Let Us Go to the House of the Lord

What do you do if you grew up in the black church, attended Sunday School every Sunday until you were almost through high school, and then something happened? I can’t put my finger on it exactly. It was a loooooong time ago.

A few things happened. I didn’t care for Martin Luther King, Jr. because he wasn’t militant enough for me. But then he was assassinated. I don’t know. Maybe I had already started pulling away. Five years earlier, my church didn’t participate in the 1963 March on Washington. I didn’t understand anything at that age, especially why.

As I became old enough to think for myself, I moved away from the church. Years later, there was a time when we were thinking about going back. We attended services at a few black churches in the Palo Alto area, but none really appealed to me.

We attended one service featuring a visiting pastor from New York. His name was Preston Washington. I first met Preston as a student at Williams College, and I revered him! Curtis Manns, a former Assistant Dean at the college, let me know he would be visiting. It was great seeing Preston again after so many years, and his sermon was awe-inspiring. I would have loved going to his church. Alas, that was not to be. There was the distance and then time. Preston was taken away from us way too soon.

When I visited a local church from my childhood denomination, the Church of God in Christ, it just didn’t feel the same. When I went to a local baptist church, the service felt too sterile.

That’s the thing. Style of worship is very particular and important. I was looking for what I had, what I walked away from, and couldn’t find it, probably because it didn’t exist any longer. Maybe it exists only in my head?

There’s one thing from church that is still with me, though: It’s the music, especially songs like “Let Us Go to the House of the Lord” (this recording was how I began the first episode of #JazzChurch last year - replay here). Listening again just now, I hear that I was emotional then too. Good emotions!


Yesterday, the third Thursday of April, was the second National High Five Day in a row during which I, self-proclaimed Chief High-Five Officer, gave zero high-fives!

Why are high fives important to me? Here’s a bit of brilliance from one of my esteemed former colleagues:

“As Bill and I ‘High-Fived’ at the end of our meeting today, it occurred to me that you can’t really effectively High Five by yourself. It takes more than one person. It is a shared validation of a positive outcome or success (which can be any step achieved along the way), agreement of ideas, vision, or action plans. And, it feels good, brings inspiration, acknowledges, carries momentum and gives positive reinforcement. Have you ever experienced a negative High Five?”

So, I started high-fiving everyone, becoming a high-fiving fool.

I can’t wait for this pandemic to be over!!!

Dot Stories: Go to the Training First

Early in my career, a colleague suggested I send a “brilliant, yet difficult” employee to an American Management Association training program formally called Executive Effectiveness, and euphemistically referred to as “charm school.” I reached out to the AMA instructor, who assured me that the class was appropriate. However, he also suggested I first take the workshop myself, so I’d be better nable to support my direct report. He told me, “no one ever takes this advice.” Challenge accepted!

Not only did I learn a lot, but his advice also set a pattern for me. I go first. It helps me help you. If I’m open, it also just helps me. I wouldn’t be where and who I am without following this idea of taking the training first!

P.S. Charm school taught me that I should be less charming, that I should speak what’s on my mind because the team needs to hear it. Still #workingonit!!!

Meanderings – The Accidental Magazine

Once upon a time, 27 years ago, this guy I know accidentally created an internet magazine called Meanderings, beginning with this article:

The Female Touch:

Before I begin, I should tell you a little story. I was born of the Colored/Negro/Afro American/Black/African-American persuasion (although I’m still, 42 years later, trying to figure out exactly what that means!). However, in 1984 while attending a finance seminar at the University of Michigan, I, along with my seminar mates, filled out a “lifestyles survey,” designed to tell us the risk of various aspects in our lifestyle, like smoking and drinking, killing us before the age of 50. Being only 32 at the time, I was really interested. When I got the survey results back, I was shocked. I didn’t smoke, rarely drank, was an avid runner and tennis player, so I was in excellent shape. Nevertheless, it seems I had a very high risk of dying young. The reason: I was black! We’ve all heard the statistics about young black men having a high risk of violent death at a young age. Well, there you go.

Most of the others attending the class had no such risk, but they were all white. When I asked aloud about the results, the surveyor explained that the sample upon which the survey’s predictions were based contained very few blacks. He also said not to worry: given my occupation, income, lifestyle, excellent health, etc., the survey results really didn’t apply to me. For purposes of reading the results and determining my risk of early death, I was “white.” So, in the future, if I write something you don’t like, please don’t call me an uncle tom, because, I’m really white!

There’s more to the story, so read on.

I chatted with the author recently. He told me he wishes he had better editing back then. Go figure!

Things are getting better…

RIP Chick Corea

I first encountered Chick Corea in 1975. I had moved to Albany, NY, for a job in the State Assembly. I’m not sure how I first heard it, but “Vulcan Worlds” from the “Where Have I Known You Before” album by Return To Forever featuring Chick Corea became my song. Written by the band’s bassist, Stanley Clarke, it makes sense I would love it!

My wife and I went to see RTF at Russell Sage College in Troy. We arrived a bit early and walked to a store to get some soda (obviously Coke in my case). The concert started just as we were walking toward the auditorium through fog and mist. I loved hearing the first notes of Vulcan Worlds as we approached and settled into our seats! It was magic, and the concert did not disappoint!

We went to see Chick Corea perform duets with Herbie Hancock at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (or SPAC). Herbie introduced a song by saying they were going to make their pianos talk to each other. It was thrilling. We couldn’t hear the precise words, but it was a conversation in every way.

The next morning, I took a flight to NYC, and guess who was on the plane? Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea!! I got to tell them how much I enjoyed the concert the night before, especially the conversation between the pianos. I’ll always carry the smile on Chick’s face with me!

There was also a duet concert at SPAC featuring Chick and Gary Burton. When they came back out after a standing ovation following the set, Chick said something like, “Encore? What should we play?” My friend Reggie and I, without prompting or coordination, both stood up in our second-row seats, cupped our hands over our mouths, and shouted, SPAIN at the top of our lungs! Maybe we weren’t the only ones (we were first!!), and perhaps that was the obvious choice, but our very loud wishes came true.

We saw different RTF incarnations when we lived in NYC and saw Chick in San Francisco and twice here in Seattle. I subscribed to his online instruction channel for awhile.

Even though I saw Chick Corea perform live on many occasions, it’s his recorded music that reverberates through my being after years of incessant listening. I loved and will continue to love his many recordings, including new music I’m just discovering.

It has been wonderful to read all the thoughtful reflections on his life as a musician, friend, and person. There are a lot of lessons there. He lived a great life, one that can inspire all of us to live our lives to the fullest and to help others along the way. I love that idea.

Thanks for the music and your life of inspiration, Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea. RIP as you return to forever.

Note: #JazzChurch 42 episode (2/14/2021) featured some of Chick Corea’s music and performances that have resonated with me over the years.

Once upon a time, while walking across Central Park South, a small crowd of people was standing in front of one of the hotels. As I passed by, the man standing in the middle and I made eye contact. We gave each other “the nod” often shared among black men in public. I smiled as I continued across town. That man was Muhammad Ali!

I’ll guess that was around 1982-3. I got to shake his hand a few years later when Ali was leaving a South Street Seaport restaurant I was about to enter.


Happy Anniversary to Me!

I just celebrated my 9th anniversary of joining TPU as Tacoma Power’s Rates, Planning, and Analysis Manager. The truth is, I didn’t respond when first contacted by the recruiter because the job didn’t seem all that interesting. Boring even. Fortunately, they called me back two weeks later and told me, “there’s more to this job than what’s on the paper.”

When I returned home from my day of interviews, I thought my answers to a few questions meant I wouldn’t get the job. When I hadn’t heard anything for almost three weeks, I was sure of it! Then the phone rang, things worked out, and I found myself scrambling to move from the Bay Area to Tacoma.

The recruiter’s statement turned out to be true. There has been way more to the role than the job description. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here. The ups have been amazing, of course. They always are. The downs, however, especially overcoming them, have taught me so many lessons.

What about the stuff that wasn’t on the paper? As it turns out, I’ve been fortunate to define this role and add a lot that I couldn’t have even imagined at the time.

All of this means I’m incredibly happy, fortunate to work with great people, and have had the opportunity, to learn, grow, and even thrive.

Still #workingonit!!!

The Origins of Rev. Dr. Bill E. Bob

Wondering how I came to be called (okay, okay, call myself!) The Rt. Rev. Dr. Uncle Billy Bob Jackson Brown Berry Black, Jr. Esq., Inc.com?

When my niece was, let’s just say, much younger, I’d ask her what my name was. When she called me “Uncle Bill,” I said “no, I’m Uncle Billy.”

The next time we’d talk, my name grew to be “Uncle Billy Bob.” Then, “Uncle Billy Bob Jackson,” then Jackson Brown, etc.

This went on for years until, as a teenager, she quit playing the game. By then, with very little additional embellishment, we had “The Rt. Rev. Dr. Uncle Billy Bob Jackson Brown Berry Black, Jr. Esq., Inc.com.”

But you can just call me Bill E. Bob, okay? Rev works fine, too! You can also catch my _ 🎶🎵🎤 sermons 👍🏾_ on #JazzChurch, Sunday afternoons between 1-4pm PST.

There are only four rules:

  1. If it doesn’t say you can’t, you can
  2. It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission
  3. Proceed until apprehended.
  4. If apprehended, figure out another way to get it done anyway!

that. is. all.