Jazz In The Gardens is an annual music festival that invites a bevy of talented artists to the city of Miami Gardens, Florida.
This year’s event took place from March 17-18 and saw a lineup that included gospel vocalist Tasha Cobbs, the queen of rock soul, Fantasia, jazz saxophonist Walter Beasley, hip-hop royalty like Salt-N-Pepa, to native son Trick Daddy. The festival organizers made sure to appeal to attendees like myself—those who enjoy cookout music and watching every aspect of Black jubilation swirl around.
As a journalist, I usually spend most of my time at these types of events near the hot lights of the stage or inside of the media tent, but this year was somewhat different as my mom was along for the ride.
My mom, Valerie, is the primary caretaker of my grandmother and she rarely takes the time to do anything for herself. So when I saw that my mom’s favorite singer Anita Baker, would take the stage during a stop on her multi-city farewell tour, I knew that I had to find a way for us to enjoy the moment together.
After a few weeks of coordinating, I was able to get my mom to fly down to Miami to enjoy the concert which is something we’ve never done together before. She was my patient photographer and helped me to secure the videos I needed for work obligations. But I knew that once Anita took the stage, she was indefinitely off the clock.
As soon as Anita’s band filed out I ran to the media side so that I could capture a few up close videos.
The anticipation was palpable—most of the journalists were around my age and we all vibed out to the fact that a legend was about to grace the stage. She walked out in a long red evening gown with her signature cropped-do as the band rightly played the intro to “Been So Long.”
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Last night I got to see Anita Baker with my mom. For those that don’t know her, she is one of the greatest vocalists in jazz/soul music. She also provided the soundtrack to many of my Saturday mornings growing up. She’s the first artist I can say that I love because my mom loved her voice so much. Before she left the stage at the end of her set she said, “All of the mothers who gave me your children to sing to, I want to thank you.” I’m so happy I got to experience that with my mom, the woman I love the most.
I silently recollected the Saturday mornings in which my mom would clean our house to the thunderous intro of “Sweet Love,” or sit on the couch after a long day of work while “Fairytales” played from the stereo.
After she sang “Sweet Love,” I ran back over to my mom who was in her own heaven. We sang with each other and at certain points I was almost on the verge of tears because Anita’s music is so personal to me.
Anita’s voice raised me just as much as my parents did. I can’t remember a moment of joy in our household that she wasn’t a part of. Her velvety alto helped me to develop my musical ear and most of the artists that I love today from Tamia, to Tweet to Jazmine Sullivan, draw from her essence in their own respective ways.
At one point in the show, she stopped and asked the security to hand her a photo that a fan in the audience was trying to hand her. The photo showed the woman at an Anita concert when she was six-years-old. The moment captured her reaching for Anita’s hand, as Anita was standing on stage reaching out to her.
During her encore, Anita sang my favorite song, “Angel.” And as the last chord played she said, “To all the mothers who gave me your children to sing to, I want to thank you.”
I knew then that my mom and I were exactly where we needed to be: together.