John Henry was a man … was a real man

“Often we can find all of the #motivation and #answers we really need from the #history within our own #family” … 

John Henry Pratt was married to my great aunt Willa Beecham Pratt. Aunt Willa was the sister of my maternal grandmother Mary Jane Beecham Jackson. John and Willa Pratt were leading citizens and well respected among both the black and white communities of Olathe, Kansas.

John Henry worked for the railroad and Willa took in laundry along with cooking for various people and functions around town. By most standards they were considered “well off.” They had no biological children of their own. And I got to know them both pretty well during a good part of my childhood of the 1960s and 1970s after we came back to Kansas when my father’s active duty Air Force service was finished. I loved and respected them very much.



PRATT CONNECTION

When our mother’s mother was killed in an automobile accident in 1930, our mother was only 6 years old and her sister (our aunt) was a toddler.

HISTORIC NOTE: The Oriole – 1922 Paola High School Year Book. I graduated from Paola High School in 1974 as the Panthers. Our maternal grandfather George Jackson is featured prominently throughout the pages of this publication. And, as you see the Paola, Kansas school district was integrated 32 YEARS BEFORE the 1954 landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka school desegregation case.


ALL HER CHILDREN ROLL CALL

Our family folklore tells that it wasn’t proper for a widowed man to raise two young girls. Thus the reasoning Willa and John Pratt took our mother and her baby sister in to live with them. And our maternal grandfather George Jackson would subsequently die in a house fire several years later, truly leaving the Jackson sisters orphaned. Our mother, Violet, as a very young girl, would naturally remain inconsolable for many years but would ultimately overcome and have a great life in her own right. That’s another story …

HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPH: “Our NCAA Division 1 Athletes” – Richard (d) and Nathaniel at Kivisto Field, University of Kansas where Richard was a music education major, varsity football star, and remains an all-time letterman. He went on to greatness as a successful musician in New York City. Nathaniel was an education major, multi-event varsity track star, and walk-on varsity basketball player at Wichita State University. They were adopted by Willa and John Pratt after our mother divorced their father.

SIBLINGS ROLL CALL: Richard Dean (d); Nathaniel Anthony; Joyce Nadine; Bonnie Jean; Christopher LeRoy; Penny Lynn (d); Mary Jane; Donnie Ray; Michelle Antoine (d); Keith Duane (d).


JOHN HENRY PRATT FAMILY FOLKLORE

John Henry Pratt is a legend in our family and I want to make sure that our children and grandchildren know how significant he is to them too. I hope they tell their assigns about John Henry Pratt for generations to come.

Growing up, we called him “Dilloy” or “Deak.” I still don’t know why or what these nicknames even mean to this day and I’m in my sixties now. My lasting memory of John Henry will be his unpretentious modesty and humbleness. It was clear, even from my perspective as a boy, that the man had his priorities together.

They told me that John Henry was a World War I veteran and he fought in Europe and saw combat duty in Germany. So I asked him about it once and he told me that when his segregated unit encountered the Germans they would not fight the black soldiers. John Henry said a German soldier told him face-to-face that they didn’t have anything against the blacks who were actually politically oppressed peoples like most Germans were then. I was surprised by this but he insisted it was truth.

John Henry built his life around his family, rather than building a family around his life. I liked that. Every successful man I have been in contact with has had their own version of this ethos. At this point in my life, it’s objectively safe to say I have successfully modeled this in my own way. John Henry was a man you could look up to and admire.

They told me he adopted my two older brothers and I asked him why. John Henry told me that it was the right thing to do at the time so he did it. And that was the extent of what he had to say about that topic. John Henry was not at all mean or angry for my asking, but so matter-of-fact about it that my childish curiosity was satisfied and I left it alone.

I recall one terrible argument between my parents and the Pratts were visiting our home. My dad and John Henry used to talk outside by their vehicles. They’d talk about their cars and any other subjects of the day. My dad was frustrated with my mother and was talking lots about their issues to John Henry. John Henry listened and didn’t say anything or interject during my dad’s passionate oration.

When my dad finished, John Henry told him that all of those things were part of being a husband to a woman and a grown ass man. He told my dad that he understood his frustrations as best he could knowing the two of them and their relationship at a distance. John Henry also told my dad that my mom and us children would be taken care of if he were to leave us. That ended the conversation on that topic and they moved on amicably to discussing the football prospects of the Chiefs.


FEATURED PHOTO

“PLAY IT WHERE IT LIES” Father’s Day golf with my youngest brother Keith Duane used to be an annual tradition. He was actually a more than pretty decent golfer. Me not so much. Average at best. Golf is one thing that I actually simply do for “fun.” We simply made a point to do it so we would spend time with each other. That’s cool. I’m almost certain he’d be happy knowing I had my clubs re-gripped and am golfing again.

They Call It Retirement… But, Is It Really?

We, in the USA, have traditionally mostly worked until a certain age range between 62 to 72 and then we typically retire to a terminal vacation status. That was literally the tradition for the generation before our late Baby Boomer cohort.

We both have decided to “retire” in July 2020. And we are very happy about this decision because it has come by our own choice. Our lives will not change drastically in the sense of most activities. We will simply now be our own bosses. That’s pretty cool.

We both have worked almost literally our entire lives, having had jobs since we were teenagers, having served in the active duty Regular Army as professional musicians, and having engaged successful careers as educators, as well as having worked in both federal government and corporate settings too. We’ve always been entrepreneurs.

We both made a point of subsidizing our art as musicians with day jobs that afforded a good living for our family but didn’t detract from our primary calling as artists. It was a difficult balance to maintain at times. However, we have always seemed to find synergy in this regard throughout these years.

We are going to enjoy this next phase of life and look forward to the opportunities it will bring. It’s going to be cool engaging the music-related projects we have established over the years, and the unlimited positive possibilities of our nonprofit organization.

We plan to golf, bowl, walk, and enjoy our ornamental gardening activities. We plan to visit our family and friends while engaging cultural sites around the USA.

We plan to visit our musical friends in Europe again and enjoy interacting with other people throughout the world as artists and humans. We hope to visit England (UK), Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Austria among other places.

And of course, there is the music. It was our mutual love of music that literally brought us together those decades ago. We plan to continue creating, practicing and teaching lots of music going forward.

Retirement? No, “next chapter.”

Parenthood is forever …

Our mother, Vi Burnett said something to me once about her family and us children that I continue to find to be subtly insightful.

“You don’t know what type of people you are raising. You just do your best and hope life doesn’t hurt them too badly that it dampens their spirit.”

— Mom Burnett

She also often quoted the adage that our children are only “on loan to us for a few years.”

But the thing that really stuck most of all is when she said that “you will never forget the times when all of your children were still living in your home.”

I understand her context much better now that I am the exact age she was when she said that to me in the 1990s. And, it’s true.

It’s not that you want to smother your children and keep them from engaging their own lives. It’s that you miss the times and when you finally figure out what you are doing, your kiddos are gone. It’s both beautiful and melancholy at once.

The goal of parenthood – bringing people into the world who didn’t ask to be here – is to nurture positive contributors to this world.

In hindsight, I can say we have done that in parenting both our son and daughter.

We’re equally proud of both of them as kick-ass adults and just as in love with them today as we were on those days we respectively met each of them in their delivery hospitals.

One Family + One Tribe


#BlackHistoryMonth 


Thanks to Nicole and Danae at the Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center‘s CPAC where Terri Anderson Burnett works for inviting me to speak for one of their “Black History Month” events.

I gave a talk and presentation centered on the topic African Americans and the Vote and enjoyed learning lots while doing the research for this opportunity.

A couple of years ago, I spoke at their “Martin Luther King Jr. Day” event. 

BLACK HISTORY MONTH


One Family

I enjoy discovering new facts while doing research to give talks, presentations, and even music clinics. What I learn each year during Martin Luther King, Jr. and African American recognition periods is always enlightening.

Having added “Papa” and “Nana” (grandfather and grandmother) to our monikers, we’ve now actually lived lots of significant and interesting “history” ourselves.

Ultimately, we’ve found that despite the inherent issues and myths within human society, the fact is that there is only one race – the human race. We are one family.


One Tribe

According to a Harvard study, music is indeed the “universal language.”

This and other contemporary studies reinforce my beliefs in this regard as well.

No matter where we’ve visited or lived in the world, we were able to communicate with others through the common bond of music. That’s cool.


VISION 20/20


#MissouriMusicEducatorsAssociation #Clinician


On January 24, 2020, I had the honor and privilege of sharing research and methods with my colleagues and peers at the annual Missouri Music Educators Association In-Service Workshop Conference. Sponsored by MMEA and Conn-Selmer, Inc.

T went with me and we had a pretty good time together as well.

Love never fails

Our late mother Vi Burnett was a major inspirational force to me, my siblings, and many others as well. I often think of the things she used to say at times when a situation brings her voice forward in my thoughts. Thus, she is quoted often in our family blog.

PHOTO: Mom’s apartment in Paola, Kansas – 2006

Mom Burnett was a renaissance womaneven before using the word ‘renaissance’ to refer to someone who had figured out most of the handles of their life was cool.

In the latter years of her working life, mom went back to playing the piano. Having had private piano lessons as a child, picking it up again was not an issue for her.

Mom eventually held the position as church pianist at St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church where we attended during the years after our family had settled back in her paternal hometown of Paola, Kansas. A minister of music.

That church no longer exists and most of the living descendants of that wonderful church community from our youth no longer reside in that city. But it remains significant to me because it is where I got my start in music singing in the youth choir. I eventually added woodwind instruments at school and mom encouraged me.

Our family attended Sunday school and church every week growing up, went to summer Vacation Bible School classes, participated in seasonal programs produced by the church, etc. We continued these type traditions with our own children too.

Admittedly, we have learned over the years that such faith is ultimately a personal choice, – but we sincerely believe in and live by Christian principles, pray in good times and bad, and over the years have learned that family is not always limited to people who are related to you by blood.

We have a great foundation.

Living it is not just about going to a church on Sunday.

It’s about Love.

Loving one another.

The Burnett Family branches made up of our children and grandchildren add another dimension to all of this.

We are blessed to have so much love in our lives …

L – O – V – E

“TRICK OR TREAT! – Colonial Williamsburg.
Hey, there’s OWLETTE – from PJ Masks

Love is patient, love is kind.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

“The Nana Tour” – Highlights Gallery

2019 Nana Tour

Christmas Time Is Here

Good tidings of comfort and joy !

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We started a tradition in our family several years ago called Thanksgiving-Christmas where we select a timeframe during the season that allows everyone to come together at the Burnett Grandparents’ home to celebrate both of these holidays at the same time with one another.

Thanksgiving-Christmas is a convenient practice when you have adult children with families and lives of their own.

One Family

You really only have one family.

You always gain new family members – related by blood and related by bond.

You always lose family members along the way through death and drama.

Family members come and go in and out of your life for whatever reasons.

We want all of our family (and friends) who weren’t able to be with us for Thanksgiving-Christmas to know that you are always in our hearts and we will always …

LOVE YOU!

~ Terri Anderson Burnett + Christopher Burnett

The story behind the song …

“WHENEVER WE CRY”

Listen

All of the music I write is motivated by life – a person, place or thing.

THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG

Being a child of the US Civil Rights Era (literally, I was born in 1955), I watched my parents work twice as hard to just be even, vote for the first time in their forties and never teach hate or negativity to us children.

I also saw the stresses of life as a black family after they left military service society contribute to their ultimate divorce.

The last conversation I had with my father before he left for good was one where I saw a tear in his eye.

Until then, I had never before seen him even come close to crying.

He saw that I noticed and told me that crying isn’t a weakness but a strength.

He said:

“When we cry it is our purest form of sincerity and it’s a form of communication that is beyond language.

And when we cry angels sing.”

I never forgot that wisdom.

Anytime I confront issues of social justice I remember how important it is to provide sanctuary for those in our charge like our spouse and children.

I’ve had to start over a few times over the years dealing with life matters compounded by the fact of who I am as a man.

We have a thing in our family that is a commitment to never leave anyone behind because we all are going to be wounded by society and life at some point.

I’m committed to living a positive life, with love and one of meritorious self-determination.

Sometimes you run into people who hurt you for that, but I always remember – “when we cry, angels sing” …

And we grow stronger too.

~ Cb


LYRIC

I’m not a poet by any means. But all of my music also has lyrics although I perform and record my music instrumentally.

“WHENEVER WE CRY”

May not be en vogue
To be so open and sincere
Being in love finds a way
To expose every weakness and fear
To reveal all of your sunshine and good cheer

So don’t be put off by the moisture in my

Eyes can only see
Some things and how they need to be
In life’s rude games sometimes played
Or those times when we forget to use our best selves

As your own child takes those first steps
Hold your breath

But whenever we cry

Angels sing

~ Christopher Burnett (BMI)