Thursday, March 12, 2009

Remembering Pepsi Charles

My pitch to readers about significant women in Plainfield’s local history was meant to elicit responses, but instead Renata has now given me homework.

Who was Pepsi Charles? Somehow I remember writing a tribute to her, but since she joined the ancestors in 2002, I would still have been a reporter at that time. Let me just say that Pepsi’s interests and concerns ranged from cultural advancement of the community, recognition of Africana history and symbolism, the needs of urban youth, appreciation of all the arts and a deep spirituality that was an example to her friends and acquaintances.

Pepsi had served as a programmer on WBAI-FM, a station well-loved by many Plainfielders. She also headed City-wide Parents for some time and fostered fundraising events for students who “beat the odds” to graduate from high school. Some of the odds were truly heartbreaking, and these children very much appreciated the support.
Pepsi also was instrumental in founding a summer Freedom School for young people.

As a writer and poet, she had broad recognition outside the borders of Plainfield. One of her projects was a biography of Chaka Khan, whom she traveled with and knew well. Pepsi also knew the enduringly influential Last Poets and many other creative people.

Many people saw one side or another of Pepsi, but few knew all sides.

Personally, I shared a lot with Pepsi. When I ordered my lunar calendars from Luna Press, I got one for her, too. I passed along an “A Love Supreme” T-shirt that I think was a WBAI premium. I gave her an Ashanti brass animal symbol for unity signifying, “Bite not one another,” a symbol she printed on her letterhead. When she wore her blue Yemaya bead necklace, I knew what it meant to her. We had some sort of understanding that did away with conventional barriers. We seldom had to explain ourselves to each other.

Looking around today, I see few comparable examples of a person who is so vitally interested in increasing the awareness of all citizens to their community and heritage, and who quietly expends the energy to make it happen.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Bernice. For some newcomers, like me, it means the world to be able to read more about Plainfield's history. And while I know most names of the women you wrote, reading about their accomplishments is quite inspiring.

I hope you enrich our Plainfield knowledge with further writings of these marvelous women!



5:31 AM  
Blogger olddoc said...

Forgot to mention Angela Perun, as a Republican from the West End served on the Council and also in the Assembly.She was an attorney but as a private citizen was an outspoken public advocate at Council meetings.

Although a lawyer and politician. a horrible combination, she was truly concerned with the welfare of her community.

9:57 AM  
Blogger RASRAHMATAZ said...

Bernice -- thank you so MUCH. I really look forward to reading more about these Plainfield Women of History.

I undertand the connection you write of between yourself and Pepsi -- I am blessed to have several friend girl relationships like that. No matter how much time passes by when we get together we never miss a beat.


And I do include you in that group... We don't know much of one another -- but we understand and respect the passion behind the glance and ready smiles.

Keep it coming...I'm learning -- and THAT's A GREAT THING!!!

2:32 PM  
Anonymous RAE said...

Thanks for this lovely and astute tribute to Pepsi...I was just thinking of her as I sent an email to Melba Moore...she was a guest on Pepsi's WBAI intimate after midnite shows in the late 70's many times...loved the way Pepsi said the title of Miss Moore's then current album, "Peach Melba!" I'm so sorry to learn she is no longer with us, but thank you again for sharing her legacy.
Respect and Blessings,

4:00 AM  

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