Feeling Their Pain, Healing Their Energy

janice b feeling fine still editI was driving on the beltway making my way from my parents’ house to my job in Landover, Maryland like I did most days.   I was about 19 years old.  I was halfway to work when a sudden feeling took over my entire being.  I don’t know how to explain it other than to say it was a feeling of incredible sadness and heartache.  It was physical and heavy.  It overwhelmed me while I was driving and I didn’t understand why I was feeling this way.  Stranger still, at the moment I started feeling this immense sorrow the name of a boy I went to elementary school with came into my mind as clear as a bell.  Tommy Stevens*.  I hadn’t seen, talked to, or thought about Tommy in over a decade.  Although he was a nice kid, we were never close friends and I had no idea where he went after our few years together in elementary school.  The feeling passed as quickly as it came and I didn’t give it much more thought as I arrived at work.  About a half hour into my shift my mother called me and before we hung up she said “Oh by the way, I don’t know if you remember him from elementary school or not but I heard today that Tommy Stevens died.  They found his body in the Anacostia River.”

I’ve always been able to “feel” things from people.  I can sense when something isn’t right, when someone can’t be trusted, or if the person is carrying some unresolved pain or grief.   And  incidents like the one about Tommy Stevens have happened too many times in my life for it to be a coincidence.  Too many times I’ve been taken over by a dark emotion attached to a name or vision of someone, or their home or family only to find out later that someone died or was hurting or going through a significant loss or upheaval.  Someone I would have no reason to “feel” or think about.  I don’t talk about this much.  On the rare occasion that I recount these incidents I am often met with disbelief and doubt.  I understand that response because I myself have doubted if this is really happening.  Is there some logical explanation that could make sense as to why I am feeling something so real and painful from someone I don’t know?  In the case of Tommy’s death I’m not sure whose sadness I was feeling.  Was it his mother’s loss of her son?  Was it the emotions my mother felt upon hearing the news?  I won’t ever know.

Some people would call this intuition. That is the term that is tossed around most often but what I experience is much more intense.  I know my father was very intuitive.  He could keenly sense if someone wasn’t on the “up and up” as he would say.  He never discussed it deeper than that but he was always in tune with what he felt from people and he never doubted his feeling.

Later in life I understood myself to be an empath, a person who can sense/feel and sometimes take on the emotions and pain of others.  The list of empath traits sums me up quite well but I don’t usually hang on to what I am feeling.  I experience it very strongly and clearly and can now recognize when it’s not my own pain I am feeling.  However, looking back at my life it would explain a lot of things I experienced that seemed bizarre at the time.  I would have extreme anxiety over going to places with big crowds of people.  Panic attacks that upset my stomach and tightened my chest.  Empaths aren’t fond of large crowds because they can often feel everyone’s emotions.  I would sometimes feel sad and overwhelmed for no apparent reason.  I thought I was going through a depression or I was just over stressed from work.   Looking back I can guess that perhaps I was feeling someone else’s emotions but I just wasn’t aware of what was happening at the time.

The empath title fit me quite well until this June when I started my journey to become a reiki practitioner.  I explained some of my experiences to my teacher who said that I may be a clairsentient.  This was my first time hearing of this term.  I had of course heard of clairvoyant which is “clear sight”.  Clairsentience is translated as “clear feeling”.  The definitions of empath and clairsentient are very similar and I’m certain that both can apply to me.  Empaths take on the emotions of people around them.  They may feel the need to help or fix that person.  They are often sought out as the person to confide in or unload upon.  They get overwhelmed in large chaotic crowds.

Clairsentients are highly sensitive to their surroundings.  Not just the feelings of the people around them but also the location itself.  They can sense when something bad has happened somewhere and they can think of someone that isn’t around them and inexplicably know how they are feeling.  They can touch an object and feel the person who owned it.  I’m certain that I am a combination of both empath and clairsentient.  TV and movies have made these traits seem otherworldly and even “spooky” but the truth is, everyone has some level of these abilities.  We are all born with gut instincts and intuition.  But as we get older and more distracted we are conditioned to not pay attention to what we intuitively feel.  This is unfortunate because it could definitely assist us in making better decisions and even help keep us safe.

Over the past two years first with the loss of my father in 2014 and the passing of my mother in hospice in my home this April, I seemed to have “opened up” more to this level of consciousness.  I am very aware of their energy around me and this has changed how I view many things in my life now.  As I mentioned before, in June I decided to pursue training to become a Reiki practitioner.  If you aren’t familiar, Reiki is an ancient Japanese laying-on of hands healing technique that uses the life force energy to heal, balancing the subtle energies within our bodies. Reiki addresses physical, emotional, mental and spiritual imbalances.  I felt that this was a natural practice for me.  If I’m going to have these metaphysical abilities I certainly want to use them to help people.  And after years of intuitively feeling the pain and emotional states of other people, I know I can also assist in making them feel better.  This is not a religion or medical practice.  It doesn’t require the client to “believe in” anything however being open and receptive will certainly help the flow of energy.   I also truly believe that many “physical” ailments that we suffer from are often caused by emotional stressors and things we are holding onto in our hearts and spirits.  I’m finding that my intuitive knowledge of a person’s well-being combined with Reiki can help people heal themselves.

After I received my Reiki attunement from my teacher in June, I felt an immediate surge of heat in my head, heart, and hands.  Since then I have found myself more in tune and aware.  People seem louder and more intense.  Best of all my life purpose is finally clear to me.  I’ve been connecting with people through music and song for over a decade now.  This is naturally the next step for me.  My teacher said she feels that I have the ability to be the bridge between dark and light.   That I have a great understanding of the pain and darkness but also the ability to guide people to healing and light.  This is my intention.  The journey begins….

 *names were changed for confidentiality


How I Lost 19lbs In 5 Weeks

This blog is going to sound like an infomercial.  It’s not.  But it’s the truth.

If you know me well you will know that I like to eat.  Hell you can look at me and tell that I’m not an “I’ll just have a side salad and a glass of water” chick.  I’m not much of a “snacker” and I don’t often crave sweets or junk food but when it comes to just sitting down with family and friends and enjoying food and drinks I’m all the way in.  Throw down!  Most social events include food.  That’s what we do.  I usually eat healthy food but I eat a lot of it.  I also come from a father who knows what it’s like to be hungry and both parents lived through the Depression.  You eat what’s on your plate, you eat what will fill you up and stick with you, and when you can’t finish all of your food you definitely have to eat all of the most expensive item on the plate.  These are the rules that we carry over to our own kids so that they will always be full.  It’s why restaurants have to give us portions that will serve 5 people on one plate.  It’s why we are fat.

Another thing you may also know about me is that I do not diet and I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.  I’m not going to calorie count or worry about carbs and all that mess.  For the most part it’s because usually when I hear other folks talking about some diet they are on it’s almost always one of those off the wall, there is no way in hell you can be serious, does your doctor know you are doing this? kind of diet plans that in my mind are a big waste of time and certainly not healthy.  I’ve witnessed people drinking gallons of cucumber water telling me they are going to have a flat stomach all the while they are eating Chipotle for lunch and pizza for dinner.  I’ve heard people say that enormous amounts of green tea will burn belly fat.  And oddly enough most of these people stay overweight.  There’s the no carbs all protein diet, the grapefruit diet, Atkins diet, master cleanse, and so on.  I hear people talking about this stuff, see them start it, and then a few days/weeks later it’s back to Chipotle and they are just as heavy (or heavier) than they were before.  Not everyone of course.  Some people have been very successful with their diets.  But the lose weight quick diets are a big turn off to me.  I don’t want to drink lemonade with cayenne pepper for a month.  No thanks.  I have teeth for a reason.  I need to chew something yummy.  Plus I have a family to feed too.  I just can’t do it.

So I guess when I posted one of my January Facebook statuses exclaiming that I was cutting out coffee, sugar, dairy, wheat, and alcohol among other things, people who knew me thought I had lost my mind.  At the time I didn’t tell anyone that I was on a “diet” because I promised my husband I wouldn’t.  He wanted to wait and surprise his family who he would see in February with his weight loss.  Yes the “diet” was his idea.  So while then I could only share this with my close friends and family, now it’s safe to come clean about it.  We are following “The Fast Metabolism Diet” by Haylie Pomroy. 




Yes I know…I said I don’t do diets.  It’s not really a “diet” to me…it’s a new way of eating.  It was my husband’s idea.  And even though we started this early January, it was not a New Year’s Resolution.  I actually jumped on board at the last-minute.  For him it was a series of “signs” that brought him to this diet.  Coworkers and random acquaintances had spoken of it to him, and then one day he was given a pile of books to donate or trash and in the pile was “The Fast Metabolism Diet” book.  So he brought it home.  I didn’t even look at it.  I hate diets, remember?  The promise that you will “lose up to 20 lbs or more in 4 weeks” didn’t even sway me.  But I came home one evening and here is my food loving husband, surrounded by groceries to start this program and making a big pot of soup.  What the hell was going on?  So I had to read the book.

The first thing that sold me was that the author didn’t talk about being thin.  I don’t want to be skinny.  She talked about healing my body.  She talked about the chemical and hormonal processes that slow our metabolisms and keep us from burning food and feeling good.  She didn’t care about calories or points.  As a matter of fact she said I would always be eating.  Every 3 to 4 hours I have to eat even if I’m not hungry.  HA!!  No problem there honey.  As a matter of fact she said DIET stands for Did I Eat Today? So I was intrigued.  And since my husband had already done the preliminary work all I had to do was join in for the four weeks.  Knowing that it would be easier if we were both eating the same things, I hopped on board.

There are rules though.  Big scary rules.   The rules have to be followed or the plan will not work.  No exceptions.  No cheating.  You have to follow the rules.

The rules are:

*No Sugar: no artificial sweeteners, no honey, no agave.  Only Stevia and Xylitol in small amounts when necessary.  No fruit juices or sodas of any kind.

*No Caffeine: no coffee regular or decaf, no black tea, no green tea, no white tea.  Only herbal caffeine free teas. 

*No Coffee: this is separate from caffeine because coffee messes with your adrenal glands, a key player in your metabolism. 

*No Alcohol: pretty easy to understand as it is really liquid sugar and it’s processed through your liver.

*No Dairy: no milk, cheese, yogurt, cream, blah blah.  No “lactose free” milks.  No soy milks.

*No Soy: this surprised me but she said that soy is the one thing to eat if you want to look tired and bloated.  When she is getting actors ready for a role where they have to play an alcoholic she has them eat lots of soy.  LOL wow.

*No wheat: No bread, no pasta, no white rice, no flour.  Only sprouted wheat bread/tortillas, spelt, and brown rice or quinoa pastas.

*No nitrates: No processed meats, lunchmeats, bacon, etc. 

*You MUST drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day.  This is outside of any tea or lemon water you drink.  I weighed 186 lbs when I started this plan so I had to drink 93oz of water a day.

*You must eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up. 

*You must eat 5 TIMES a day (every 3-4 hours).  No exceptions.  Breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up, and then every 3 to four hours as follows, a snack, lunch, snack, dinner…and if you are up and doing stuff 4 hours after dinner you have to have another snack.

*You cannot eat “fake” or “diet” foods.  Nothing labeled low calorie or fat free.  No calorie counting and no points.

*Each week is broken into 3 phases.  You can only eat foods that are included in your phase (there are a LOT of them).   The only fruit not included is bananas.  The only vegetables are corn and white potatoes.     

*You will exercise only 3 times per week.  Each phase has a mild to moderate exercise.  1 day of cardio.  1 day of weights.  1 day of stretching/relaxing.  No more.  You don’t have to exercise but you will increase the metabolism effect if you do.  However you will still lose weight if you don’t.  You cannot exercise more than those 3 days.  (other than walking we didn’t exercise at all)


Lots of rules….lots of sacrifices.  But as hard as it seemed I did it for my son.  He’s 6.  I’m 49.  That isn’t his fault and he deserves a mommy who isn’t tired and weighed down.  2014 added lots of physical and spiritual weight to me.  I lost my father, my job, and I was on autopilot keeping everyone else around me “okay”.  I was tired.  I didn’t want to feel like this anymore.  So I removed the “I can’t do this…I can’t give this up” mantra from my brain and just jumped in.  I let go of all of my vices.  Go hard or go home.

I didn’t think I could give up coffee for 4 weeks just because I loveeeee it…not for the caffeine…just for the yummy goodness.  Sugar seemed easy because I don’t even crave sugar but I didn’t know that sugar was messing me up as bad as it was until I cut it out.  This is a direct result of my coffee drinking.  The ONLY thing I put sugar in is coffee and I drink at least 4 cups a day.  I also drink wine (and Fireball) and that is even more sugar.

Let me tell you something…the first week was an evil, ugly, sick, horrible week.  I called out of work twice thinking I was getting the flu.  Every part of my body ached.  My joints screamed at me.  Any place there was a weakness was even more inflamed and painful.  I was nauseous and just wanted to curl up and die.  This is no exaggeration.  Thank God I had an acupuncture visit that week.  She said “Um honey you are going through withdrawals from cutting all that stuff out at once.  Sugar is the devil.”   No shit.  A white powdery devil.  But after the first week things were on an upswing and I was dropping about a pound a day.  My husband lost 10lbs the first week.  Honestly I was skeptical as hell when we started.  How the hell can I eat lots of food all day and lose weight.  HA!!  It was working.  Craziness.

And let me tell you something even better.  Close to 3 weeks in I noticed that my chronic sinus issues and post nasal drip that is a singer’s worse nightmare were gone.  GONE.  My joint painGONE.  The dark cloud of hormonal misery and doom that hangs over me at PMS time.  GONEBreast painGONE.  Some of these things were lifelong issues.  They were all gone.

I felt WONDERFUL.  For the first time in a very long time I wasn’t tired.  And interestingly enough all of the vices I gave up I suddenly had no craving for them.  I was delivered!  Lol

So we are now done with our 4 weeks but we extended it out to 5.

In 5 weeks my husband has lost 31 lbs.

In 5 weeks I have lost 19 lbs.

We have decided to keep going with the format but abandon the phases in the week.  I am still not eating sugar.  I had my first cup of coffee last weekend and it was okay.  I don’t need it anymore.  I had two mimosas on Sunday and didn’t like the “flushed” feeling in my head so I went back to water.  I think I might be healed.  I feel so much better that I’m going to get back to my yoga practice and maybe some running.  Time will only tell if I can maintain this way of life.   But right now I can’t see myself every going back to feeling that horrible again.  I’m lighter and healthier with no drugs.  Everything changed just by changing what I consumed.  How can you give up all of those vices for 4 weeks?  How can you not?!  :)

Love and Light (much lighter light lol)

Janice B.









Watch Me Fly ~Then & Now

2014-12-14 23.25.52

When I first realized that I had the ability to transform my life, my emotions, and my perspective into songs, I was filled to the brim with joy.  I remember how free I felt.  Free and vulnerable.  Exposed.  It was like everything inside of my soul had finally found a way out and there was nothing weighing me down.

I wanted everyone to feel this joy I was feeling.  I had created lyrics and melody to some instrumental tracks a co-worker at the time had shared with me.  Taking what I had written into the studio and recording it took this joy to a new level.  Like a child showing you their artwork so full of pride and assurance that you will love it, I played these tracks I had recorded for everyone who would listen.  Most people had positive feedback, some were less enthusiastic than I was but still I felt encouraged to continue.  However there was one critique that stuck with me.  When I heard the following two sentences regarding my music everything shut down for a moment:

“Who are you going to market this music to?  White folks won’t get it and black folks will never accept you.”

Wow.  It caught me completely off guard.  I had never put a race or color to what was spilling out onto the paper.  It had never crossed my mind that what I was recording would be disregarded because it wasn’t “white enough” or “black enough”.  Marketing my emotions to a specific audience was foreign to me.   I was confused.  I was hurt.  And then I was mad and motivated to get above it.  So I did what I had learned would set this free and allow me to take back my power.  I put it on paper.  I sat down on my deck and wrote from start to finish, the piece that would eventually become “Watch Me Fly”.

That was the summer of 2003.

It stayed in my journal for several years.  It stayed there through my 5 years in the band Intuition which I co-founded.  It was still there when the band ended in 2008.  It didn’t come to life until after I started working with Maurice Carroll of Stinkiface Music that same year.  Even then I wasn’t sure I wanted to record it, but toward the end of a session with Maurice he asked me what song was next.  Reluctantly I sang my idea for the song to him.  I told him how it was supposed to feel and the emotion behind it.  He immediately started putting keys down, lengthening the original hook and adding sitar and a marching drum.  It fit.  It was dreamy and strange.  It was late and I was raspy when I recorded it but I remember it all clearly.

But now, Watch Me Fly was finally a real song and I was free from the sting of the words that inspired it years prior.  I took those words, let them hurt me, released that hurt on paper, and then set it free in the music.  It was mine now and instead of pain, I transformed it into something that would again bring me immense joy.

The song was released in the summer of 2009 as a single and then in September of that same year it was the title track of my EP when I signed as the first singer/songwriter with Stinkiface Music.


Over the last 5 years this song has become my “title track”.  It’s my personal mantra and applies to many situations I encounter in life.  More importantly it has connected me with so many people who have reached out to me via email, social media, and in person to let me know that this is their song too…that they listen to it every day, it tells their story, it helped them rise above, and that I have written what they couldn’t express on their own.

Eleven years after being told that no one would get my music and I wouldn’t be accepted I received the best compliment of all.  Someone told me, “I listen to your music and I know that I’m not alone.”

This year I wanted to take “Watch Me Fly” to another level and possibly reach a new audience.

I handed this idea over to Baltimore house music producer/DJ N’Dinga Gaba.  After we had some success in the house music world with our song “Feeling Fine” in 2013, I knew he would be able to give it new life.  N’Dinga suggested we do a “Watch Me Fly” EP.

My connections to South Africa had grown immensely with the word of “Feeling Fine” getting around and my collaboration with N’Dinga who is originally from Central African Republic.  There is a distinct sound and style that is coming out of this part of the world.

Over a year ago, my Facebook friends from AudioArque Records, Troy & Trevor in South Africa had already remixed the song with a unique tribal approach in their “Jungle Soul Remix”.  They had truthfully remixed this for me “just because” and we weren’t sure how it would be released.  But once an EP was decided upon I knew this would be a part of the package and I had held on to their version until the time was right.

Deep Sentiments, also from South Africa, came along a little later when I had started talking on Facebook with Tshiamo from the group of producers.  They put a broken, laid back, sexy spin on their remix, “Deep Sentiments OPZ Vocal View Remix”.

Both the AudioArque and Deep Sentiments versions have the original vocal from the 2009 song.

I went back in the studio with my “Watch Me Fly” co-creator Maurice aka MoRece to put down a different vocal for his new version, a haunting remix with a different hook adding Iris Craig’s gorgeous voice on the harmonies.  Yet another vocal track was recorded for N’Dinga’s remix and he also brought in UK DJ/Producer D-Malice for his version of the song.

So here we are!!

Today, December 15, 2014,  N’Dinga’s newly launched label Global Diplomacy Productions is releasing my very first house EP “Janice B. Watch Me Fly ~ The Remixes” with contributions from N’Dinga and UK’s D-Malice, South Africa’s AudioArque Records and Deep Sentiments, and the original producer of the song, Maurice Carroll.  Check it out on Traxsource!

ep cover

No matter what version you prefer my wish is that the the song will continue to send a message of hope and empowerment to everyone it reaches.  No matter how well it does on the house music charts I can tell you that the amazing love and positive feedback I have received because of this song keeps my spirit at the top of the charts.  Every time I hear it in any version I am reminded that I can transcend anything that life throws my way.   With a song I have the power to keep rising.

Watch me…..

Janice B.

The Yellow Bead

**Note..I wrote this blog a few years ago when my friend April Sims  asked me to do a guest blog for Black History Month.  I recently saw a news article that was giving statistics about what races were more likely to have friends outside of their own race and I felt a little sad that someone actually felt there was a need to research that.  It reminded me of this blog I had written and how adopting trans-racially has made me look at my world quite differently than I did before…even with a circle as colorful as mine was before my son came along. 

The Yellow Bead 

(Alex in his Korean Hanbok *photographer: Thomas Aaron)


I sat with my paper cup in one hand and a pile of multicolored plastic beads in front of me waiting for the next statement.  The adoption class teacher said, “Most of the people in my church are…..?”.   I struggled with this because my church is very racially mixed.  But reluctantly I picked up a white bead and put it in the cup.  I had to admit that MOST of the people at my church are white.   I looked down in my cup at the white, black, and brown beads all mixed together in fairly equal numbers.  I was pretty happy seeing that I had such a colorful cup.   The key word of course is “MOST”.  I’m white.  So “MOST” of my relatives are white.   Question after question….”most” of my friends are…, coworkers are…, neighbors are…., etc.     But despite how diverse my circle is, there wasn’t one yellow bead in the cup.  The yellow bead would soon be my son.  He will be the only Korean relative, the only Korean neighbor, maybe the only Korean friend in his class.  I won’t see him as anything other than my beautiful child and my love for him transcends the color of our skin.  But I know the rest of the world isn’t always so loving.

This exercise opened my eyes to how my son would feel in my world and how I take my skin color for granted.  And that no matter how open minded I am, no matter how many brown and black beads I have in my cup, I’m still a part of the majority of the beads.   And quite honestly no matter how often I may be the only white person in the room, at the end of the day I can go to my parents’ house, go to my church, flip through a family photo album, and I will be surrounded by people who look like me.  I won’t be the only white bead.  My son will NEVER know what that feels like.

When April asked me to do a guest blog during Black History Month I thought of so many topics I could blog about but every one of them came back to race and how we view each other.   So many conversations I have overheard or unfortunately had to endure simply because the people talking assumed since my skin was the same color as theirs that I also would share or tolerate their ignorance.  Or in contrast since I am “down” with African Americans that the derogatory comments about white folks won’t offend me.  “You’re not really white Janice”.  I’m not?  I’ve heard white and black people speak of each other as if we are of a different breed.  As if we aren’t all humans.  Some of the things I have heard are pretty disturbing.  I don’t need to recount them all.  It’s disappointing.  I recently heard someone say, “Why do THEY need a whole month for Black History?”  I always cringe at the “us” and “them” mindset no matter who it’s coming from.  Sometimes I will speak up and defend the truth but let’s face it, sometimes you are just wasting your breath.  Some folks just got a whole cup full of white beads.  These folks probably don’t want to hear that the truth is until “THEY” have more than just a chapter or a mention in “YOUR” history book then there will always be a need for Black History Month.  I never really understood why history isn’t just history.  I’m not preaching or looking for approval…that’s just the truth.  And here’s a good one….since the human species originates from Africa then we are all related, right?  It’s OUR history, right?  (I’ve learned that some folks with all white beads (and some with all black beads) really hate that little factoid.)  But hate it or not that is a fact.  I shouldn’t even have to explain that.  That should be common knowledge.

I am a child of the 70s.  I remember growing up with the very cocky notion that we might be the ones to make a change in the world when it comes to race relations.  We might be the ones who will look at each other and see how much we are alike and not just how different we look, yet still be able to celebrate who we are.  After all, there we were sitting next to each other learning.  There we were going to dances and proms together, playing sports together on the same team, riding the bus together, graduating together.  We saw adults dividing themselves and we laughed at how narrow minded they were.

But now I’m an adult and we work together, shop together, worship together, create together, LIVE together.  And 30 something years later despite all the black and brown beads in my cup we still have so much to work on.  We still aren’t looking at each other and seeing the similarities.    I’m disappointed in us.  Not “THEM”….”US”.  All of us.  The bottom line is that even after all this time we still haven’t gotten it right.  We are appalled at the idea of the “Whites Only” establishments that wouldn’t allow black people to sit at their lunch counters.  It truthfully wasn’t that long ago.  And there are a lot of people who still draw a very distinct line between themselves and other races.  They are very comfortable in their ignorance.   I know this blog isn’t going to solve that.  I just know that the missing link is the knowledge and acceptance that we are all one in the same and that somehow folks have forgotten that or just never learned it to begin with.  I have to accept that although I was so sure my generation would change things, I really might not live to see that world.  But I have faith that there are a lot of people out there with multicolored beads in their cups.  And I know the love in our circle is powerful and growing.  And I hope that one day it won’t be odd for some people to learn that my son is Korean and his uncle is African America, his auntie is Mexican, and we are all a family.  We all belong to each other.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”  ~Mother Teresa

Love and Light,

Janice B.

More about me: http://www.janicebmusic.com

The “N” Word


I was working the evening shift at a store in a mall a million years ago and I was ringing up a customer at the front desk.  She was an older white woman….sweet as pie….but she appeared uncomfortable as she stood there looking all around her.  She pulled her purse close to her and leaned in over it as if to tell me a secret and asked, “Aren’t you afraid to work here with all these N….uh….(pause because she was searching for the best term to use)……COLOREDS?”

Oh my……

This blog is about the “N” word.  Okay and it’s about white privilege too.  But let’s start with the “N” word…

I will assume the majority of my readers know what I’m talking about and no I am not going to type the word.  Why?  Because as a white woman (and a human being) it is not a part of my vocabulary or thought process.  I don’t secretly say that word to my white friends in private, I don’t “think” that word in any context and especially not in regards to someone else and as a matter of fact I cringe when ANYONE says it.

Over the past month I have either overheard or have been a part of conversations about race including the use of the N word.  Some were mentioning that there really is no racism anymore and we are all equal so why are black people so “sensitive”.   Some conversations were about how white folks sometimes think they can say the N Word because of the crew they hang with, friends they have, etc.  All of this is bullshit.  (Sorry for the language)

I don’t know, maybe the most recent racial commentary started with Paula Deen…. and then the George Zimmerman trial/verdict really got folks talking about race and the lack of fairness and justice that occurs when anyone who isn’t black is on trial for killing a black man.  I have zero to say about Paula and her dumb ass.  And I’m not going to go into great detail about the Zimmerman verdict and I have a whole separate blog on the murder of Trayvon Martin.  I will say I think it’s an outrage that this man is “not guilty” of anything.  As I’ve stated before…Neighborhood Watch reports suspicious activity to the police.  DONE.  When you get out of your car with a gun and pursue a teenager and shoot him that is your choice.  That is intent.  There is no need to defend yourself if you are in a locked car watching a teenager walk down the street. Clearly they would never have picked me for the jury!

Anyway, let’s tackle the use of the N word first, shall we?

WHITE PEOPLE….I am talking primarily to you.  When is it okay for you to use the N word?  Write this down…..


It is NEVER okay for you to use the N word.  NEVER.   Actually go ahead and consider “NEVER” to be your new N word.

“But Janice, you don’t understand.  I have a lot of black friends, listen to hip hop, grew up in the hood, have a platinum pass, work for a black owned business and my coworkers say it, that’s how it was back in the day,  people used to call me names too, have a black boyfriend/girlfriend, blah blah blah.”   I do understand that you think its okay.  But it is still NEVER okay for you to say it.  NEVER.   I know there are groups of white teens who think because they are into hip hop and dress the roll and talk the talk, that they are somehow allowed to use the word they hear so often in the music they love.  And maybe your little circle of “brothas” accepts you saying it…..but please believe that it will NOT be accepted outside of your circle.  In the real world you will get your ass kicked.  This is white people 101.  I’m sorry you missed the class but hear me now….it’s not okay for you to say the N word.

It is an offensive racial slur to MOST people.  Yes black folks say it to each other sometimes.  That doesn’t give you any kind of permission to say it.  And no it does not matter if there is an “a” instead of an “er” on the end.  I realize this can be considered a term of “endearment” to some but trust me that there are a lot of black people who still find that offensive as well.

Another important factor is that even if you don’t understand WHY it’s offensive to someone, just the fact that it IS should be enough for you to never say it.  And please, when someone tells you it is offensive to them do not go on and on with a litany of reasons why it shouldn’t be.  Just respect that it is and stop.  I personally don’t want to hear ANY racial slurs.  And I actually find people who feel they have some privilege to say it even more offensive than those who are just plain ole ignorant.  I know I’m probably going to upset people.  And I know that they will look to my pictures on Facebook, my creative circle, friends and family, and tell me that it’s not the same for me because I have “a lot of black friends”, etc.  I hear that craziness all of the time.  All I can tell you is that as accepted as I am in most circles I enter, I would like to think that it’s because I am true to who I am and never try to be something I’m not.  This is me.  It’s not a charade.  I’m not trying to be anything to fit in with any particular group.  I fit in because I am me.  I am considered family by a lot of people who don’t look like me.   And maybe I also fit in because I understand what white privilege is.  I didn’t earn this privilege but no matter how cool or “down” I am to folks, at the end of the day my white skinned, Welsh/Scottish ass has privileges in this world that other people including my closest friends and some family members don’t.  I didn’t earn this.  I was born with it.  It’s not fair.  I am highly aware of it.  So let’s move on to that topic…..

I heard someone say that racism doesn’t really exist anymore.  And quite honestly in my opinion THAT is one of the biggest problems we have as human beings right now.  The fact that people cannot understand that racism exists, that we are not really “equal”, and that we have so much personal and interpersonal work to do.  Hell we can’t even talk about it on Facebook without people attacking each other.  We keep taking steps backwards.  We aren’t learning from our mistakes.  We are idiots.  We aren’t teaching our kids about respect for everyone and how can we when as adults we don’t even respect each other.  This is how we create George Zimmermans.  This is how we create people who view any black guy in a hoodie at night as a threat or suspicious.  This is how we maintain the “Us and Them” mindset that is keeping us from getting anywhere close to peace.

Let me try to explain white privilege.  I KNOW that because I am a white female I can get away with pretty much anything in this world.  I can drive fast, I can forget to renew my tags on time, I never have to get out of my car if I get pulled over, I never worry about a police officer driving behind me,  I can walk out of stores with merchandise by accident, I can dress however I want and never be followed around a store, it is assumed I speak “well”, I never get stopped at customs or by security, no one labels me a thief or suspect without even knowing me, etc., etc.,…the list goes on and on.  THIS is white privilege.  Because my skin is white I never have to experience what my African American friends, colleagues, and family deal with every day in this country.  Yes…MAYBE if I am up in the midst of a situation with them I might be treated as they are.  But the difference is I don’t have to be there.  I can turn around and go on about my white way and for the most part not ever have to worry about being treated with disrespect, unfairness, injustice ever again.  I have that choice.  I have that privilege.  It’s real.  If your skin is white you need to realize and own this.  THIS is white privilege.

Because of this, you really should be much more sensitive to the fact that people of other races do not experience this freedom that you do.  I think this is difficult for a lot of white people to grasp because in doing so they feel that they personally are being blamed for whatever situation is on the table at the moment and they get defensive.  And in a sense it is partially our fault if we don’t SEE that there is a difference in the way people are treated.  Once you see it happening, accept it is real, and change YOUR actions and perceptions, then there is a ripple in the water…a movement toward change.  It’s not an “overnight, let’s sign an official document, make a law,” kind of change.  It’s a change that comes from inside of all of us.  It’s a shift in the culture that won’t happen easily if it can happen at all.

My friend Ellen Gee* posted a photo on her Facebook page of a T-shirt that Adidas was selling.  It was displayed on a black faceless mannequin and it said “Run Like You Took Something”.  (By the way this was right after Adidas had those sneakers out with the shackles around the ankles and everyone was outraged.)

adidas shirt

There were a million comments on the thread under this picture, some amazed, some confused, some not surprised a bit, but one white man was going off on my friend.  “Why is everything about race?  “Why are we still having these conversations?” “I’m a white man who once lost a job to affirmative action” “I’ve been discriminated against just like you have” “We have bigger problems in the world than a black mannequin” “Quit playing the race card”…on and on and on.

This was my friend’s page. She is black.  She was offended by the shirt and the choice of color of the mannequin.   Yes everyone is entitled to their opinion.  But instead of TELLING her why it shouldn’t be offensive to her and even ridiculing her…maybe we should LISTEN to why she (and everyone else commenting) feels offended if it isn’t already clear to you.  Try for a second to put yourself in that person’s place.  How did it feel to you sir, the ONE time you lost a job to an African American because of race?  Were you feeling angry, sad, helpless, less valuable, etc??  Did you feel isolated and not accepted?  Can you imagine feeling that way on the regular?

I posted a reply to the thread comments going back and forth that day.  This is what I said….

“I personally don’t think ANY white person gets to say what is offensive to a black person. Just like anyone with a penis doesn’t get to tell me about whether or not I’ve been “legitimately raped” or what to do about the child I am carrying. It’s not about white folks. I can get followed around in stores every day for the rest of my life and it will never equal the racism, prejudice, and racial profiling that black people deal with 24/7. I’ve seen it. My friends live it. Yeah I’ve been discriminated against in my life. But when the police pull me over 98% of the time it’s friendly and I drive away with a warning. I never have to get out of the car. I could walk out of a store accidently carrying an unpaid for item and the clerk would probably run out after me and I could laugh it off as a mistake. No security need be called to follow me around the mall. No one ever comments that I “speak really well” for a white person. No one ever says “there goes the neighborhood” when I move in. People don’t cross the street when a few of my white friends and I are walking in a group towards them. Old ladies don’t clutch their purses close to them when I get on the elevator. It’s a privilege that I was born with….I didn’t earn it. It’s not fair but it is the truth. Yes there are bigggg problems going on in this world. The economy, the school systems, health care, etc. But that doesn’t change or minimize racism. That’s a whole different thing. And unless you live it every day with a skin color that for a lot of folks has branded you a thief, guilty, suspect, etc. then you can’t truly ever understand.”

Obviously I don’t have a brilliant solution for any of this.  As artists we write…we sing…we try to reach people to create some positive movement. Every time I think we are making a difference and opening minds through art and music, something happens that sets us all back again.  It makes me sick.  I don’t know what we can do other than LISTEN to each other without being defensive and TALK about what we can change in our own hearts and lives to create the shift that is needed to move a little closer to peace.

All we have is each other.  What affects one of us will ultimately in turn affect all of us.  Have you been affected enough yet?

Love and Light,

Janice B.


*More About Ellen Gee: https://www.facebook.com/Ellengee.Evolves

Ellen Gee, Janice B., and Romel Moralez during the shoot of “Feeling Fine”


A Gift of Kindness


*photo copyright Phil Stern Gallery

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  ~Leo Buscaglia

With all the darkness and despair that we see on the news every day, it’s easy to forget that there ARE really good people out there doing things that might not be newsworthy, but still touch people and restore our faith in humanity and kindness.

I could write a whole blog about how awesome my dad is.  I could tell you his whole story about how he grew up poor and how his father abandoned the family when my dad was just a boy.  He was a child but was still old enough to feel the pain and the loss.  He was also old enough to help his mother raise his younger brother in the mountains of Western Maryland.  He knows what it feels like to be hungry.  He knows what it feels like to have a world of responsibilities on your shoulders as a child.  To hope that maybe your father will return and to live with the disappointment that he never does.  He struggled in school but still graduated.  Somehow instead of being a victim…instead of repeating the cycle of pain…he found his way out.  He married my mom, his high school sweetheart and joined the military.  He then made his way to law enforcement.  They moved to Anacostia in South East Washington DC and started their family.

My dad was a DC beat cop at the time of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.  Washington DC was buzzing with celebrity parties and galas.  My dad was assigned to handle security at the door for the celebrity inaugural party hosted by Frank Sinatra.  He will tell you amazing stories about how Frank Sinatra was so hospitable to him, offered him dinner, how he had a cocktail with Nat King Cole, etc, etc.  Great stories!  He will tell you that as a “hillbilly country boy” it was quite an experience.  He got Sinatra’s autograph for my mom and was handed a crisp $100 bill at the end of the night when Sinatra shook his hand.  And even now at 84 years of age, he can tell you the story of that entire evening like it just happened.  It was a big night in his life.

Fast forward fifty years.   2011 was the 50 year anniversary of the JFK inauguration.  CNN did a special on it.  My dad was home one afternoon in his chair watching it on TV.  They were interviewing celebrity photographer Phil Stern who was now in his 90s.  While he was talking they were showing the black and white pics of the celebrities that he took that evening.  Suddenly up on the screen was a picture of this handsome, smiling, DC police officer in full uniform being kissed on the cheek by actress Janet Leigh.  (Janet Leigh was the blond actress in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Psycho”….if you don’t know about that movie then please don’t tell me and just Google it!)  It was my dad!  And he almost jumped out of his chair (hard to do when you are in your 80s!).  He told me the story and I went on an internet search to find out more.

I found the Phil Stern gallery and contacted them via email telling them my dad’s story and how if possible I would like to purchase a print of that photo.   I was delighted to receive a response from the curator who was excited to hear the story behind the pic and offered me a discount on the print.  He also attached a price list for reprints.  (cue the record scratch!)  The price of the smallest print was $2000.00!  Whoa…..no way I can afford that.  In my mind I was thinking “hold up…you want to charge ME $2000 for a picture of MY FATHER??”  LOL but I didn’t say that.  I responded and thanked him telling him unfortunately we couldn’t afford that.  I told my dad about it and we just laughed.

That was 2 years ago.  Although I’ve pulled up the internet photo for people to see and my dad still tells the story of that great evening in his life, we had completely given up any hope of ever getting a copy of the picture.

A few weeks ago I came home from work and there was a big yellow padded envelope waiting, addressed to me.  It was hand addressed.  Nothing official or professional, just black sharpie handwriting from “STERN” in California.  I’m thinking, “Howard Stern??  He lives in New York though.”  LOL  Also on the front of the envelope was written “Enjoy!”.  I opened it with apprehension, still not making the connection with the name.  Inside was a large print of my dad in uniform being kissed by Janet Leigh.  It wasn’t the same print that was online.  It was darker, a little off to the side, but it was clearly from the same roll of film.  No note included.  No explanation.  I was delighted though and now had a great Father’s Day surprise.  A week or two later I received an email from Peter Stern, photographer Phil Stern’s son, asking if I received the print.  I responded that I did and thanked him for sending it.

I don’t know the details behind how he knew about my email to the curator of the museum.  I had moved on assuming the museum was run by a staff with no real connection to the family of Phil Stern and that my email was one of many.  But to think that however it occurred, he took the time to find a print from that roll of film, package it personally and send it to me made the gesture even more precious.

I gave the photo to my dad today as one of his father’s day presents.  I told him the story behind it and he was very moved by the kindness and generosity of Peter Stern.  My parents will surely be reaching out via snail mail to thank him.  For me, this story stands as a thank you not only to Mr. Stern, but to everyone who takes a moment to go out of their way to make someone else smile asking for nothing in return.  You are a reminder to all of us that the light of love still shines brightly.

Dad with pic

Happy Father’s Day!!

Love and Light,

Janice B.

Mercy, Mercy Me!!

JB laughing1

Mercy, Mercy Me….

Wow it’s February 2013 and I just realized that I haven’t blogged since July of last year.  Damn is that right??  I’ve meant well y’all…I started a whole lot of blogs about a whole lot of important topics.  But I just didn’t like the way they sounded and never hit that “publish” button.  I would rather not say anything at all than to just keep yapping about the same old stuff everyone else is yapping about.  I know that’s not how “artists” are supposed to do…we are supposed to keep our yapping out there so people will stay interested.  Yawnnn…lol.  But you know I gotta be me and it just wasn’t working for me. 

Seriously though…up through the end of December I was overwhelmed.  My musical endeavors kept me spinning along with my impending day job layoff, sick relatives, and the usual mommy stuff we all have to deal with rendered me blogless.  LOL   But here I am now so let’s go…

I feel it’s important as an artist (and human being in general) to give something back to your community and the world.  While I do frequently give what I can I really wanted to be able to do something with my music as well.  I know there are a lot of important music charities out there but I really wanted something I could be a part of and experience on my own right in my hometown.  I’ve spent quite a long time looking for a LOCAL organization that strives to make a difference while using music as the means to help others.  And as it so happens with all things I’m looking for, the perfect organization crossed my path at just the right time… 


Through the magic that is Facebook I bumped into Robin Fay Massie-Pighee, the director of Musicians of Mercy.  I’m not even sure what the first event was that she posted…maybe Patterson Park or the Jubilee Arts benefit.  But it was an open call for musicians to donate their time/talents for a show to raise money.  Something drew me in.  Maybe it was the fact that once I emailed her to inquire about being a part of the show she responded in all caps and exclamation points!!  “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!”  I would soon learn that this is no act or internet persona…she really is THAT exuberant in real life! 🙂

So Musicians of Mercy, (MOM for short) seemed to be the organization that was a good fit for me.  They don’t give to just one cause, they respond to whatever needs are out there at the moment both local and worldwide.  MOM raises funds for humanitarian causes through the production of benefit concerts. All performers volunteer their time and talents in concerts that are open to the public at little to no cost. MOM showcases a variety of artists…solo performing artists, chamber ensembles, jazz combos, spoken word, and a full orchestra.  It all started when Robin learned of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and wanted to do something to help.  Maybe that’s what I connect with the most.  So many times I’ve wanted to do something but didn’t know where to begin.  She just grabbed her viola and jumped in!!  I admire that!  I know this is a labor of love for Robin and all the musicians involved and quite frequently she has to pay for some of the expenses associated with doing these events herself.    

I’ve performed for a few Musicians of Mercy benefit concerts and I always walk away feeling blessed to be a part of such a great group of artists coming together for a common cause.  Truthfully I always wished I could do more.  And my wish was heard with an opportunity that presented itself in an unlikely situation. 

QueenEarth asked me to accompany her for her set as a part of the World AIDS Day event at Creative Alliance.  After the show we were approached and asked if we would like to have a concert in the spring.  We were told we could have a few acts together and select a charitable organization to donate part of the proceeds to.  After some late night brainstorming at the Double T Diner, meetings over chicken wings and whiskey, and gmail conversations, we had a show and a charity!! 

Have mercy flyer

So with that being said, on Thursday, March 28th  8-10pm at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, instead of Musicians of Mercy having a concert to benefit another charity…WE are having a benefit concert FOR Musicians of Mercy!  Brooks Long and The Mad Dog No Good, QueenEarth, and me, Janice B. together on one stage!  It won’t be 3 feature acts…we are performing together!!  It’s gonna be a blast!  Proceeds from the ticket sales and 20% of CD sales that night will go to Musicians of Mercy to help them continue with their humanitarian efforts. 

I’m really excited and blessed to be able to have this opportunity to perform alongside such amazing artists and great friends while giving something back with our music.  As my circle of love widens, the blessings continue to flow.  I hope you will join us on March 28thPic 3

Check the following link for details:

Facebook event page:


For more info on Musicians of Mercy:


Love and light,

Janice B.