When people ask me how I got to be so smart, I give credit to my mother, Sheila Kingsberry-Burt. All of my life she has been a very vocal, articulate, intelligent, singer, poet, writer, educator, advocate, preacher, and fabulous lady. No matter where we have lived, no matter the condition of the dwelling on the outside, she kept my home very neat, artful, and filled with books of all kinds. She encouraged, no demanded, that I be smart, educated, and able to mentally and orally defend what I believed and fight for others when they were done wrong. So, I guess it’s inevitable that I’d be an attorney and preacher.
When people call me handsome or say I look good, I tell them I owe that to my mother as well. She had her hand in my physical attributes, naming me Hassan, which means “handsome” or “to make beautiful.” Instinctively, people ask am I Muslim or Arabic because of the origin of my name. When they ask, I know they definitely don’t know Sheila Kingsberry-Burt and my Christian, Baptist, Non-denominational, Charismatic roots. She raised me to love the Lord, Church, and Gospel Music. She raised me under the church, as people say, and in a home filled with The Clark Sister, The Winans, Walter Hawkins, Andre Crouch, Fred Hammond, Hezekiah Walker, James Hall, and all the contemporary Gospel and choir music one could ever know. I smile thinking of so many songs and her beautiful alto voice.
My mother also taught me to love my family and be a good man. Even before I knew what sex was, my mother told me to wait until I got married to have it and have it only with my wife and she meant it. I try to be a good husband and father because she encouraged me to be what I did not see growing up. I always promised myself that I’d have a good family and thankfully, God has allowed me to see this dream come true despite many challenges.
So, I owe a lot to my mother, but I also owe a lot to my beautiful wife. You see, I have a sure enough good woman who gave me four beautiful children (RIP Amira) and takes good care of me and them, sacrificing her own career, because she’s Dr. Francemise Kingsberry, to nurture and care for our kids while they are young. She is the strength of my home. She’s my voice of reason who encourages me to do what God tells me and to live Godly no matter how hurt or offended I am or no matter how tired I get of doing for others with no outward reward.
I know first-hand that “he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” I’ll never forget meeting her in music class at UNC and our eyes trying not to meet, but still looking. I remember her encouraging me to “Sing, Hassan” in various singing groups. So many good times we have shared! I still enjoy our walks and talks about life and where we are and what we want from life. We make plans and go after them together.
I am most thankful to Me-Ce, my wife’s nickname, for just being there for me through the hardest times in life--things I never thought would happen to me with all the promise my education held. Like when my mother had several massive strokes leaving her without the ability to walk or talk as she used to. My wife held me and helped me adjust when I realized things would never be the same. She willingly let me use all the financial resources we had to care for my mom and she stood up for me when people had things to say about what I should have did and will fight for me in a minute!
I can’t help but cry when I type this because I LOVE FRANCEMISE KINGSBERRY LIKE THAT!
She’s been with me through every transition. We went from thinking we adjusted to the situation with my mother to caring for a sick child, then losing a child. I watched Me-Ce hurt, but still say, “It will be alright because God will fight for us!” She persevered to give me children through miscarriages and rough pregnancies and she never objected or said I’m not doing this anymore. That’s my Me-Ce, a woman of character and faith.
Every day, I pray my children are like their mother and grandmother and we strategically named them, as my mom did me. And before I had a family, I promised God that after Him, I’d make them the highest priority and create an environment to make them strong, Godly people who accomplish all their goals and impact this World for Christ. I thank God for the foundation my mother laid and the one my wife is helping me lay.
Happy Mother’s Day to my two special ladies! I love you forever!
So, I have not written in this blog for a long time, but I had to start again because so many things have been on my mind! Prince died 4/21/16 and I am still a little messed up by it. I began my day 4/22/16 hoping it was all untrue, but no, it was real. My son had been asking me for weeks to take him fishing so I decided to take him and I am not a fisherman! In fact, we caught not one fish, but it was fun because he was so excited and happy about it. So, although the day began a little blah, it ended quite well. Even as I watch all the tributes and stories about the artist Prince, I’ve made my peace with it all.
It’s funny how everything in life is so connected. Even those seemingly totally unrelated things somehow intersect each other. My son is 3 years old and I don’t remember much from when I was 3, but I do remember not being able to say “three” and saying “tree.” I also remember singing Prince songs because my mother and aunt loved him and as I grew up I remember wanting to be a singer like Prince and dancing like him. I immediately grow nostalgic when I fondly remember Purple Rain, 1999, Sign O’ the Times, Under the Cherry Moon, so many albums and songs! Growing up in Arizona in the early 80's, he was one of the only black singers we had radio access to! Ironically, my maternal grandmother’s birthday is 4/20 and she lived in AZ until she died and now, Prince dies the next day. See, the connections!
Anyway, I kind of fell off listening to and following Prince as I grew older. My generation wasn’t too big on his music as we got older, but by my teenage years, Prince was already an icon. Plus, when I got “saved” I moved away from secular music all together just because my “interests” changed. However, I am still a fan and his music and life have moved me and been part of the soundtrack of my own life and I cannot be sad about Prince being gone for this reason: He made his mark! I’m not sure what he set out to do with his life, but I know if it was become a musical genius, he did it. Although, he died at 57, even if he never released another album or set another fashion trend or made us think “why is Prince so strange, but his music so bomb?!”, he made a undeniable, authentic, and unique mark . Of course, he had more he could do, but what he did was monumental. So monumental, that I am up assessing my own life.
Have I been going after what I really want in life? Have I carved my own path, not just the path I think sounds good or what I think others would like. Have I become the singer I always wanted to be? I’ve had several careers, experiences, friends—a very full life, but have I been true to myself and set a course that would at least get me close to the desired result of a life well lived. I can’t answer this fully now, but as I lay beside my son after a day of helping him accomplish his goal of fishing and making a memory for his life motion picture, I say “Thank God!” I wanted to be a father and do things like this with my son. And when I go, among many good things I want said about me, I want it to be said that I was one of the best fathers people knew and most importantly, I want my children to say it.
So, RIP Prince. Thanks for your life and music. We are reminded to shoot for the stars and reach our goals and to enjoy life, the people in our lives, and to make good memories.