June Millington shared with us this letter she wrote about Toshi Reagon last year. What a great story:
“In Spring of 1975 I was on the road with Cris Williamson on her first national tour just after the release of ” The Changer and the Changed”. It was a riot of impressions and energy, a swirling mix of adulation, raw excitement, and the feminine principle becoming manifest. Although I’d come out of the extreme edge of rock and roll, I was shocked - in a good way. How fun, plus Cris was taking all the attention, therefore the heat. For me, bliss.
In the midst of all that, a gig in a huge hall in Washington DC, the very spot where singer Marian Anderson was refused permission to sing to an integrated audience by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in 1939: Constitution Hall. I was from the Philippines, I didn’t know all that. After all, who here knows about Jose Rizal? (a national hero of the Philippine Revolution).
Thus began my steep learning curve through women’s music and feminism, to which I was entirely unassociated until just the winter before when I played on Cris’ album and was introduced to the scene - perfect for me, as it wasn’t associated with books. This was on-the-streets learning, which I came to appreciate more and more. Plus, her-story was being created in the moment, and I was there to see it, better yet. All this was a dawning realization which took awhile to integrate, and these events constituted a turning point in my life.
After the show, in walked a young woman backstage, one big smile and all the energy in the world. Such enthusiasm! I think she was maybe 14, and I don’t know how she got into the backstage area, had to be that smile. As chance would have it, I was sitting there by myself so we had a few lovely minutes together. I couldn’t help it, her energy was so infectious, and she wanted in the worst way to learn - anything! So right then and there I pulled out my guitar and showed her the riffs to “Your Own Way”, which have a direct link to the Meters and New Orleans funk (Fanny had done numerous gigs with the Meters and Dr John, and I had spent lots of time in New Orleans soaking it all in).
This was a girl impossible to resist. Over the next 5 years or so I would send Toshi notes and cassettes that would help her in her determined training, for example the layers of production on Cris’ “Strange Paradise” and Holly Near’s “Fire in the Rain”. I think it was good for us both, as I’m endlessly fascinated by the production process, and I remember Cris giving me a look during pre-production at her home in Oregon and saying something like “why are you doing all that?” (I was sending Toshi rehearsal tapes, too - important to the sculpting). I don’t remember what I said but basically I let Cris know I was being led, and she accepted that.
Around early 1980 I began working on my own solo album and after it was released went out to do gigs to support it ~ Toshi produced me in Washington, DC, played bass and I stayed at her and her mother Bernice’s house. One morning I woke up to a note under my door from Bernice - we had met once before, when Sweet Honey invited Cris to a rehearsal at their house and I tagged along - welcoming me and saying how she didn’t know me that well and but felt she knew me through Toshi’s playing my music over and over! It was the sweetest welcoming note I’ve ever received, and I still have it somewhere. (yes, the IMA Archives). I knew Toshi and I had a deep connection, and that sealed it.
Toshi is someone who has always let me and others know how important I was in her life, and how I helped her in her quest to learn everything, and I mean everything, she could. She also, when I was reluctant to talk about Fanny, always urged me to acknowledge my past when I wanted nothing but to leave it behind. I think we have helped each other to flower, as now she’s a celebrated artist, guitarist-singer-songwriter and a record producer herself. And I’m writing my autobiography.
There are many more brushing of wings that I don’t have the time to relate here, but let me just say that Toshi always has supported IMA, understood its fundamental importance and has been a willing accomplice in making sure that she herself has been well-archived through me and by extension IMA, and for that I thank her…” - June Millington June 7, 2011