The Strength of a Woman

Mary J Blige (MJB) released her album “Strength of a Woman” this past May. Like any good groupie, I got the album. To be honest, I only listened to it here and there. These are busy times. What I heard was decent. Generally, MJB tends to put out good albums. However, the other day I had a little down time and really listened to “Strength…” The album is actually pretty solid. It’s a reflective collection of music backed with heartfelt singing and killer production. It’s an amazing adult contemporary album for Black women in my age group (the Gen-Xers).

When it was announced that Mary was divorcing her husband of 12 years, folks said “uh, oh. Mary is going to be crying again on her next album.” Mary is known for singing about her relationships. As a die-hard fan of Mary of the 25+ years she’s been in the music industry,  I’ve come to the realization Mary is just a sensitive person. She wears her heart on her sleeve. I find her willingness to be vulnerable a rarity. The truth is,  love is some complicated mess. We all want it, whether we admit it or not. We want that deep love, that Love Jones love, that real love. I think Mary wants it more than anyone and it makes sense knowing her history. She has talked about being molested as a child, an on and off again relationship with her father, drug addiction, and relationship with guys who just didn’t know what to do with a girl/woman like Mary J Blige.

I remember in an interview, Mary talked about when she was a kid, other kids would fight to see who could sit by her or be her friend. She also recalled a time a teacher asked her to sing to help settle down the class, and it worked. There is something about Mary. I think because she’s an old/tender soul, that she has had to camouflage with street swag. The survival story of most Black women.

 

 

In the early years, a young Mary covered her eyes/was hiding. By mid-career (No More Drama, The Breakthrough) she was growing more confident. Now, with her 13th album, she is boldly proclaiming  “f*ck it, I’m Mary J Blige!” by sitting on her throne. 

Listening to the new album, yes Mary J is brokenhearted again. But unlike the other times she’s shared about failed love/the rhetoric of loving one’s self…she seems to have had a true epiphany of “oh well, shit happens. but i’m gonna be alright.”  The thing I love about Mary, is that she is constantly evolving. Mary has maintained she is a work in progress. Even when she got married and thought she found the love of her life, she warned folks that there is never really any happy endings. You always have to put in the work to be a better person.

While Mary has made some faux pas over the years (still cringing over that Burger King commercial and singing for Clinton), overall she’s been an inspiring person. She has been an iconic image for Black women like me who grew up in the 70’s/80’s. The 40-something Black women who know a little bit more about life than we did in our 20’s, but still learning and growing. Rock on MJB.

My current favorite song from “Strength…”

Southside with You

I kind of forgot about the film “Southside with You.” Maybe it’s because the movie had a limited theater release,  so it came and went rather quickly. The Obamas were still occupying the White House when it came out. Why go see a movie when you could witness their love in real life? Perhaps, the film would’ve done better if it were released now. Folks have already started to wax nostalgia for the Obamas after the ridiculousness of #45 and camp.

Image result for southside with you

I finally watched the film for the first time. It was interesting.  The film was directed by Richard Tanne, a white man. He did a decent job in capturing Black life, but it may explain why Mrs. Obama’s character was so harsh. Men directors (regardless of race) seem to rarely know what to do with Black female characters.  I know the story was trying to capture the precarious situation Mrs. Obama was in by starting a relationship with Obama. She was his boss. She was Black and a woman, fighting daily misogynoir in her office. She couldn’t afford to mess up. However, the film depicted her as overly cautious and rigid and even obnoxious.

When the Obamas ran for their first presidency, Michelle often displayed a humorous, tell it like it is persona. She was witty and smart and you rooted for her more than you did Obama (well, I did anyway 🙂 Then politics got a hold of her, and soon she was forced to play a subdued First Lady role.  We got to see the real Michelle again on January 19th, 2017. I would’ve liked to see more of a well-rounded image of her in the movie. Yet, Barack’s character was allowed to ooze charm. Interesting, as it’s Michelle who actually gives him his flavor (to me anyway 🙂 If you ever observed them on television, it was she who would get up and start grooving or singing or just having fun and he would follow along.

The movie wasn’t horrible, it opens the doors for other directors take on the loving relationship of the Obamas.  “Southside…” actually made me want to see a movie on Michelle’s life. The father she sweetly speaks about, her brother, the expectations placed upon her growing up…how she truly felt about it. The racism and sexism she had to endure during her college years.  The fact that she and Barack, actually planned to divorce at one time. I think it was due to her having to put her career on the back burner, so he could shine in politics.  I guess in the end, she made history. But most women never really forget their dreams.

Afeni Shakur

The passing of Afeni Shakur is jarring as her son’s song “Dear Mama” is often used as a shout out to black mamas on Mother’s Day…which is this Sunday.

As many folks have pointed out,  it’s important to remember that Shakur was more than just Tupac’s mom. She was a leader in her own right. “Afeni Shakur (born Alice Faye Williams; January 10, 1947 – May 2, 2016) was an American music businesswoman, philanthropist, political activist and Black Panther.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afeni_Shakur.  Also, some folks may not be aware that Tupac’s godmother is Assata Shakur. Imagine growing up with these two brilliant women.

Rest up Ms. Shakur.

smiling shakur

 

 

Black Future Month #2

When I first learned I was going to become a mother, I wondered how it would impact my work as an activist. The reality is, mothers tend to sacrifice the most of ourselves/time even if we have supportive allies in our lives. Then I came across the article “Claudia De la Cruz: Motherhood As a Part of Her Revolutionary Process.” Cruz, who identifies as Black Dominican or Afro-Caribbean, wrote about how motherhood influenced her role as a community activist. Motherhood doesn’t have to hamper one’s political goals. If anything, it can be used as a valuable tool.

It’s easy to forget the power of mothering. We live in a society that gives lip service to honoring mothers,  but only on the surface. Particularly, when it comes to mothers of color.  The Revolutionary Mothering Book Tour seeks to give space to marginalized mothers. The co-editors (Mai’a Williams, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, and China Martens) have created a gofund account to support their work.

“Our goal is to raise $10,000 to create a series of events, through a national tour,  that will truly embody the legacy of radical Black feminists and move their visions forward, because marginalized mothers are at the center of a world in need of transformation. We are now so excited to bring this vital work to your communities with readings, and a national tour, where we will do not only revolutionary readings, but also motherful community events, presentations, conference panels, and interactive workshops” https://www.gofundme.com/8qqthgbc

How we raise our children. What we teach them. And the wisdom/legacies we leave for our children is an integral part of the future of communities of color. The Revolutionary Mother Book Tour aims to remind us of that.

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Revolutionary reading with my little one (“A is for activist” and “Counting on Community” By Innosanto Nagara).