“Southern trees bear strange fruit, blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees. Pastoral scene of the gallant south, the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth, scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh, then the sudden smell of burning flesh. Here is fruit for the crows to pluck, for the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, for the sun to rot, for the trees to drop, here is a strange and bitter crop.” –Billie Holiday

I met Billie Holiday the day she died. I was 10 years old, the airwaves played her music and I asked my mother who the singer was. I never forgot the woman with the sad music. It haunted me and I couldn’t get enough. Her haunting voice lingered long after the song had ended as if she was drained but had more to give. “Lady Sings the Blues,” the poignant singing of “Strange Fruit,” after witnessing a lynching in the south, “Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do” “Good Morning Heartache,” “Gloomy Sunday” and “God Bless the child” illustrates her life, the history of our nation and the pain she felt living a tormented life of heartache, drug addiction, abuse and persecution. Her music of an unhappy soul that has seen better days has become her legacy.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” –Robert Louis Stevenson

Tom Saunders and the Urban League celebrated Billie Holiday’s 100th birthday with champagne and cake as more than 350 guests enjoyed the sounds of Dr. Phil Butts’ 17-piece orchestra and several vocalist including Kermit Golden, Larzine, Marilyn Ross and Sheila Ford. Among the elegantly dressed crowd, some wearing Billie’s trademark gardenias were, Rosalyn Anthony, Pless and Kenya Jones, Everett and Stella Fullwood, Tiger Lil, Mildred Battle, Mark and Barbara Dyson, Maurice Blackwell, Priscilla Blackwell, Jeanette Bynum, Dr. Lawrence Bell and sons Marshall and Lawrence and Janice West.

Only God can turn a storm into a rainbow. The world that persecuted and forsaken Billie now honors and remembers her 100th birthday.

“I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going. I have respect for the past, but I’m a person of the moment. I’m here, and I do my best to be completely centered at the place I’m at, then I go forward to the next place.” –Maya Angelou

Jacqueline “Jackie” Richardson celebrated her retirement from the State of Maryland after 46 years of service by hosting an old-fashioned house party at her Woodmoor home for her staff, friends and family in appreciation of their love and support over the years. Event planner Nicole Nichelson of Nik’s Nak coordinated the party. The menu included specialty drinks, sangria, champagne and an array of spirits. The assortment of food included roasted turkey, pork chop sandwiches, turkey salad, crab soup, jambalaya, roast beef, meatballs, pasta salad, fried chicken, potato salad, kale salad, collard greens, cheese platters, and assorted hors d’oeuvres. Among the 120 people guests were her mentor Joseph and Lydia James, Edna Smith, Charles Henry, Ruby Jackson, Alexis Parker, Michele Richardson, Christian Backmon, Rita Cooper, Roslyn Smith, Dr. Charlene Cooper- Boston, Gwendolyn Lindsay, Beverly Boston, Laura Byrd, Carolyn and Thurston Jones, Margaret and Luther Jones, Shirley Singletary, Brigitte and Harold Hodges, Ann Branch, Dr. Marian Davis–Foster, Sarah Smalley, Rosemary “Duchess Atkinson, and Karl and Laura Knight.

“I cook with wine; sometimes I even add it to the food.” –W.C. Fields

Stratford University event management’s happy hour mixer honored Certified Tourism Ambassador and president of Baltimore Area Hospitality Association (BAHA) John Lee at their Caroline Street campus. John humbly accepted the award in front of his wife Stacey, his three children and his mom Brenda Lee. In accepting, the coveted award John said he was proud that his family was able to witness the honor bestowed on him by his peers for his work in hospitality. Guests dined on food prepared by renowned chefs and sampled tastings prepared by the students. Stafford professor Cereta Spence coordinated the event.

“There are days when we can bring before God… laughter of joy and gratitude. There will be other days when we can only muster a bitter, angry complaint. Be confident that God will accept whatever we lift up before him, and he will make it serve his purpose and our good.” –Rev. Gardner C. Taylor Rest in Paradise

Nykidra Robinson of NyRise and Over Accessorized will host an evening with Sheila Dixon, Monica Mitchell and Curt Anderson Jr. on April 23 at The Forum, featuring Antonio Hayes and Charreah Jackson as masters of ceremony. Register at www.eventbrite. com select believe and move.

“Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.” – David Searls

Condolences to Attorney Warren Brown on the death of his brother Haywood Gregory Brown, to Arvella Oats on the death of her grandmother Vashti Pittman Davis, to Janice Carney on the death of her husband Thomas Carney, to Donna Spaulding and family on the death of her daughter Leah and to the family of Dr. Elijah Saunders.

“Old age has its pleasures, which, though different, are not less than the pleasures of youth.” –W. Somerset Maughman

Happy birthday Margaret Sullivan, Elvard “The Bard” Cooper, Kim Washington, Daniel Henson, Anthony Hawkins, Calvin Johnson, Donel Warfield, Maggie Wiggins, Olivia “Libby” Harris, Maggie Wiggins, Brenda Sykes, Shirley Richmond, Alvin Jones Debbie Allen, Vhonda lewis, Betsy Gardner, Tanya Dennis, John Stanley, Linda Shields, Ellen Howard, Raven Wilkins, Donnice Brown and my mother Rev. Pauline Wilkins.

“I’ll be seeing you” –Valerie and the Friday Night Bunch