From Roxbury to Oaktown: review of NE Karaoke Night

I was bursting with giddy happiness after attending NE Karaoke Night at Liege Oakland. The sold out event (with a waiting list!) was sponsored by Oakland’s Family Wellness Group. It was an amazing event full of positive energy, love, joy, and warmth. Our MC Shawn William mentioned that there’s so much negativity about Oakland but tonight’s event was so positive. It was a night in My Oakland. There were no hipsters in sight. Sorry hipsters, sometimes I can’t with y’all. A few walked past and probably wondered why we were dancing on the benches. It was the Oakland I treasure and want my daughter to treasure.  It was a great way to kick off the week.


I had wanted to be there when doors opened at 5pm. I met my good friend Ulili about 15 minutes later. We managed to get seats across from the DJ booth and mic. Before we entered the venue, we ran into her auntie. Once inside, we saw an old friend from the high school Ulili attended and where I once taught.  There were hugs and greetings. The New Edition Story was playing on the TVs so even though the sound was off, we were able to enjoy the Bigs(how NE fans refer to the handsome young men portraying the group as teens and adults) in scenes from the miniseries.  The club played a 90s soundtrack so we danced and sang along.


Photo by Katrece Avery

There were two rounds of karaoke before I left for the evening. Our opener was a former Soul Train dancer named Jeffrey. He was rocking a vintage Cross Colours button-down. He performed “Humpin’ Around” by Bobby Brown. His performance showed us the discipline and energy required to sing and dance at the same time.  One of the highlights was my Facebook friend’s husband, Raul, who despite not knowing the lyrics to classic BBD slow jam “When Will I See You Smile Again?” , absolutely killed it. There were initial technical difficulties but once he began to sing, he won the crowd over with his talent and getting audience participation. Raul’s wife, my Facebook friend, Michelle sang “Hit Me Off.” I wanted to sing with her since there are so many parts. I sang along with practically every performance though I never signed up to take the stage. I lost my nerve when I saw the long line into the club. I was worried that my horrible voice would lead folks to be rude. However, there was nothing but love during this event. Even when folks hit some odd notes, everyone was supportive.

The large crowd was warm and welcoming. I was shown love for wearing my New Edition shirt. I finally got to meet Michelle in person after our interactions on the NE fan Facebook group. So it was fun to get a photo opp with her.


Bay Area NE fans unite

At one point, there were shout outs for folks born in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  New Edition has been in our lives for over 30 years. That is most of our lifetime.  We all knew the lyrics. We were full of emotion. I posted an Instagram video of us singing “Mr. Telephone Man.” I know many of us were reminiscing about who we were when we first heard these songs, remembering people and situations connected to these songs. These are songs and music videos that meant and mean so much to us.  It felt great to share that common experience with so many others.

New Edition’s music unites so many people across the country and across generations. Several viral videos showcase kids singing or dancing to New Edition. They have a new generation of fans who were born in the last decade. They are feeling NE like we do. M would have loved the event. She would have known all the lyrics.

I want to thank Family Wellness Group, Liege Oakland, everyone who sang or danced for us, and all the New Edition fans that came through.  When New Edition comes back to Oakland, we will be there at Oracle or the Fox. NE4Life!

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