This Morning When I Rose - Mississippi Mass Choir Mama Mosie Burks
When Mosie Amos Burks tells her story, nearly a century is peeled away as she recounts her childhood exploits as a cotton-picker on the big plantations of Mississippi and surrounding states in the area well- known as the Delta. Born the third in line of thirteen siblings in 1933,  Mosie’s then nineteen- year-old mother Stella Bounds traveled with her father, from plantation to plantation picking cotton, having babies, growing older and watching the fate of other children and families mired in poverty, living hand-to-mouth on a daily basis.. By   age   twelve,   Mosie   could   be   found   under   the   sweltering   sun,   in   the   harsh atmosphere    of    the    cotton    fields,    wiping    her    sweat-laden    brow    with    bloody, calloused   hands   alongside   other   siblings   old   enough   to   share   the   burden   of bringing   in   a   few   pennies   to   support   the   family.   By   year’s   end,   they   would   make seventy-five   bales   of   cotton   to   pay   their   debt   to   the   sharecropper   and   clear $1,000   to   keep   for   the   family,   then   borrow   against   the   next   year   and   begin   the cycle again. Though   Mosie’s   mother   was   small   in   stature,   a   mere   5’5”,   and   was   only   a   young woman   herself   with   very   little   formal   education,   she   firmly   stood   her   ground   and insisted   that   her   children   go   to   school.   So,   against   all   odds   and   in   spite   of moving   from   one   plantation   to   another,   all   of   her   children,   meagerly   clad,   went   to school   in   the   fall   and   winter,   while   other   young   black   children   continued   to   work in   the   fields.   Perhaps   it   was   her   mother’s   ability   to   swim   upstream   toward   a desired   goal   that   gave   Mosie   just   the   tenacity   she   needed   to   keep   her   brothers and sisters together after their mother passed away at age forty. Mosie    was    twenty-one    when    she    buried    her    mother    and    the    mantle    of motherhood   fell   to   her   as   she   cared   for   the   ten   siblings   younger   than   she, ranging   in   age   from   four   to   fourteen.   Mosie   puts   it   like   this,   “I   knew   it   was   my   lot to   take   care   of   my   brothers   and   sisters.   My   dad   wasn’t   very   good…and   I   was too   close   to   my   mother   for   it   not   to   be   mine.   I   believe   the   Lord   lined   it   up   for   me, aunts   and   uncles   were   lined   up   to   split   them   up   like   little   chicks,   but   I   said   ‘no, you’re   not   having   any   of   them.’”   So   she   raised   them   as   a   mother   would,   helped to   see   them   each   through   school,   kept   them   in   church   and   eventually   went   on   to marry and have three children of her own. For   Mosie,   faith   played   a   big   part   in   her   ability   to   raise   her   siblings   in   the   face   of severe   poverty   and   hardship.   At   age   twelve,   she   received   the   Holy   Ghost, attending   church   years   before   her   parents   did   and   always   remained   connected with   God.   To   her,   faith   was   KNOWING   that   God   was   with   her   and   would   always provide   for   her   and   her   family.   The   following   story   depicts   this   belief   perfectly.   “I remember   we   had   this   ten   dollar   a   week   house,   and   I   was   making   twenty   dollars a   week   and   it   was   in   the   winter-time   and   I   would   usually   catch   the   bus   to   get home.   Some   days   the   man   of   the   house   asked   me   to   stay   late   and   he   gave   me one   dollar   so   I   could   take   the   cab   home   (because   it   was   cold   and   dark),   but instead   of   taking   the   cab   all   the   way   home,   which   was   more   expensive   than   the bus,   I   would   take   a   thirty-five   cent   cab   ride   and   then   walk   a   few   blocks   to   catch the   bus   for   ten   cents   and   keep   the   fifty-five   cents   extra   and   buy   what   groceries   I could   with   it.   Then   I   would   cook   dinner   and   they   (the   children)   would   eat   and they   would   go   to   bed   not   knowing   I   didn’t   have   anything   to   cook   for   breakfast.   I would   get   on   my   knees   and   pray   and   someone   would   come   to   my   door   in   the morning   and   say   Mosie,   here’s   some   eggs,   here’s   some   bacon,   and   the   children never knew that the situation was like this.” Mosie’s   life   has   not   been   without   its   obstacles,   but,   she   says,   “You   have   to   have obstacles   or   you   become   a   very   dull   person,   if   you   have   no   obstacles,   oh phooey!   You   have   no   tale   to   tell,   you’re   just   sailing   through.   I   like   some   wind now   and   then,   test   the   boat,   test   the   sails,   test   the   motor…”   She   prays   every day   and   has   asked   the   Lord   how   to   make   it   through   the   obstacles,   how   to   come out   on   top.   She   learned   that   life   is   a   system   of   three   parts   that   need   to   be   in balance   with   each   other:   physical,   mental,   and   spiritual.   It’s   a   daily   task   to   stay on   top,   but   it   is   a   journey   she   relishes.   Mosie   says   that   when   Satan   rings   the doorbell   to   get   in   her   body,   she   tells   him   to   get   out,   she   won’t   have   any   part   of   it and judging from the fruits of her labors, she is doing an excellent job.  
With a strenuous rehearsal schedule, many nights the choir practiced until midnight, and a new husband, Willie Burks,(her first husband had passed away in 1984), she felt the strain on her marriage and considered dropping out of the choir. Then she learned that the rehearsal schedule would end as soon as the recording was finished so she stayed with the choir and was invited to audition for a solo. Stunned to hear the news that she was chosen as the soloist for “This Morning When I Rose,” she was even more surprised as the song climbed to the number one spot on the Billboard Charts as did the album, remaining in the number one position for more than a year. Humility is one of Mosie’s strong suits and when it comes to her singing, she tells songwriters who wish to write for her, “It better be simple! Don’t give me no curves and hills!” At seventy-one years of age and her first solo release (as of yet, untitled) on the horizon, Mosie gets around. With several Asian and European tours behind her and numerous trips and tours nationwide, she is about to embark on another European tour with Jerry Smith, minister of music for the Mississippi Mass Choir and Director of the Children of Israel, an offshoot of the Mass Choir. Her album will contain a couple of original gospel songs written by friends, but mostly will consist of her favorites from decades of singing to congregations as a soloist and with various church choirs. Her heart is on this CD and she is excited to be blessed with the opportunity to share it with so many. Recently, Disney produced a movie called America, Heart and Soul which releases in July, 2004 and spotlights Americans nationwide. Mosie Burks from Jackson, Mississippi, soloist in a world renown choir and little girl who picked cotton all across the Delta, has this to say about the experience: “They shot the movie [my part] in three locations, the first one was with the Mississippi Mass downtown Jackson and it was outside in the summer, so the Mass was in full and I did “This Morning When I Rose.” Then they did settings from a small church, so we went there and I spoke and then I sang. The third part was done at home where they interviewed me. You should have seen the neighbors, Jenny, it was one Sunday afternoon, huge trucks with great big lines, they had to stop traffic, people had to cut off their air conditioners, it was like…I didn’t realize what they were doing, they did some taping here inside the house, they wanted me in a house dress, I don’t have a house dress, I was a career woman, the man went through my closet and picked something for me to wear and they got my life story. I can see him sitting out there now, the white people were fanning me and the other one was giving me water and redoing my face, I wouldn’t let them make me look or act like a little old lady.” About life she has this to say: “I have found favor in the Lord, he has granted me to do so many things. I have a ball living, I have a hearty living, I wake up happy, I’m still here! Yahoo!”
After retiring from her twenty-three year stint at the telephone company, \Mosie  was ready to assume her role as a little old lady traveling with herhusband, visiting historic sights, enriching her life with family and laying low. Apparently,this was not God’s plan! Music was always an integral part of Mosie’s life, having sung solos in church since she was a little girl and learning to accompany herself on the guitar. Later, singing with the church choir,people grew accustomed to seeing her in front of the congregation, singing with the heart of an angel who knew God personally In truth, she moves peoplewhether they know her story or not, her presence is forceful, her spirit, infectious.  
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