Tag Archive | #NE4Life

From Roxbury to Oaktown: review of NE Karaoke Night

I was bursting with giddy happiness after attending NE Karaoke Night at Liege Oakland. The sold out event (with a waiting list!) was sponsored by Oakland’s Family Wellness Group. It was an amazing event full of positive energy, love, joy, and warmth. Our MC Shawn William mentioned that there’s so much negativity about Oakland but tonight’s event was so positive. It was a night in My Oakland. There were no hipsters in sight. Sorry hipsters, sometimes I can’t with y’all. A few walked past and probably wondered why we were dancing on the benches. It was the Oakland I treasure and want my daughter to treasure.  It was a great way to kick off the week.

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I had wanted to be there when doors opened at 5pm. I met my good friend Ulili about 15 minutes later. We managed to get seats across from the DJ booth and mic. Before we entered the venue, we ran into her auntie. Once inside, we saw an old friend from the high school Ulili attended and where I once taught.  There were hugs and greetings. The New Edition Story was playing on the TVs so even though the sound was off, we were able to enjoy the Bigs(how NE fans refer to the handsome young men portraying the group as teens and adults) in scenes from the miniseries.  The club played a 90s soundtrack so we danced and sang along.

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Photo by Katrece Avery

There were two rounds of karaoke before I left for the evening. Our opener was a former Soul Train dancer named Jeffrey. He was rocking a vintage Cross Colours button-down. He performed “Humpin’ Around” by Bobby Brown. His performance showed us the discipline and energy required to sing and dance at the same time.  One of the highlights was my Facebook friend’s husband, Raul, who despite not knowing the lyrics to classic BBD slow jam “When Will I See You Smile Again?” , absolutely killed it. There were initial technical difficulties but once he began to sing, he won the crowd over with his talent and getting audience participation. Raul’s wife, my Facebook friend, Michelle sang “Hit Me Off.” I wanted to sing with her since there are so many parts. I sang along with practically every performance though I never signed up to take the stage. I lost my nerve when I saw the long line into the club. I was worried that my horrible voice would lead folks to be rude. However, there was nothing but love during this event. Even when folks hit some odd notes, everyone was supportive.

The large crowd was warm and welcoming. I was shown love for wearing my New Edition shirt. I finally got to meet Michelle in person after our interactions on the NE fan Facebook group. So it was fun to get a photo opp with her.

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Bay Area NE fans unite

At one point, there were shout outs for folks born in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  New Edition has been in our lives for over 30 years. That is most of our lifetime.  We all knew the lyrics. We were full of emotion. I posted an Instagram video of us singing “Mr. Telephone Man.” I know many of us were reminiscing about who we were when we first heard these songs, remembering people and situations connected to these songs. These are songs and music videos that meant and mean so much to us.  It felt great to share that common experience with so many others.

New Edition’s music unites so many people across the country and across generations. Several viral videos showcase kids singing or dancing to New Edition. They have a new generation of fans who were born in the last decade. They are feeling NE like we do. M would have loved the event. She would have known all the lyrics.

I want to thank Family Wellness Group, Liege Oakland, everyone who sang or danced for us, and all the New Edition fans that came through.  When New Edition comes back to Oakland, we will be there at Oracle or the Fox. NE4Life!

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My NE Heartbreak

A week and a half ago, I had a meltdown.  I’m not proud of it.  I predicted it would happen. But to understand how I nearly lost my mind, I have to explain the context for my near-breakdown. This past January, along with millions of other fans, I fell out when trailers for The New Edition Story hit social media. My love for New Edition predates my New Kids fandom. I have been a New Kids on the Block fan since I was sixteen; I was 11 when “Candy Girl” debuted. It was catchy, cute, and reminiscent of the Jackson 5, the Sylvers and the Motown super groups I heard growing up thanks to my music lover dad. I was a fan of bubblegum, R&B, doo-wop and harmonizing. This song was all those and more. Who could resist Ralph T with his cute face and great falsetto?  Everybody, including me, wanted to be a Candy Girl. So I became a fan.

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Yassssssss! 

Memories of my youth are connected to New Edition. I played “If It Isn’t’ Love” to death the summer I worked one of my first jobs at a yogurt shop.  I remember seeing the video on MTV for the first time and thinking they had grown up. They were a bunch of cute boys and I was close in age to them. They looked like boys I could possibly see in my high school.Like most girls, I had posters on my bedroom walls. The cast of The Outsiders, Menudo, Duran Duran, and New Kids on the Block were all featured at one point or another.  I never put up a picture of New Edition. I would have liked to but it would have been questioned simply because they were black. I thought Ralph T was cute. I found Bobby Brown and the oversexed bad boys of BBD adorable. They were all attractive, fun guys. It was natural that I would be attracted to them. Millions of people were and are. I could not own outwardly that I admired and liked these young men. That’s a shame. As I’ve gotten older, I’m not bound by those old restrictions of my childhood household. I am attracted to whoever I find attractive. I told M about how I couldn’t put any New Edition posters and she was perplexed.

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Church fainting! 

I anxiously awaited the debut of The New Edition Story. I watched the first episode and I was entranced. Several articles and blogs have been written about how this miniseries has impacted people culturally and emotionally. The recreation of the videos and photo shoots and musical performances were perfection. (Yes I’m singing, or rather butchering,  “Still in love.”) After watching it myself, I decided to share Episode 1 with M. The littles were too brilliant for her not to see them. (Caleb is my favorite so I have started watching Stranger Things.)There are scenes towards the end of that episode when they’ve transitioned into teens that were not for her eyes so M saw an edited version. Nevertheless, M was hooked. We watched the rest of the miniseries together but I had to be careful about certain scenes. I would stop the film and we’d start the “clean version” the following evening. Not surprisingly, we both became NE-obsessed.  We downloaded all their hits on our devices. It’s been nonstop New Edition ever since.

My DVR is always set to record a dozen shows. My few shows are on Netflix but the DVR is almost always packed with our family faves, Rambo’s shows, and news shows. It’s always between 75 to 95% full. I foolishly deleted The New Edition Story because it was available on demand and I knew it would re-air. My daughter and I had watched it three times and Episode 1 five times. I was excited to record it. When I came home and realized it didn’t record because repeats were not part of the recording settings, I had a fit. I was livid. I raised my voice at M (yes I broke my Lenten promise) and Rambo. I paced back and forth like a madwoman. Eventually I headed into my home office and logged onto Facebook to vent with my NE4Life group. Other group members had posted about what they are doing as we wait for the DVD. Within the hour, I downloaded the BET app on my phone. M and I watched part of Episode 1. The evening ended on a happy note though we missed bedtime.

New Edition has been around in all the phases of my life. I feel as if we have grown up together. While I have seen Ralph and BBD perform in the past, I have never seen all six together. I’m looking forward to enjoying a group I have loved for over 30 years. NE4Life!!!

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All six receive their long-overdue star on the Walk of Fame