I’m a huge Mary J Blige (MJB) fan. I will never forget when her video debuted on Video Soul (old heads will know what I’m talking about). She had me at “you remind me…” So it pains me to have to besmirch her name. Just a little. While Blige has been credited with being the iconic voice of the merging of hip hop/soul music, spanning a 20+ career of record sells and awards, technically the honor should go to Michel’le. Michel’le’s self-titled album was released three year’s before Blige’s in 1992. She really is the first r&b singer whose sound was heavily infused with hip hop music. This can probably be attributed to her boyfriend at the time, rapper/producer Dr. Dre.
Over the years, Michel’le has talked about her tumultuous relationship with Dr. Dre, stating he was very abusive towards her. When the film “Straight Out of Compton” came out last year, the allegations resurfaced. Most folks told Michel’le (and Dee Barnes) to shut up about their violent encounter(s) with Dr. Dre. Many felt that they should “let the past be the past” and that Dre had right to have his life story told.
Thank goodness neither Michel’le or Barnes listened to that nonsense. Barnes had an opportunity to tell her story via an online interview and now Michel’le will tell her side of things in the upcoming Lifetime movie, “Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Me.” The movie will premiere this upcoming Saturday, October 15th.
Fitting it comes out during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Finally, one of the first female contributors to hip hop/soul music, is getting her due.
This past weekend marked the 20th anniversary of The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA):
“The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a United States federal law (Title IV, sec. 40001-40703 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, H.R. 3355) signed as Pub.L. 103–322 by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994 (codified in part at 42 U.S.C. sections 13701 through 14040). The Act provides $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposes automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allows civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave un-prosecuted.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence_Against_Women_Act
The issue of domestic violence (DV) has been in the media (as of late) due to the cases of Ray Rice, Greg Oden, Floyd Mayweather, and others. And I’m sure more will cases will be popping up.
Some Black folks feel that men of color are being unfairly used as the face of DV. Probably. But if these men kept their hands to themselves they wouldn’t be such easy targets. However, I agree white abusers like Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, etc., have been protected by the media.
In any case, Black folks shouldn’t worry about what white folks are doing with their abusers, we only need to be concerned with what our community does with ours. DV is not more prevalent in the Black community. But due to a complicated history with the criminal justice system and already negative stereotypes about Black men, the Black community is leery about speaking about this issue in public. Black women, in particularly, don’t want to be seen as disloyal to the community or “getting another brother locked up.”
The issue of combating DV is complex in the Black community. I hope to write more about this in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
There have been many discussions specifically about the Ray Rice case. I was most moved by a recent interview with actor Terry Crews. Crews spoke about growing up as a child in a DV home. We need more men of color to speak about their experiences with DV, as well as speak out for women and children.