11.22.12 For the Ancestors

Thanksgiving 2012:
I am so eternally grateful for having known Phil & Louie Baldwin Rieman, Kenneth L. Brown , Ken King, Mike Brown, and Lori Waas. On this day of thanks, I am deeply humbled how these 6 passionate & visionary individuals impacted my life and the lives of so many others. Each in their own way built inspired, creative, and engaged communities wherever they were. I think of each of them often, in my music-making, farming, activism, friendships, and more than anything how I see their spirits and legacies living on in their loved ones. I know that for many of us who have experienced the loss of family or close friends, holidays can be a bittersweet time. I know for myself, holidays will never be the same since my beloved Aunt Louie and Uncle Phil died in a car accident on the way to our family's Christmas gathering almost 4 years. Although they are missed so, so much, my heart bursts with gratitude for the times that we shared and the full lives that they lived.

All 6 of these beautiful people were strong supporters of my music making. In different ways they supported & encouraged me to keep playing, keep writing, and to keep performing. That was so incredibly humbling and meant so much to me, because each of these folks were such mentors and inspirations for me. In the weeks and months after my aunt & uncle passed, I knew a song was being born. I knew that it would be rooted in African soil, where my aunt & uncle spent many years working & living. I also knew that it would need to capture the immense grief that my family & many friends were experiencing while at the same time lifting up the hope, celebration, and goodness of life that I knew Louie & Phil would want in such a song. It was the most difficult & challenging song I've ever written. There were many moments where it felt like too much and that it wasn't going to happen. It took several years to come fully to life, and in that time Ken King, a visionary farmer/musician/community builder in the Ann Arbor area and my dear professor/mentor/friend Ken Brown also passed. Both of their deaths also came way to early and they left huge holes in their communities and immense legacies that their friends, families, and communities continue to live into. As I and my communities were experiencing these new waves of grief, the song, "For the Ancestors" was finished. I performed the song for the first time at the 2011 Song and Story Fest amidst 150 good friends, many of them who had know Phil and Louie as well as Ken Brown. Two of them, Mike Brown and Lori Waas, were hearing this song for the first time it was performed while also hearing me play for the last time, as each of their deaths were to come in the the following months. Both parents of some of my closest friends, they had themselves became dear friends of mine as I learned to appreciate each of their strength, passion, and love of family, community and the world.

Over the course of the last year, a group of incredibly soulful & talented Ann Arbor musicians as well as some of my Mutual Kumquat bandmates helped bring the song to life as 1 of 10 songs on my first solo record, Beautiful. And most meaningful of all, my dear cousins (Phil and Louie's children) helped record background harmony vocals on this song. I am so, so proud of how it came together and I remember each of these 6 people who touched my life so deeply every time I sing it. 

Today I lovingly remember Phil & Louie Baldwin Rieman, Ken Brown, Ken King, Mike Brown, and Lori Waas. I send out huge prayers and thanks of love & gratitude to each of their families and to others who are going through similar journeys in their own families.. I continue to grieve the loss of each of these incredible folks, and honor and remember their lives & legacies with the light and reverence they shared so freely with the world.