Remembering Pepsi Charles
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.
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.