A flashback flashdance! Yesterday my iPod shuffled up two songs, almost back to back, by Cree Summer– “Miss Moon” and “Deliciously Down.” This random play had me twirling and gyrating in my living room and got me thinking hard about this sister who still has folks buzzing about her music, her style and her brilliant voiceover career even though most folk ain’t seen hide nor lusciously curly hair from this very private Cancerian. Cree clearly struck a nerve. Her unconventional and honest outlook on love, music, politics and health was even apparent in her portrayal of Freddie in “A Different World” and was most certainly an extension of her own naturalist vibe and roots. Always on her grind, this free-spirited Canadian can now be heard as the seductive Green M&M– notably the first female of the mix.
Many moons ago I had the chance to sit down with Cree in her beautiful kitchen, which looked out onto her huge rainforest like backyard in Sherman Oaks, California. We talked about music, men, sensuality, fear, the blues, poetry, pirates and yonis. I hear she has since had a baby. I know she is a fantastic mom because she was all about nurturing and enriching our Mother Spirits even back then. I am still holding out, admittedly foolishly so, that she will make another CD and tour again. I miss the sound of her hearty laughter and the sultry twang in her singing voice. I miss that girl.
Cree & theHotness Circa 2002
Today’s she’s Honey Brown, the Seductress of the Seven Seas. Sporting a gray baby tee and low-rider jeans, Honey Brown is sitting on the ledge of her windowsill waiting for my arrival. “Good morning sister,” she shouts with her Jolly Roger flag waving in the warm LA breeze overhead. Last time I saw Honey Brown was back in 1999 at Jones Beach and on that particular day she was promoting her WORK Group release, “Street Fairie,” – opening for her fellow friend and producer Lenny Kravitz. Officially she was Cree Summer, but when she grabbed the skull and crossbone encroached microphone singing, “I need to slide deliciously down to where I hurt the least,” those in the know saw glimpses of Honey Brown shine through. Fast forward one month, the WORK Group closes and the Toronto native is left without a record deal. Depressed, she drops out of sight and doesn’t return phone calls, not even to Lenny. Fast forward again 3 years and suddenly the sister who grew up on a Indian reserve in Saskatchewan– who we knew well as Freddie from A Different World, is coming out of hiding. Not that we see her anywhere, but we hear her voice everywhere. From her characterization of Suzie Carmichael on the Rugrats to being the voice of Princess Kida in Disney’s Atlantis, Cree at 33 is still bringing home the bacon big time. Sitting in her sunny dining area sipping lemon tea and looking out onto the backyard that resembles a Brazilian rainforest, Honey Brown shares with me her blues and her revelations. Coming full circle professionally and personally, she’s completing voiceover work for two movie characters and just recently shot a pilot for a new television show and is even writing songs for a new album. Cree Summer is back and Honey Brown, her pirate alter ego, has a lot to say.
theHotness: What’s the story behind your Pirate Movement?
Cree Summer: A movement?
tH: Yeah, girl it’s a movement now!
CS: You know it is a movement. Well I came here when I was 18 from Toronto, Canada. And I’ve been very, very blessed. I always meet lovely females. Just one of those charmed things in my life. I have great friends. So I’ve always had at least two wonderful sisters in my life at all times. And when I moved here I met Lisa Bonet and we fell instantly in love and started a very, productive, creative friendship. First we wanted to have a poetry circle because we write poetry and we going around to these little fuckin’ coffee shops where they have poetry nights—open mic nights. And we noticed there wasn’t a lot of listening going on. It was like everybody is waiting for their turn. And it was like who can be better then the next poet. And I always thought poetry was supposed to be about listening and appreciating that someone’s sharing their deep moments.
tH: I know what you mean!
CS: So we said ‘ fuck this, we’re going have to start our own circle.’
tH: Right cause clearly it wasn’t about the rhyme.
CS: So we started a circle where we allowed no applause and no set order. It was strictly based on vibe and love. We all sat on the floor in a circle and if in some way you had a poem related to the last poem read, then it was your turn next.
tH: Ooooh that’s hot!
CS: So you had to listen. We did that for years and started meeting incredible women poets and musicians and dancers. We took that another step further, got more exclusive and started a women’s group. And we meet on the full moons and we meet when someone has a baby and we meet when we miss each other madly. And what we do is just reflect back to each other our beauty and artistry. We call ourselves “pirates” because we do consider ourselves outlaws and pariahs and alternative livers. You know what I mean?
tH: Absolutely. Is there a sense of rebellion?
CS: Well definitely. Rebellion in the sense that we believe that you get two choices every millisecond this life—fear or love. And we chose to diligently pick love. And with each other it’s a lot easier cause you got someone who is powerful, beautiful reflecting back to you. How lovely it is to come from your highest place.
tH: How many pirates are there?
CS: At least 30.
tH: Get outta here!
CS: no kidding!
tH: Are they all women of color?
CS: Majority are women of color, but not all. Sophisticated Yoni, one of the Pirates, has a great saying for us. She says, “with weapons of mass seduction the pirates will make love to the world.”
tH: I like that.
CS: That’s kinda like our credo. And I wrote a little womanifesto.
tH: I know I read that. That’s why I said movement. You’re trying to act like it’s just a fried chicken gathering! (laughter)
CS: And it’s one of the best movements because it wasn’t planned. And another really important thing. I think it was born out of a general lack of mothering that I think I can assume a lot of women suffer from. You know it’s what your grandmomma’s grandmomma didn’t tell her and what your grandmomma didn’t tell your momma, so what you’re momma didn’t tell you. There’s generation after generations—heirlooms of shame and insecurity being passed down to women.
tH: Yeah especially about their sexual, sensual parts of their being. You’d be surprised how many sisters don’t even know what their yoni is. And that’s because no one talks about it. Maybe you’ll here about some cootchie in a rap song…
CS: (laughing) When you’re just someone’s homey, never sophisticated yoni!
tH: So there’s no pride or respect for one’s yoni. So many women don’t appreciate their own sensuality.
CS: So many women don’t respect other women. When I’m confronted with animosity from another woman, because I’m spoiled rotten with my friends, I’m always so shocked. I can’t believe that we would have anything to possibly compete about. Women fighting each other. I mean who could possibly win? We’re creators. Just yesterday I’m out in the garden looking at these brand new flowers that sprouted out and said look no one makes colors like the Mother. And in those moments I think how could I ever be sad to be born Woman.
tH: It’s something to think about.
CS: It’s hard to be diligent. Everyday you have to ask yourself ‘what’s my choice? Love or fear.’ It’s so easy to forget because so many people connect on negatives. It takes a much a higher being to connect on something lovely, positive and deep. And that’s how we have to do this work. The pirates are here to obliterate womb amnesia. We want everyone to know where the fuck they come from—The Mother.
tH:“Street Fairie,” a record that you put a great deal of energy into, only to be dropped from the label a few weeks after its release. How did that experience affect you? And how did your experiences as a Pirate help you through it?
CS: Well in all honesty. We docked ship and jumped overboard. (laughs) This was my second experience. I was in a rock band for years called Subject To Change and we we’re on Capitol Records and I lost my deal there. I was a child and I had put in work, baby! I mean following Fishbone in a van to open for them. I mean playing up and down Sunset Strip for 2 years before we even signed a deal. You know, hard rock-n-roll dudes. And I lost that deal and went into a massive depression. Massive! And it was maybe two years before I even wanted to write again. Well I wanted to write the whole time, but I was in pain. But by the grace of God and the simple fact I have no fuckin’ choice. I have to make music. It’s no longer a choice in my life. So I started again and got that WORK deal. And when that deal fell though I was ridin’ very, very high. I was happy with the work I created. I had a beautiful, beautiful band that I love and adore anyway. And so when that deal feel through I got very, very quiet. There was not very much music in the house. Not much music in the car. There wasn’t much music in my spirit. And I felt victimized… which is all a sham and an illusion cause there is no such thing. I got to get really dark. I got to drink a lot and just went into heavy indulgence for about a year.
tH: You were having a Billie Holiday, Jimi Hendrix moment.
CS: Yeah, well mostly the ‘oh woe is me’. I was having a pity party, dressed to depress. But the best part about the sadness was I met my shadow side which does feel victimized, which does say, ‘oh poor me. If I was white only and doing rock-n-roll this would be easy, wah, wah, wah’. But the truth of the matter is you have to go through many deaths to become who you are. Lots a little parts of you have to die. There’s a darkness inside of us that we’re all going to have to make friends with one day.
tH: And we might run into it again and again.
CS: Oh I’d say She comes back around many, many times this dark sister. And now I know this Geechee. We party together! So now I feel gratitude for loss. It was the best thing to happen to me. I got time to be blue and to really indulge and time to meet a part of myself that I probably would not have looked at if I hadn’t experienced that loss.
tH: So it was a really good thing for you both personally and professionally.
CS: Oh definitely. I do believe that the music born out of this—not outta the pain—out of the gratitude, will be powerful and better than ever.