July 14, 2011, San Jose Blues Festival, San Jose, California.
Here’s a secret: I really enjoy doing performance photography. But it’s not a concentration: I’ve only posted performance photography twice before. The first was in my fourth blog post ever, on November 30, 2018.
Today, for reasons that might already be obvious, I’ve decided to post another.
This is Ruthie Foster. She grew up with music in her genes and in her early teens she knew that her life would revolve around music. She had a definite idea of exactly how that would be: early in her career she turned down an opportunity to be promoted as a pop star by a major record label, preferring to stick to roots music and blues. Many albums and awards later (including three Grammy nominations) she has stuck to her dream and is living it to the max. She is a person of huge talent and integrity.
This picture catches her in the act of doing what she like to do best and reflects the pure joy of being alive. As I write this, I’m listening to her latest album.
Ruthie Foster was born, raised, and still lives in Texas. And in that state, one hundred and fifty-five years ago today — June 19, 1865 — the last Texas slaves (thus the last slaves in the United States) were declared free. The anniversary was originally celebrated as Jubilee Day. Now it is celebrated as Juneteenth.
Recent events have made us more aware of this anniversary than ever.
Recent events of unimaginable insanity (unimaginable except for the fact that we’ve seen the videos) have plunged this country and society into a day of reckoning. Things must change.
Our so-called leaders have proven that they can’t be relied on to make meaningful change as they continue asserting their own peculiar versions of what they think is “right.” While those who cannot lead but only brag hold their feckless rallies — the latest making a mockery of Juneteenth and the massacre in Tulsa ninety-nine years ago — it falls on us as individuals and families and communities to make the change.
The first step in solving any problem is simply facing it and seeing it as it is. I say “simply” as if it’s easy. In fact, it may be the hardest part of the whole process.
My own viewpoint is that a person’s body is a wrapper for the essential spiritual being who drives it. We’ve all had the experience at gift-giving time of discovering that sometimes the most modestly wrapped package contained the most miraculous gift while the most impressively wrapped package contained something trivial. Predicting or judging the contents by the appearance of the wrapper is at best misleading. It’s a false criterion. At worst it is actively destructive of life.
Is a gift better or worse because the paper is red or green or black or white? Really? But way too many think and act that way.
So why do I, when walking down the street, sometimes feel a twinge of fear when I see a wrapper of a given description? Why? One way or another I’ve been carefully taught. And while I’ve been working hard to shed myself of that particular education and I’ve made major headway, I need to work harder.*
Those who cannot lead can only make empty brags. In their spiritual weakness they bury their heads in the sand. We can do better.
Those of us who are alive and can actually see can work on ourselves and our families and closer communities — because that’s the only way we will get true, lasting change anyway. It starts with each of us.
So let’s take a lesson from Ruthie. It’s pretty obvious to me that she celebrates her wrapper and that the essential gift inside shines ever so brightly.
Let’s follow her lead.
(Canon 7D; Canon EF 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM Zoom. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 3.3; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)
* I’m not one to think in extremes and consider that if I’m not perfect I’m worthless. We’re all works in progress and as long as we recognize that fact and keep working on improving as individuals and members of society, we’re on the right track.