The Official Site for David Freeman Coleman

The Official Site for David Freeman Coleman
a.k.a. Funkyman

Did He Ever Talk About . . . ?

Saturday, March 03, 2018

To Protest Or Not To Protest?

Hello Funkymericans!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 is National School Walk-Out Day.  I think this is a timely, exciting event, and even though the school where I work will be on break, I'll be walking out in spirit.

However, some of you say "it won't change anything."  It's a valid feeling, and I used to share it.

First of all, you're right - these school walk-outs most likely will neither change the hearts and minds of people in the debate nor influence politicians to vote differently on gun control laws.  When I was in college and the Iraq War (George H.W. Bush) was happening - Desert Storm - some of my classmates ran out of the dorms of BU and onto Storrow Drive stopping traffic yelling "No war!"  I thought they were lunatics because "it won't change anything."  

However, while the school walk-outs may not change anything directly, they are being reported, and more importantly, they are being recorded.  They will become a part of our history.  We find inspiration in the fights for today in the recorded history and footage of fights of the past.  Plenty of people marched for civil rights and freedom long before we ever got it.  A march or a walk-out doesn't change things alone.  However, it's part of a larger wave of events that do.  So while I know someone marching for rights in 1918 may not have resulted in change for that person's lifetime, I know for a fact it made a difference in the long run for me and my family.

So, I am excited about the school walk-outs because they are receiving national attention and will be filmed and captured for generations to see in the future.  Maybe we won't see the change in our lifetime.  But someone in the future looking back at our time now will know that we didn't sit still and do nothing.  And that will confirm to future generations that they are neither alone nor the originators of ideas to do the right thing.

That's why Kaepernick's protest matters.
That's why Occupy Wall Street matters.
That's why Black Lives . . . ;-)

Change is inevitable.  Better is coming.  If not for us, for our children, or children's children, or . . .

So I can't wait to "walk-out" with America's students, and be a part of the wave.


- Funkyman

Monday, February 12, 2018

Interracial Marriage

Hello Funkizens!  It's been a long time, and no promises, but as the Adventures of Funkyman continue, I'll be posting more often.

This weekend I gave a keynote address for the AISNE Middle School Students of Color Conference, and we had a great time.  Big shout out to all who attended and made it happen.

Here's a video I made a couple of years ago highlighting the political and governmental manifestation of racism as it played out in this country in the institution of marriage.  Who would have thought it would take 336 years for it to not be illegal to marry who you love?  And yet, people still argue that racism is imaginary.

"I'm not a racist" is a phrase that is at the heart of so much confusion.  Click here for an older post about that very subject.

We need not to focus on just what people say, but how they treat others. James Baldwin said "I don't believe what you say, because I see what you do."

It matters not if someone claims not to be a racist. It is the only claim all of us would make. Can you name one actual person in history that ever claimed "I'm a racist"?

Racist is not what you are. It's what you do.

Enjoy The Jackson 5 and the video!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Olympus is Soaring

My fellow Funkmericans,

In December 2011, a good friend and colleague of mine was invited to bring her choir to the White House to perform.  She directs a fabulous youth chorus, and there was no doubt in my mind that the first family enjoyed the warmth and inspiration these young people provided.  A few months later, she suggested that I apply as well.

I believed that the good vibes that were generating from the Tufts University Gospel Choir would resonate in D.C. and would interest the White House.  The choir had grown to over 225 members a semester, been featured on the BBC, and had been voted as one of the top 5 courses at Tufts.   So I filled out an application for a White House performance in July of 2012.  There was no response.  Until . . .

In November of 2014, I received an e-mail extending an invitation for Tufts Gospel Choir to perform during the holiday celebrations at the White House.  The catch was I could only bring 20 members of the choir.  Difficult as it was, with aid from section leaders, I chose 20 students to represent the choir.  The White House asked us to sing two 45-60 minute sets of music.  That’s a lot of music.  Between November 21 and December 2, the 20-voice choir was able to do 4 rehearsals, learning holiday music from around the world - England, Italy, Caribbean Islands, Israel, Liberia, South Africa, and of course, America.  The gospel songs, however, were our showstoppers, and we had plenty of them.   In total, we had 17 pieces ready to go.

Thanks to the generosity of the Tufts Music Department and the Provost’s office, we flew to Washington D.C. on December 2nd.  Our hotel granted us permission to use a conference room as a rehearsal space, and we got in our last 2-hour rehearsal.  The following day, several people took advantage of the morning hours and visited a monument or two and the Smithsonian.  We had a wonderful lunch at Busboys and Poets (highly recommend), and then our bus took us to the White House gate.

After arriving at the White House, security clearance took about 45 minutes (a K-9 unit dog had to sniff my keyboard case!).   We were given a holding room and a few minutes to freshen up.  (Lots of holiday cookies and bottles of water.  Yay!)  Then we were taken to our performance space.  They provided choral risers (Yay!), and lucky for me I brought a battery-operated keyboard, because there was little access to electricity. 

We began singing around 4:15 p.m. and sang non-stop until about 5:30 p.m.  Whew!  Hundreds of guests were arriving for the party and stopping to take photos and videos of the choir.  Some even dared to clap along!  After the singing marathon, we were allowed to take a break, and that’s when we got the news – we were going to be able to do a private performance for the First Lady!  We were going to get to meet her, get a photo for the group, and perform a 60-second excerpt from one of our songs.  I knew which song to do almost immediately.

“He Holds My Hand” is a song I arranged in 1999 after the Columbine High School Massacre.   The words of the hymn strike to the core of our journey in confusing, dark, and troubling times – “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand.  But I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand.”  At the end of the song, we grab hands and raise them in unison – displaying that not only does God hold our hand, but we have each other to hold and let God love through us.   After our performance, Michelle Obama gave me a hug, and I was able to thank her personally for the work she does with fitness and nutrition, as I have lost over a 100 pounds in my continuing journey of good health.  She was exceptionally sweet to every one of the choir members, greeting them and encouraging them for the upcoming final exams.  We could not have a more outstanding First Lady.

Then we were back to work for a 30-minute gospel jam session, while guests from the party were on their way out.  This time, dozens of people stood and cheered us on while we sang full energy.  And yes, I rapped.  When we finished, we packed up, headed back to our bus, got to the airport, and made our flight home.  The whole way home, we were aglow from the day.  It truly was a chance of a lifetime to share something we love in such a place of history.  An honor.  Truly.  We were allowed to take the sign home that had our name on it.  The choir wanted me to have it, and I’m going to frame it and put it in my office at home.

I learned only 14 ensembles are chosen each year to do this, and we were the only gospel choir this year.  That’s surreal, but I’ll close by saying that this is not about being exalted, this is about being in position.  When I left the Boston University Gospel Choir in 2003 after 10 years as the director, there was an absence in my life. When the opportunity came to lead a college gospel choir again, I took the position of Lecturer of Music at Tufts University in 2006 because I was not whole without this exercise of ministry in my life.  I don’t direct the Tufts Gospel Choir for any other reason than it’s where I’m called to be – the work I do each semester is life-giving for the students and for me.  I found a way to worship and minister in an area specific to my life that also bore fruit in the lives of others – wouldn’t you stay there too? 

Since then, the choir’s growth, popularity, attention in the media are only side effects of the real story – people are thirsty for spirituality, thirsty for an encounter with God, thirsty to share, grow, and relate with an experience that may not be their own – whether it be African-American worship styles, Christianity, or just being in a large choir.  My position here has connected me to opportunities to work on Broadway, be on television, and now perform songs (even my own music!) at the White House.  These experiences humble me.  As I sit typing this, I am quiet and still at how God is blessing me, and it makes me energized to give more next semester. 

Thank you to everyone who encouraged and supported me and the choir during this special event.  Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  

- Funkyman

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How I Met Aerosmith

Hello Funkysmiths!

Today on The Adventures of Funkyman, we will actually have an adventure of Funkyman.  True story.

I have always been amazed at how life presents opportunities.  The things that you involve yourself with - if you do them from the heart and do them well - will take you places you could never imagine.  As Ashton Kutcher recently put it - opportunities look a lot like hard work.  Well, for me, hard work in college meant being a church musician on the weekends.  Who would have thought in a few short years after working in a church, I would be talking face to face with Steve Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith about playing with them on tour?  Well here's how it happened.

- I came to Boston University to study music.
- My brother was already a student at MIT.
- He told me about a job opening for the MIT Gospel Choir.  I got the job.
- The former musician was the director of music at a church in Cambridge, and he offered me a job there too.
- One of the choirs at that church was an all men's chorus, where I met some men who were in another group of their own called Revelation.  I got to be their musician as well.
- Revelation sang in concerts all over town.
- The House of Blues in Harvard Square was created and they quickly established a Sunday tradition:  the House of Blues Sunday Gospel Brunch.  They were looking for local artists to provide the music.
- The coordinator of the brunch was an old church member most of the guys in Revelation knew.
- He came to one of our rehearsals to audition us, and he gave us a spot to be the music artist on one Sunday.

OK, caught up to speed?  So here I was, still in college, and working on the weekends as a church musician.  Next thing I know, I'm on stage at the House of Blues.  We sang two sets that day.  During the beginning of the second set . . .

Me:  "Hey guys, I think that's Steve Tyler in the audience."

Yes, Steve Tyler and Joe Perry were having brunch at the House of Blues that Sunday.  So what did I do?  I PLAYED THAT PIANO LIKE IT WAS THE LAST TIME I WOULD GET A CHANCE. 

I mean, I always played with enthusiasm.  It's gospel music for goodness' sake.  However, I admit to being a little self-centered thinking that these special audience members might notice me.

And they did.

After our set was done, they both came right to the stage, shook my hand, and said "Man you're amazing."  I almost died.

Never one to miss an opportunity, I said "Hey do you guys need a keyboard player?"

They said, "No but thanks."

AND SCENE >  > >

Hope I didn't lead you on to think I actually got to play with them on tour.  Yeah, that was my brief introduction and even shorter farewell with the world famous musicians from Boston.  However, it's still a cool story, and it at least taught me that if you do what you love and do it well - AMAZING things and people are possible.

And you know what?  That chance to play with them on tour may still happen.  You just never know.  Back to my hard work . . .

- Funkyman

Friday, August 23, 2013

Racism 101

Greetings Funklers, I am back! 

I can't lie that racism has been on my mind.  It's been on yours too unless you're kidding yourself.  Between the Zimmerman trial, Paula Deen, Oprah Winfrey, and the recent success of The Butler - racism is a subject that, contrary to popular thought, cannot and should not be ignored. 

However, the root of the frustration around talking about it is a lack of basic understanding around the language.  Here are 15 facts to help anyone get started in a real dialogue about race - in America, or anywhere else.

1.  On earth, there are several species of living things.  Of the species known as homo-sapien, or human beings, there are no real sub-sets of the species, meaning there is only one real race.

2.  However, these divisions that we refer to as "races" are a sociological construct created in academia to help record/describe the differences in people that highlight geography, skin pigmentation, and culture.  Because of history and habitat, minor physical attributes/qualities have been observed and used to classify 4 basic groups of humans - Caucasoid (European descent/White people), Negroid (African descent/Black people), Mongoloid (Asian/Native Americans), and Australoid (Indian/Aborigines).

3.  Prejudice is making a judgment/decision about someone/something before knowing anything about them.

4.  Racial prejudice is a judgment made about someone based on their "race" or stereotypes related to it, regardless of one's individuality as a person.

5.  Everyone has the capacity to be prejudiced.  Everyone has the capacity to be racially prejudiced.

6.  Racism is different from racial prejudice.  Racism is the systematic use of racial prejudice by people in positions of power/authority in order to hold back/hurt an entire community of a different "race."  This can be manifested in several ways - genocide, rape, slavery, poverty, segregation, disenfranchisement.

7.  By this definition, because of America's history, Caucasoid is the established race in positions of power - politically and financially.  Though racists in America are Caucasoid, not all members of the Caucasoid "race" are racially prejudiced. 

8.  The ideas of "racism" and "racial prejudice" are often confused and used interchangeably, causing all kinds of confusion, debate, and stress among generations of Americans.

9.  Even though members of the Caucasoid "race" may not feel racially prejudiced, they do benefit from the system and the spoils of racism, and therefore have privilege - whether recognized or ignored by the individual.

10.  The greatest privilege of being Caucasoid is the ability to be judged as an individual and not have it reflect on the entire "race".  His/her actions are their own, and this is true freedom - "to be judged not by the color of their skin, but on the content of their character."  (MLK Jr.)

11.  Most racism persists in America because the majority of members of the Caucasoid "race" do not recognize the existence of their privilege and therefore wield no power to use it to combat racism.

12.  The key to assisting in the healing of racism's effects is education.  We need to continue to educate with true history, definitions of words, and communication about current events.  An educated person of privilege is an invaluable weapon.

13.  The racial prejudice that exists in the non-Caucasoid "races" is immense.  Whether reactionary or justified, in the end it cripples the individual and the community simultaneously. 

14.  It is impossible to discuss matters of race without sensitivity and intelligence.  Sensitivity comes from having an open heart to others' suffering and experiences.  Intelligence comes from being educated.

15.  Share your knowledge and experience.  Even if we can't erase racism, we can die fighting it.

It would be my honor to fight with you.

- Funkyman