Invocation as rejection…et cetera [with much perspective jumping]

“Ah prayin’ for yuh.”

I used to take great comfort in receiving lines like this. Even at my moments of religious ambivalence, I’d be warmed. The thought that someone would intercede with their supreme being for my benefit often made me speechless with gratitude.

 – not everyone is quite so kind-minded.

As I got older, i came to appreciate the line, and some of its other iterations. The inflections that “mean more than they mean – y’know whaddamean?”

Sitting in church right with you, I am in the mid region pew. You know, the ‘not-so-much-a-saint-I-can-pull-off-the-front-row-but-certainly-not-to-be-in-the-back? Yeah. There. Minding my business, dropping two or three harmony lines in the hymns, praising just like you came to do (ha). End of service and sermon comes, and just before I awkward side step to my house (or, to be real, to head to a performance), you corral me into conversation. It often happens that you are right in front of me at church. No morning greeting did I warrant, no sign of peace at mass. But here you are. Post church and just before you slip off the pious face for something more…comfortable? Roadworthy? Real?

“How you doing? How is *insert grandmother, father, uncle, aunty, cousin, sister…personal favourite: Girlfriend* ?”

Like a dog whistle, the saccharine voice has triggered me, and I shake off my distracted attempts to leave. Your smile widens. I respond politely, and I calm down; maybe you are simply asking after them.

You are never simply asking after them.

“So why you not looking to carry her to meet your church family?” My mind reels from the open blow of the question. In the silence that you ensured with my surprise, you press on. ” Or she in here already and the two of you hiding the dealings?” Your smile is simply feral now. Your glare is predatory, sure that you have caught me out.

Unfortunately for you, Sister, I stopped playing this game long, long time.

“I am gay. By the look on your face, you know that I am gay. You are aware I am not single. He is not a member of this church, but I will certainly take him along one day when we are both in town.” I now smile. “You would like him.” I watch you all but sputter. You never thought I would be so blatant.

“Oh yes, well you should bring him.” Then, to reclaim the situation: “I will keep praying for you.” Of course you will. But right now another church sister/the pastor/Father/ brother/Elder and you need a word.

Bye.

Now a friend of mine once said she felt her urges to be petty or dismissive were because somewhere in her DNA is a ‘Steups’ (a kiss teet; a caribbean/African gesture of impatience, upset or annoyance). I can confirm that this “gene” is probably Caribbean region universal. I feel it every time I have to jump out of my mild mannered self to address the particular brand of foolishness (read: fuckery) that is Caribbean people of a certain generation and/or “(non)sensibility.”

A similar kind of invocation occurs when they are trying to assure you they are ameliorating the blight that surrounds you from being related to someone who offends their or the community’s (still their, but with an invisi-majority backing them) sense of decency/morality.

Church fully forgotten, and the mid-week is upon us. Enter another well meaning neighbour.

“Hey, how you doing?” You are disarmed. She living right down the road, and everyone knows her daughter have 3 children with 2 awarded (but 3 – 5 potential) last names. You engage in some small talk. You laugh a bit. There is an undercurrent of the yet-to-be-said, but you assume it’s something inane, like a concern that your father taking too long to deliver something, or at most, borrowing money.

And then she drops it.

“Careful how them see you in the road with *insert name here.* we might know him and you is relative,  but we know you not playing them things, and we don’t want you going down with him.” Now, the person discussed is a relative. One with whom you are not only closely related, but genuinely close to. You are confused as to what could warrant the warning. Then you remember the current neighbourhood scandal: cuzzo has decided to move in with his partner, and they are raising his child in their un-holy, un-recognised union. You are unsure how to process the judgement that is coming from she of the flexi-morals. Responding with amicable rejection of the notion of anything wrong, you begin to part ways as warmly as you met – if a little off kilter.

“Well you just be careful. You soft hearted ’bout these things. I hope it don’t burn you. I praying for you, that him judgement don’t fall on you too.”

You swallow back the DeoxyriboNucleic-STEUPS response that bubbling and waiting to jump out. Nah. She can’t be real.

The last one I will touch on, is the summons of revenge and retribution.

We are all raised, for the most part, with the mantra “God not sleeping.” Every perceived slight or injustice is postluded  with this phrase. This weaponising of the otherwise all benevolent God can strike in the most arbitrary situations.

“Ah going to take you to God in prayer!” Is the shouted parry of a church sister who was glaringly cut off by another driver at an intersection.

And we celebrate her restraint. How, you ask, has she shown such? Why, she avoided curse words! She refused to cuss out the other driver, and instead (with her spectacularly triggered Steups gene) put him before her Lord to mete out judgement (the “as she the victim sees fit” is as silent as the ‘k’ in knight).

I have more I could say, but I am here triggering my own kiss teet’ response

Selah, til’ we chat again,

Carl-Anthony

Original Post: http://odetotheeclecticmind.blogspot.com/2018/04/invocation-as-rejectionet-cetera-with.html

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I release you…and ask your forgiveness as I freely give mine

I refer here to my true self, the one unafraid to live, laugh, love…to be, do and help

It has always served me well to be myself. Even in such moments where I pay the price of ostracism and loneliness, it has been as a refusal to lose myself at the gain of hollow offerings of companionship or material gain. What need have I of the company of those who sought to remove aspects of me that denied my right to personhood? There is a line between those changes that may enrich or otherwise benefit an individual or society, and the changing of a person to have them simply aligned with your view of them – usually an abasement to serve your ego. This interpersonal colonisation is often not readily recognised for what it is, and indeed can be enacted without even being seen as such by the perpetrator.

I previously wrote about treading softly around the dreams of others. I expand that thought to the treatment of the sanctity of personhood and individual choice: insomuch as a defining trait does not infringe on the rights and freedoms of another, it may be taken value-free as is.

THIS DOES NOT MEAN ONE SHOULD TOLERATE THOSE WHO ABUSE THIS ARGUMENT.

it also does not excuse one from being beholden to ones thoughts feelings and most importantly, the consequences of one’s actions and opinions. My generation has taken to feeling their words and deeds, flung carelessly into the ether are at once ex cathedra as well as free of ramifications so long as they bear the “It’s my opinion”/”it’s who i am” cadence…no

BECAUSE they are YOUR thoughts

BECAUSE they are YOUR deeds

they WILL be used to come to a conclusion about YOU

THEY WILL NOT always be aligned with your true self or even your self-concept

they will sometimes be ordinarily abhorrent to you

but honour the realisation that they will be all persons observing will have to go on

UNTIL they are greeted with the true you through interaction.

It would be lovely if we all waited until we had full pictures before we judged…but the world is not such a place.

So…this rant may be foolish, may be disjoint…even pointless.

I accept all of those likely definitions, as well as the truth that it is simply a rant. it is a manifestation in cyberspace of my current mental ruminations.

All my Mind

CH

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thought

“Kin teet kibba heart bun”

My family is the type to take a lot of words to say nothing – and a gesture to say everything. We were raised with a mindset that you don’t need to BE an empty barrel to make them feel welcomed in your space, nor be some far removed know-all to be respected.

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in Performance 0006

jubilee

Here conducting the Lydian Singers in the recently Concluded 2015 installment of the Jubilee Concert Series: Dat Great Gettin Up Mornin’

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Will There really be a morning (From A Dream) – Short Story

Thierry lay on his stomach, eyes firmly shut, willing himself anywhere but here. Or perhaps any “when” but now. He slowly rose on his elbows, wishing senses dumb to the drone of the too loud aluminum fan, accented by the staccato expulsions of air coming from his left. he turned his head sharply to the right, as if the act alone could banish him to physical isolation. Some ruffling, a snort,and a breathy chuckle sounded just behind his ear. he repressed a shudder, hoping the unavoidable shake would be attributed to surprise. His limit had been reached.

“whoa man, I keep forgetting you have real skills there.” an affected gruffness and slight smack to his mid thigh were the last he could stand of it.

“Leave.” He neither looked back, nor made any move to suggest he had even been speaking to anyone but himself. he felt the deflation of his bed mate. Regretting the hurt, he nevertheless needed the distance that the word would create. There would be time enough for apologies and self – castigation later. He rose from the bed and retreated to the kitchen, putting the electric kettle to boil as he foraged for his customary morning buttered croissant, gracelessly throwing it into the toaster oven. he turned to the glass double doors that led to his backyard, glorying in the feel of the sun’s rays on his skin. A lazy stretch, uncoiling from his core made his limbs undulate in salutation of the morning. He mewled, now on tiptoes turning his back to the warmth, chuckling at the act of ‘baking his buns’. his smile faltered and disappeared as he heard shuffling and then the spray of shower jets. The ‘beep’ of the toaster oven and bubbling of the kettle jolted him back into movement. as he slowly sang to himself.

“I cheated myself, like I knew I would.

I told you, I was trouble,

You know that I’m no good.” a drop fell onto the warm flaky pastry on its porcelain plate. he hastily swiped at his eyes and resumed preparing breakfast for one.

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In Performace #005

20141004_214244

Here Making ready to perform with the Lydian Singers at the Launch of the PALM Foundation, a non profit to preserve the legacy of Pat Bishop in the spheres she dominated: Art, Music and Literature  (2014)

H

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Song For A Sacrifice – A short Story

author: Carl – Anthony Hines

Darren hustled quickly, his long strides echoing in the pre-dawn stillness.  It had been a gratifying night out with his friends, and though high on the release at attending the very rare indulgence of a party, he was acutely aware of what it would mean to be discovered out of bed come sunrise.

He gingerly entered the old colonial era boarding house, a single storey clapboard structure with just enough concrete to make it habitable, crowned with a rusty prism of corrugated sheet zinc. Praying that the old wooden floor did not betray his return, he took tiptoeing skips down the corridor to the rooms he and Mama shared. He pressed first ear, then eyes to the keyhole before opening the door, ever so slowly lifting as he pushed to lessen the creak and twang of the old hinges. A particularly loud squeak just as the space was large enough to slide in made turned his blood to ice. For several heartbeats he held his position, not daring to look around. With a dull rushing exhale, convinced that he was undiscovered, he entered and swung the door to within an inch of closing, at last moment stilling the momentum as he carefully joined the jamb and door into their fitted seam and engaged the lock.

“Darren, why you won’t leave them loose gal and stop the bad living?  You don’t think I getting tired of worrying ‘bout you?” the lamp by the couch, his bed of sorts, flicked on to reveal the comfortably appointed living room; casting shadows on the walls where his books, stacked on the dining table. The slight movement of recoil from the light brought his gaze to his mother, nightgown clad with a forbidding scowl. Crap.

“Mama, me’s a man now enuh, and is not like me a shame you, me don’t disrespect you, go a church wit’ you, all dem tings, and still you act like man cyaa go enjoy dem self?”

He hoped futilely that she would be derailed. Behind her large round bifocals, he saw her eyes and nose flare, then impossibly narrow. Why did he respond? He kicked himself mentally: he knew better than this. Stifling the sigh that was almost reflexive, he looked just left of her face, seeming to meet her gaze while really focused on a point just beyond her right shoulder. After a lengthy standoff, Darren’s defensive stance relaxed as she shrugged and lifted herself out of her perch. With a sigh and slow stretch she moved through the open door to his left that entered her bedroom.

Having shucked off his shoes, Darren threw himself into the couch. Burying his head into the overstuffed armrest that was his pillow, he closed eyes dry and scratchy from exhaustion.

~*~*~*

“Oye fish, beg you move from mi gate deh!”

A greeting and admonition shouted at some distance away, from within the sweaty ranks of the men ambling down the street. A facial tic was all that indicated that he heard the jibe, and Pancho continued his conversation with Marie, not missing a beat. Her demeanour however had changed, muscles in her neck and shoulders coiling.

The group stopped several paces from the duo, and the speaker emerged, closing the distance with a self-confident bandy legged swagger. He planted a kiss on Marie’s neck before playfully rubbing a sweat soaked arm down the front of her blouse. She shrugged him off with an exaggerated grunt of disgust, to the catcalls of his mates who had resumed their progress. Laughing it off, he turned to Pancho and good-naturedly, if not too warmly, inclined his head in greeting.

“Evening Omar,” Pancho responded with an answering nod. “Marie, me going to go find my yard, tek care and layta.” With a wave of his long elegant fingers, he was off in a hip swinging strut up the street.

Omar curled his arm around Marie’s ample waist, and led her back into their tenement from behind, he inhaling the scent of her shampooed auburn hair; she glorying in his musk.

~*~*~*

“Darren! Di rug dem want to wash, and you said you doing dem today. Come while the sun can dry dem!” There was a good deal of pleasure elicited by his pained groan of a response. She had only allowed him three hours of rest. He shed his shirt and jeans, and went to the clothes barrel behind her door to retrieve and shrug into oversized basketball shorts and a slim vest.

Barefooted, Darren walked into their dustbowl of a yard, rolled area rug hoisted on his shoulder. As he walked along the front fence, he heard the musical jangle of bracelets, and turned in time to see Pancho round the corner in full ‘gumption gait’ as Darren called it. A soft chuckle escaped at the thought, derailing the progress of the passing musing’s subject. Turning to the fence, Pancho’s plastered smile became a sneer.

“Morning Darren. What you find so funny in dis sun hot?” Darren looked up and then immediately away.

“Morning. I was just remembering something. Sorry.” He hung his head, wanting to retreat to the house, the backyard, to anywhere. He remained rooted to the spot, and berated himself for uttering the apology, to him an admission of guilt.

Pancho peered down at the embarrassed youth from his considerable height. He was not a hard sight to get lost in: short and stocky, his muscular arms roped with pulsing veins, and a wide torso that tapered to a narrow waist; all supported by legs and calves of defined, almost hairless black marble. He loosed a feral smile, before schooling his face into a more pleasant expression.

“Look up man, you’s big man now, no reason to hang head, and no reason to feel no way for that.”

Slowly Darren lifted his head, to meet his scrutiny, taken aback by the warmth of the response and of the smile he saw.

“Darren, di rug not going get clean resting on your shoulder boy!” Mama’s voice sounded from the veranda a few steps away. Self-consciously, Darren jumped back and turned to her, to find her narrowed eyes which were trained on Pancho.

“Morning Miss G!” Pancho hailed in a modulated, sweet falsetto. He saw her barely repressed recoil as she greeted him coolly with a wave, before retreating into the corridor. It stung, but ever quick to recover from such daily exchanges, Pancho rounded back on Darren.

“Go do what you Mama say sir; soon midday.” And with a chiming wave of bangled[1] wrist he sauntered away, easing back into his power stride.

Mama observed from the cover of her vantage point as her son watched Pancho leave, surprised to look at his face and see…longing? No, it must be the heat, and blinking she looked and saw the grit teeth scowl that was his work face, and shoved the silly notion of there being any other expression.

Darren mercilessly whacked the area rug, each muffled “thwack” of the beater sending grey dust eddying in little whirlwinds. He was covered in it and inhaling ragged breaths through his mouth when his mother came silently around the house with the hose and bucket. She passed between him and the suspended rug, and placed them on the small square of asphalted ground where the scrubbing would take place, then just as silently returned to the front.

She had begun to feel the niggling of guilt as she saw him haul the almost threadbare piece of flooring to the ground and, hose screwed and pipe on, began to soak it for lathering. I should have let him sleep in, she thought to herself, wishing she had the courage to apologise for insistently treating him like an errant child. As she squinted at the sun baked grimace of a boy wresting with manual labour, she lovingly noted how the line of his jaw and set of his forehead reminded her so much of his father. With a heavy sigh, she returned to the kitchen.

“It is completely unfair that he should be so free, so, so…so damn comfortable!” Darren fumed as he scrubbed at a gravy stain, venting in an intense whisper.

Several minutes later, grudgingly succumbing to fatigue and hunger he headed for the shade of the large Ackee tree in the centre of the yard. The only respite in the hot, dusty and pebble filled space, the tree was the hub of all outdoor activity. He settled onto a cardboard topped juice crate, tilting a mason jar of ice cold water to his lips and enjoying its unimpeded flow down his throat as he guzzled. Nicholas, the seven year old son of the family who shared their tenement stared at him, transfixed. It was a gaze brimming with the stark innocence of youth, and Darren, discovering his audience, found himself very unnerved at being its recipient.

“What you want Nick? Where you mummy?”

The little boy grinned warmly, shook his head vigorously and ran off to another quadrant of the yard. Behind and some distance off, Marisa, the child’s mother had watched the exchange, a slow smile playing across her features. Her gaze lingered on the bits of Darren’s torso unprotected by the cotton vest, a tingling heat uncoiling at her core.

~*~*~*

“Are you sure about this?”

“It is the last party for the year Darren, don’t be a punk.” Omario said, admiring his handiwork over his canvas’ shoulder as he turned him to face his full length reflection.

“Yea…but… these are so…close.”

Darren gestured to the close fitting pants and sleeveless bejewelled pullover that currently left no part of his body’s contour to the imagination. He watched his friend’s reflection roll its eyes dismissively as he turned to retrieve some other complimentary article to the ensemble.

“Darren, you are a single sweet and considerate guy, who severely needs to get out there!” A dramatic flourish of purple as he brandished a cable knit cardigan. He rejected the piece and it joined the growing heap on the left of the wardrobe.

“I don’t know about all that, but I’m a content hermit. Do I have to come?”

Darren’s plea had been met with no response.

“Aha!” was the victory cry as Omario emerged from his task clutching a white shirt that looked made of Lycra and accented with stainless steel detailing and zippers.

In companionable and anticipatory silence they got into the waiting cab and, directions given, waited while ferried to Sunkist Planet: Apocalypse; the final event of the alternate lifestyle calendar.

As they disembarked at the dimly lit and well decorated venue, Darren became rigid with tension. Barely tamping down the urge to panic and flee, he resumed breathing when Omario squeezed his bicep reassuringly and offered a calming smile. Meeting and holding his gaze, Darren supplied his own shy mimicry of one. They presented their tickets and entered.

Darren was completely floored by the vista laid before him: couples of various assortments danced erotically; groping and gyrating in time to the steady thump of a playlist of bass driven mindless pop love-anthems. His eyes adjusted, he watched as others mingled, ate, drank, or holed up in dark spots passionately devouring each other. He was led to the bar, and after being presented briefly to the host, was plied with three shots of an almost phosphorescent green drink, which went down smoothly to settle as a tantalizing burn in the pit of his stomach.

“I’m going to go find the other guys D, you stay by here.” He nodded in agreement as Omario sashayed into the growing melee, hips swaying in his rhythmic confident gait.

“Darren? Wait deh…Darren?!”

An ominous clang of bangles and bracelets made him very slowly turn to face the source of the voice, and locating it, was rooted in position. Lithe arms flailing excitedly, Pancho made his way over to where Darren stood by the bar counter, towing – to his added horror – Marisa, who, on seeing him, shifted expression from giggling humour to a mask of absolute shock, then revulsion (or was that hurt? he briefly amended).

“Wow man Darren, if I did know…why you never say nutten boy?! Marisa, you did know?” oblivious to either party’s discomfiture Pancho ploughed on good naturedly, ordering drinks for himself and Marisa, who snapped up in time to refuse the offer and, claiming claustrophobia, retreated to just outside the venue.

“I still cyaa believe though Darren – a how long since you deh ‘bout?” Pancho, in typical animated fashion did a sweeping wave over all Darren’s features.

“I have always been gay Pancho, I also have always valued my privacy. I feel I have made a terrible mistake in coming here. I am very sorry.” Ever courteous, Darren excused himself, slowly being loosed of his sensibility as a walk became a shoving brisk march.

He felt the walls closing in; the artfully draped cloths menacing serpentine restrains coiling around his limbs and crushing his neck. Free of the enclosure, he broke into a flat out sprint, ignorant of and uncaring for the concerned glances that followed his pell-mell scurry down the steep mountain road.

He frenetically hailed the first bus that came, and jumping in, sat in the darkest corner of the vehicle. As they pulled away, his breaths slowed, and the drop in adrenaline reawakened him to his current state of dress. His clothes were still at Omario’s apartment. With great effort he managed to avoid panicking, and remembered his laundry, which should still be hanging and somewhat dry on the clotheslines in the backyard. Hopping off the still moving coaster, he stealthily made his way down his street, staying mostly in shadow.

Making it to his gate unnoticed, he bolted around the house and quickly donned a pair of his loosest denim shorts, hastily trading the top for a white slim vest. Calmed by the act, he retrieved a hamper from the shadowed foot of the Ackee tree and removed the rest of his laundry, folding them and filling the container. Aroused by the rustling in the yard, Miss G shifted her room curtain, surprised to see Darren diligently folding as he unpinned the pieces off the line.

He really is a good boy, she mused, before settling back into bed.

An hour later, awash in cold sweat and with no more reason to defer entering, Darren made his way down the corridor and opened his door, hamper resting on a hip. He gingerly engaged the lock, and fell hard onto the couch, where almost immediately he fell into deep troubled sleep.

Waking a little past sunrise, tense and awash in sweat, Darren rose with an urge more pressing than usual to empty his bladder. Not wanting to pass through his mother’s room to the toilet, he made his way instead outside, to find some corner or fence post to relieve himself. As a steady streamed poured from him, his head snapped around at the sound of fast approaching footfalls. It was Nicholas, running toward him, a beatific, unnerving expression on his sweat shined face. Without slowing he ran right into Darren’s thigh, gripping it with arms and legs, narrowly avoiding the still spouting stream.

“Get down Nick, go back inside. Where you mummy?!” Darren stamped the imprisoned leg, to the gleeful shouts of an entertained Nicholas, delighted at the discovery of this new game. Darren’s pleas to be left alone and attempts to remove his fiercely clinging assaulter all met with failure as Nicholas hung on for all he was worth.

Hearing the subdued rustling of activity just outside her window, Marisa started awake, and felt the cool spot on the bed where her son usually lay. She moved her curtain aside to investigate the source of the disturbance and shot out of bed, unhinged.

“Leave him alone, nasty pervert, move fish and leave mi son alone!”

She descended upon the pair, and began to frantically pull at her child, eventually prising him from Darren’s leg to hold him tightly to her torso.

Finally relieved of his captor, it took a moment for the shouted words and the expression on Marisa’s face to truly permeate his thoughts… and to realise that persons, hearing the din had slowly emerged from their homes or peered through windows at the scene. Incredulity turned to panic when, as he faced her to rebut her accusations, he felt the cold sweep of air on the wet skin of his groin. In his preoccupation with the tussle he could not really have…forgot? His face drained of all blood at the full extent of what the scenario presented. He only had seconds before one shout then another erupted, and then the clang of missiles being launched spurred him to flight, speech deserting him, and indeed purposeless at this point.

Babbling incoherently, zipper still undone, Darren sprinted past a bewildered Pancho, who staggered slowly up the street. The mob rounded the corner just as he was about to call to the fleeing man, and he stood rooted as the throng advanced on and then past him, parting and reassembling as they chased their quarry. Bringing up the rear was a livid Marisa, son in hand, his face set in wide eyed terror.

“Pancho, Hold Nicky for me, carry him to Marie and Omar tell them fi keep him, mi jus’ catch Darren a – him –“

Breathless with rage and exertion, she gave up all attempts to continue, shoved Nicholas into his arms and, lifting the skirts of her dusty nightgown jogged to catch the ranks of the mob. Pancho stood transfixed as the unit gained slowly on the lad.

Shock abating, Nicholas leaned into Pancho’s neck and his breathing settled. The boy had been exhausted by the ordeal and was falling asleep in his arms. Pancho opened the metal gate to Marie and Omar’s tenement, an unsettling dread forming a knot in his stomach.

[1] Bangled – from bangles, bracelets made of metal

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In Performance #004

In Performance #004

I was a part of a dance and spoken word piece at Edna Manley College’s “Gungo Walk Arts Festival.” Here I play Dwayne Jones, A Jamaican Drag Queen who was brutally beaten to death at a street dance…

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Displaced and Readjusting…

so,

For the opening six months of this year, I’ll be living with my Uncle Leighton and his daughter Terielle In the beautiful Republic of Trinidad and Tobago…Ive been here a fortnight so far, and I have been trying to adjust, feel a little less disoriented and homesick…here’s  to hoping I transition well…and that I can find a stage to be on, Im too much of an arts junkie

The Beautiful Community Green in the Complex where I live

The Beautiful Community Green in the Complex where I live

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In Idleness, voice layering

Here I sing the first verse of the National Anthem of Jamaica. strictly speaking this isnt done, but I felt like trying my hand at it, psychin myself up for Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir

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