranging interview, she also stressed the need to heed recommendations and guidelines from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention so that we can, ultimately, put coronavirus behind us.

“I will always be very transparent about what we know and what we don’t know,” Burke Harris assured. “We don’t have a lot of great data about the racial and ethnic breakdowns of infections and deaths related to COVID-19, but what we’re seeing in a few areas around the country is that African Americans are over represented in COVID-19 cases.”

“One of the worst legacies of our health care establishment’s history of inhumane treatment of African Americans is the persistent mistrust and doubt that [it] has created,” Burke Harris continued. “We worry that the lack of trust within the African American community may be putting the black community at greater risk. When people of color hear about current guidelines, much of their mistrust is rooted in the history of what has happened in this nation. It’s a history that we have to work very hard to repair.”

“At the same time, it’s very, very important for black communities, and communities of color in general, to be aware that this is not a hoax. There has been a myth circulating that black people don’t get coronavirus. That myth is totally false! If Idris Elba is not enough to convince folks that black people get coronavirus…we do! So stay home, and practice strict social distancing. It’s up to us to care for our communities by staying connected, but staying home.”

When Burke Harris gets fired up, it is easy to see how she has been so successful in transforming the lives of the individuals and families in her care. And she is as passionate about wearing face coverings as she is about social distancing — and following all of the CDC’s coronavirus guidelines.

Dr. Burke Harris will be the cover story of the upcoming Spring issue of THE HUB’s print magazine. If you can’t wait to hear what she’s got to say, read freelance writer Michael P Coleman’s preview to their EXCLUSIVE conversation! 

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Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

EXCLUSIVE! CeCe Winans’ “Alabaster Box” — The Anatomy Of A Gospel Classic

by Michael P Coleman

Nothing beats a good gospel song when the going gets rough. For centuries, songs like “Amazing Grace” and “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” have proven their utility for getting music fans over the rough side of the mountain.

So as we combat both the realities of a global pandemic and a media barrage that sometimes seems as unrelenting as the novel coronavirus itself, music is a balm, and no song brings more comfort that CeCe Winans’ epic “Alabaster Box.” As Christians worldwide observe the most Holy Week of the year, it’s a perfect time to deconstruct that masterpiece, which was the title track to Winans’ fourth solo album, released in 1999.

Independent of your personal religious beliefs, there’s something powerful about hearing anyone speak their truth as earnestly as Winans does. As it turns out, “Alabaster Box” had quite an impact on the gospel music legend when she heard it for the first time.

“What a song,” Winans declared during a phone chat from her home in Nashville. “I was on tour years ago, and someone gave me a cassette tape and said it had a song on it that I needed to hear. I got into my bunk on the tour bus that night, and I put the song on, and a girl was singing ‘Alabaster Box’, all the way stripped down. I wept, and I wept, and I wept.”

Winans told me that she knew she had to record the song, but the time had to be right.

“I held that song for a few years, because it just had to be the right CD, the right time,” Winans continued. “It describes the meaning and the power of worship. There’s an anointing on that song!”

After hearing about Winans finding the song, and her connection to it, I had to track Sjostrand down. The songwriter and her husband co-pastor a church in Ohio. She grew up in Santa Ana, California and began a walk with Christ when she was just nine years old.

And just as Sjostrand vividly recalls her initial meeting with Jesus, she remembers writing “Alabaster Box” as if it were yesterday.

“I remember exactly when I wrote it,” Sjostrand shared by phone. “My father in law had gone back to his home church [to preach at] an alumni event, and I agreed to sing after his sermon. He began to speak on the woman with the alabaster box. That’s my personal testimony: I’ve always felt, since I was nine years old, like that woman with the alabaster box.”

Read MPC’s full feature, with more from his EXCLUSIVE conversations with CeCe Winans and the songwriter!

Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

 

COVID Convos - It’s Hard Out Here - IN Here! - For An Extrovert! A Survival Guide For Those Struggling With Social Distancing

by Michael P Coleman

COVID Convos is a series of original columns conceptualized to give you something else to think about as we manage the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully, they will provide you with a different perspective about an issue related to the crisis…or a brief smile. Remember, with COVID-19: this too shall pass.

It’s taken me awhile to wrap my ahead around this whole social distancing thing. It’s not obstinance or stupidity on my part — my name’s not Donald Trump, after all — but rather a lifetime of extroversion that gave me such a jolt when I was told that, to help stop the spread of coronavirus, we all need to stay at home as much as possible, and stay at least six feet from other people when we venture out.

Stay at home? Six feet?? It may have well as been six miles. I’m a hugger. A touchy-feely hugger. And when I heard that, in California, we’re just two weeks into a social distancing practice that has been extended until at least the end of April and could last until late spring / early summer, I started to freak out.

Just to make sure you’re caught up, introverts derive their energy from solo activities and turning inward (so I’m told), whereas that kind of thing wears extroverts out. We get charged up via external, outward interactions. And for the most part, or at least for this extrovert, the crowd can’t get big enough!

I love my our introverts. God KNOWS I do. (Yes, I said that in my Harpo / The Color Purple voice), but I’m learning that some of them don’t really get this. In a sense, introverts have been practicing for Coronavirus Season for their entire lives.

Long before we called it “social distancing,” introverts have cherished their alone time and relished in weekends to themselves, curled up with Netflix or a very small group of friends or family. I’ve had the good fortune of marrying two introverts over the course of my life — I guess opposites really DO attract.

One of those introverts, my ex-wife, recently reminded me that her social life really hasn’t changed in this day of social distancing. While she’s working from home now during the day, her evenings and weekends have always been, largely, spent ensconced in her home. And while my husband is more of a social introvert, I have to drag him out of the house on weekends, when he’d prefer to be chilling in his favorite sweatpants in front of a Golden Girls marathon.

But me? I’m out, all of the time. I’ve been working part-time from home since the late 1990s and full time since 2013, and even that was a transition! I joined a gym more for the opportunities for social interaction than anything else. While my blood pressure, weight, and overall health have improved, by FAR I’d say the biggest benefit has been getting me out of the house and in front of a varied group of people every day. Since gyms were shuttered a couple of weeks ago, I’ve struggled to replace that outlet.

Read MPC's full column.

Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

COVID Convos — Fat People Should Not Be Hoarding Groceries

COVID Convos is a series of original columns conceptualized to give you something else to think about as we manage the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully, the opinion pieces will provide you with a different perspective about an issue related to the crisis, or a brief smile...or both! 

Remember, with COVID-19: this too shall pass! 

If your feelings aren’t too hurt — or you want a few good, much needed laughs — read MPC’s full column here.

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Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

 
Johnny Mathis “Let The Good Times Roll” In San Rafael — A Concert Review Photo courtesy of Dave Koz
 

by Michael P Coleman

I am not in the habit of making creative suggestions to legends like the incomparable Johnny Mathis. He’s been thrilling audiences for 64 years — and counting! — in part because he knows what he’s doing. And Mathis’ current tour, dubbed The Voice Of Romance, is aptly entitled, as anyone who attended one of his recent Valentine’s Day shows can attest.

But if Mathis is ever in the market for a new name for his superb stage show, he could consider Unpredictable. Just when I thought I had him all figured out, the 84 year old icon proved he has still got a few tricks under that immaculately tailored sleeve.

Mathis kicked off his show at Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael with “When I Fall In Love,” first popularized by Doris Day and made popular by one of Mathis’ idols, Nat “King” Cole. Mathis recorded a brilliant version of the tune for his Open Fire, Two Guitars masterpiece in 1959. Sunday evening, his live rendition included a largely forgotten prelude that spoke of feelings of obsolescence.

“Perhaps I’m old fashioned,” Mathis crooned, but “when I fall in love, it will be forever.” The refrain echoed the seemingly undying love Mathis’ fans have had for him since first being smitten by that voice of his, way back in 1956.

And while Day, Cole, and countless others who have recorded “When I Fall In Love” are long gone, Mathis is still at it.

And he’s still got it!

Most of the hits were there, from “Misty” to “Chances Are” and “The 12th Of Never,” to a brilliant Henry Mancini set which capped the concert’s first half. Mathis had earned a handful of standing ovations to accompany the audible sighs and gasps from the crowd by then, and had more than earned a brief break.

But like a master showman, Mathis saved the concert’s most stunning moment for the show’s second half.

Click here to read MPC’s full review, and find out the song with which Mathis closed the show, leaving fans dancing out of the venue!

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Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

Get To Know Great Wines At Inaugural Tasting Event In Oakland

by Michael P Coleman

Whether you are a wine enthusiast or are just starting your journey, wine is meant to be enjoyed. A new organization, Les-Sommeliers, is paving the way with a Black History Month event at The Alice Collective in Oakland on February 15 from 4-7:30pm. 

Les-Sommeliers is an organization of sommeliers for some of the Bay Area’s best restaurants. They want to connect top wine brands with today’s diverse wine consumers, specifically African Americans, Latinos, and Asians.

Now, admit it: you Google’d “sommelier.”  I did! It’s pronounced So-mell-ee-AY.  I’m relatively new to wine, having shifted my focus from the beer and spirits which had been more popular with my family and friends. I know good wine when I taste it — I just don’t immediately know where to find it. That’s where Morancy and Les-Sommeliers come in.

If you didn’t Google it, a “sommelier” is simply a wine steward, someone who knows wines inside and out, and who takes pleasure in welcoming others into the fold.

Ruben Morancy is Les-Sommeliers’ founder. He has been a sommelier for more than 15 years.

“I founded Les-Sommeliers having noticed that most events and wine marketers had been mostly focused on a mainstream, elite consumer,” Morancy said. “We want to change that.”

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Click here to read MPC's full story.

Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP