Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Harlem Lost Another Angel

Harlem lost another angel...

Barbara J. Cochran helped so many of us keep our spirits up, including my students who saw her as the ultimate student activities enforcer. Lady B had a knack for telling it like it is without mincing her words, so if you were accustomed to mere formalities

you were in for a rude awakening! Truth is, those of us who earned Barbara's respect knew the softy behind the rough edges. She'd give you the world if it was in her power to do just so; and in speaking with folks who attended her wake--standing room only, by the way--or showed their respect in private like I did by lighting a white candle and sending her off in unition with the words of a reverand who'd never seen so many praisers fill up a funeral home, you would've thought that St. Nicholas Ave was letting Sugar Hill know that sweet popularity is not made of stone!

Each of us carries with them their own story to share sbout B. How they first met her, what they learned from her, how she turned their catastrophe into a minor setback that was soon resolved in a flash of a sec, followed by the usual words-- What else you need?

I first met Barbara when she was helping Streetsmarts--now a grassroots movement still spearheaded by my first son, Logic--organize a campus event. She was no nonsense yet gave us love because of our dedication to the Community. She had never seen an ordinary student club do extraordinary things like helping ex-convicts get into college and addressing the high number of students on academic probation, so needless to say we stood out from the crowd. But it became clear to me that the one who was making the most difference was the Lady herself. And after chipping away at that don't bring me no mess attitude 'til she couldn't stand it any longer, I finally got to see the doting mother in her, as she in turn got to know the street comedian behind my seriousness. From that point on, we had each other's backs. She got my frustration with Black on Black mess and I got why she chose to give CBS News an interview on cancer. I'm that much in love with my people, even when they dis me and she was that much of a champion to offer others who might benefit from her fortitude. The members of People In Action later gave B a plaque for inspiring such humility on and off campus; and, as a kind of award for our own efforts to make a difference, she said though she had received several awards before, ours was the first one that didn't have the word service insribed. We hadn't even considered that until she pointed it out to us. It was a peek at the possibility that perhaps one of Harlem's angels hadn't felt appreciated. But sometimes gratitude and recognition don't reveal themselves until the person's gone. Or what I prefer saying, transitions. Because we don't die, y'all. We simply move on to yet another level of awareness and form.

I'm not even gonna try to pass on to you the kind words I heard the speakers offer. Just know that Barbara leaves us three beautiful children to look after for her and a family that deserves our utmost respect for having given us such a loving, real and forgiving spirit. She was also daddy's little girl. It wouldn't be fair to either of them if I didn't mention this. They say when you move on, a friendly face is there to greet you. I'm betting dad and daughter are now smiling and hugging one another, and then looking at us saying, What else you need?

A special mention to Lady B's best friend too, Mary Gabrielle Lauture who's shown us what loyal friendship looks like. The two eventually made my office their home and I feel blessed to have also witnessed such a bond. I can only offer my sincere condolences to you, as well as to all others who may be missing B's laughter, colorful outfits, sharp mind and the ability to turn kool aid into Thanksgiving!

We will always love you, Barbara.

Sunrise, sunset
1/24/63 - 5/30/09

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