Niara and Grandma Tootsie, originally uploaded by Unbowed.

My paternal grandmother passed away last fall. Her birthday would have been today. Here she is with my daughter whose birthday is on Sunday. I thought about her when I heard about Rene Marie.

And thinking about Marie brought me back here:

My grandmother and grandfather were able to raise close to a dozen of my grandfather’s brothers and sisters after their parents unexpectedly passed. Throughout their trials and tribulations they remained steadfast, and dedicated to their family. They represented at their best a model of excellence that we should all hope to attain.

By taking the lyrics of the Negro National Anthem and combining them with the instrumental of the Star-Spangled Banner what she did was bring out the best of both. But you had to be awake to hear it.

Gaye did pretty much the same thing, bringing a level of soul and depth to his rendition that was so powerful I’m tearing up as I listen.

At first I thought that what Martin did was hip-hop. But I got it backwards. What hip-hop does at its best is tap into a reservoir of improvisation that begins much earlier. Feel me? We’ve been attempting to imbue our values into the warp and woof of the American fabric since 1619. Hip-hop is just the latest attempt, and maybe not even the greatest.

My grandmother was, an Omni-American. And I honor her memory:

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.