There I was grinning and scrubbing inside the home of Essence magazine extraordinaire Susan Taylor, learning what the lyrics truly meant.
It was 2006 and she spoke that day to our group, the summer interns at Essence. After an empowering talk, including the life-changing reminder that everyone doesn’t need a front row seat in your life, she invited a few of us to her place that evening to meet a very special guest: the daughter of Assata Shakur.
Three of us took her up on the offer and headed uptown. Close to the West Side highway and a gorgeous view of the Hudson, we entered a building that said Trump on the outside. We didn’t have to tell the front desk who we were going to see before he directed us to go to level 3. We got in the elevator and didn’t see a 3. Then it clicked. He was saying PH3. As in Penthouse.
We walked in and the room was fill with emotion. As Susan and her husband shared a chair and unconsciously grazed each others arms, Assata’s daughter spoke of the reality of her and her mother’s life. As people (like me) had fantasies of Assata coming back and forth to the states and living out loud, invisibly, her daughter brought us back to Earth. To a place where an exiled grandmother had seen one of her grandson’s once and never met the other. To a place where President Bush was in no way trying to pardon a warrior for civil rights.
But along with the stark reality, was plenty of hope, as we discussed plans for a national celebration Assata’s upcoming birthday and a card that would travel the globe for her.
Just as quickly as the evening began, things wrapped up. The room of influential women thinned. Susan drafted us to help close out the party. We were elated. As I started the water for dishes, she began to offer more wisdom on life and love. She shared how that Penthouse had been a dream of hers to have a place to share with people, just as she had done that night. The view was gorgeous as we looked out at the Hudson and the sunset.
Then her husband came in the room and you could feel the love between these two after years together. She always tells women to talk to your man with love and the difference your tone and adding a baby or honey can make. And she practiced what she preaches as she sweetly asked him to turn on Etta James.
“Sunday Kind of Love” came on the speakers and it was like the soundtrack to the moment as the two talked on their love for Etta while hugged up. This powerful woman knew how to be a partner.
I had a sore throat, so she makes me ginger tea and gives me some ginger for the road.
I was loving being around so many beautiful Black men for the summer and enjoying the New York dating scene. But seeing her in that kitchen as Etta sang, made me want what they were drinking.
I never used the rest of the ginger. But “Sunday Kind of Love” has stayed on my mind and in my heart.