I was raised in a Brooklyn brownstone with my mother and her parents, younger brother and sister. For my first eight years on Earth, I was raised Catholic. On the first two floors of the brownstone, where my grandparents and my aunt and uncle lived, Jesus was White. One the third floor of the brownstone, where my mother and I lived, Jesus was Black. In my Grandmother’s parish, Jesus was White. In my mother’s parish, Jesus was Black. In my Grandmother’s parish, you sang from the pews with a hymnbook in your hand. In my mother’s parish, you sang from the pews with a tambourine in your hand. The one thing that was common in both communities however was that Sunday belonged to God. Monday thru Friday, God was present at meals and before you went to bed, but musically God had an exclusive engagement at church on Sundays only.
Stevie Wonder extended God into Monday. He wrote songs with the words “Jesus” and “God” in them that I could play any day of the week. Jesus songs weren’t reserved for the sanctuary when it came to Stevie. Until Stevie came into my life, I thought songs with the words “Jesus” and “God” could only be located on the same albums with other songs about “Jesus” and “God”. Who knew that Jesus and God could co-exist on vinyl with a reggae woman who boogied? Shoot, Stevie even had the words “God” and “hell” placed in the same song! A love song, at that! He even had “Jesus” and “junkies” in the same song and I wouldn’t get in trouble if I got caught listening to it. I had no idea that I could sing about Jesus and God outside of church and it not be considered blasphemous. All of a sudden, Jesus and God could be heard in my living room on a Thursday or a Tuesday or a Saturday and I didn’t have to stop and pay traditional reverence. I could keep playing with my toys and even dance if I wanted to with Jesus and God present.
Stevie Wonder took God out of the church, out of religion and painted God as a personal friend. He took God out the sky and put God in me. Talk to God? Whoa! I talked to my friends. I prayed to God. Surely, no one would find it acceptable for me to pray to my friends, so why on Earth would it be acceptable for me to talk to God? “When you feel your life's too hard just go have a talk with God.” Word? It was that easy? I could talk to God. No middle man needed? No Priest needed to delivery my message? This was a revolutionary concept to a little Catholic School girl. I had no idea. Stevie let me know that I could “talk to him anytime” and that “he's always around.” Not only could I talk to God, but Stevie said that God would talk back! “He loves us all, that's what my God tells me.” So, a conversation with God was truly possible. Stevie Wonder made God my homeboy.