NO, Kanye West is NOT the Male Lauryn Hill

Ms. Lauryn Hill released The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill five months after I gave birth to my son. I often held him while singing along to “Zion“. Ms. Hill’s voice and the lyrics were cathartic as I quietly struggled through what I now suspect was postpartum depression. With Miseducation, I fell more in love with Ms. Hill than I was when she was a member of the Fugees.

When I moved to Atlanta in 2003, seeing Ms. Hill in concert was one of my top five Atlanta To-Do list items. I don’t recall the exact date when I first saw her in concert, but I do know that I’ve seen her perform in Atlanta at least four times – at the Tabernacle, Center Stage, Chastain Park, and Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood. I also had a picture taken with her after hearing her speak to a surprised group of middle school youth at an end-of-year ceremony.

I saw “polo-and-backpacks” Kanye in concert for the first time in 2004 at Atlanta’s Centennial Park. I also attended the shows for the Watch the Throne Tour in 2011 and The Yeezus Tour in 2013 and had plans to attend the Saint Pablo Tour in 2016. I’ve bumped Kanye’s albums from The College Dropout to The Life of Pablo. I stopped listening after Pablo.

For a while, I felt – as did/do many people – Kanye was misunderstood. He was just being an eccentric artist. That was the reason – excuse – I gave. Whenever he’d speak in circular patterns at awards shows or during interviews, I’d interpret his comments and post them to my Facebook page. Eventually, some of my Facebook friends would look to my page or tag me in a post and ask me what he was trying to say. They jokingly referred to me as the “Kanye Whisperer”.

I have followed and been a fan of Ms. Hill and Kanye in various capacities. Both are artists whose work I admire, love. Both are artists whose creativity sets them apart from other artists, no matter whether that creativity is wrapped up in one studio album (and one equally and differently impressive live album…I said what I said.) or in multiple albums and production credits. Both have had some challenging life experiences. Both of them have disappointed fans.

But they are not the same. Kanye West is NOT the male Lauryn Hill.

Critiques of Ms. Hill being difficult to work with and for and being late to shows have lingered for most of her post-Fugees career. These critiques have been reignited this year Robert Glasper’s commentary about an alleged 2008 interaction and late-starting and canceled shows for her 20th Anniversary Miseducation Tour. Ms. Hill has responded to the critique, but some fans understandably find her inconsistency inconsiderate.

When Kanye was hospitalized in November, 2016, many expressed prayers for his health. But his behavior since his release have had fans, foes, and other hip hop artists see-sawing between calling for him to be saved by a Black woman to saying, “Fuck him and that Donald Trump hill  he wants to die on.”  People are convinced that he’s not “the old Kanye” – the one who said George Bush doesn’t like Black people; the one who interrupted Taylor Swift. He’s now the Kanye who meets with and idolizes President Trump, wears Make America Great Again hats, says slavery was a choice, and rants on social media, interviews, and on Saturday Night Live. Kanye is beyond inconsiderate.

At one point, I was one of Kanye’s biggest fans. I still am one of Ms. Hill’s biggest fans. I understand why people have been disappointed in and by their words and actions. But let’s be clear, suggesting that Kanye West is the Male Lauryn Hill is a false analogy. The disappointment in Ms. Hill and Kanye West are not the same. There are levels. Ms. Hill being late to or canceling shows is inconsiderate but is not comparable to Kanye’s idolization of Donald Trump, MAGA hats, and statements about slavery and the 13th amendment.

Kanye West is NOT the male Lauryn Hill. But this comparison sheds light on the unbelievably high (and unbalanced) standards to which we hold Black women. The public support that Kanye has received over the years would never have continued had he been Ms. Hill. The desire to understand where he’s coming from would not be extended to him were he Ms. Hill. Questions about his mental health and sincere calls for him to get help would not be asked or made if he were Ms. Hill.

We hold Black women to such a standard that repeatedly being late to concerts is equated with dangerous idolization and rhetoric that could potentially influence the continued marginalization and oppression of Black people. And no, I’m not reading too much into the suggestion that Kanye West is the male Lauryn Hill. We’re not reading enough into the subtle ways we tell Black women their behavior and words must always be impeccable in order to deserve a modicum of the support that we give Black men. We have canceled Black women’s careers for behaviors that we rationalize with Black men (e.g., Chrisette Michele told us she was no political genius, and we still give her the side-eye.). We have canceled Black women in our communities for behaviors that we forgive when demonstrated by Black men.

Kanye West is not the male Lauryn Hill because he’s been coddled, supported, and prayed for – in spite of and because of his words and actions.

Maybe Lauryn Hill should be the female Kanye. At least then she’d get to be late to and cancel concerts and be coddled, supported, forgiven, or pray for.

It’s time we Black men to the same high standards to which we hold Black women and nurture Black women the same way we nurture Black men. It’s time.

-Qiana M. Cutts

 

 

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For Bobbi Kristina…

On Saturday, January 31, 2015, Bobbi Kristina Brown, the 21-year-old daughter of Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston, was found unresponsive, facedown in her bathtub. As Bobbi Kristina was being rushed to the hospital, professional and social media and the blogs were reporting her detriment. The eerily similar way in which her mother was found in February of 2012 was used to forecast a bleak ending for Bobbi Kristina. Reports from allegedly anonymous individuals close to family suggested she was in a medically induced coma and had very little brain activity.

Reading that Bobbi Kristina was rushed to the hospital bothered my spirit and reading some of the comments about her and her family and the reports that were so quick to plan her final arrangements angered me. The vulturistic nature of the media and the dismissive and downright cruel statements made by people on social media fueled my nonstop prayers for Bobbi Kristina’s full recovery.

Initially, I struggled to understand why I was so impacted by Bobbi Kristina’s illness – a young woman I do not know personally. I thought about her like I would a blood relative. While we are not related, but Bobbi Kristina is family. She’s black/brown girl/woman family. She is family that’s connected to so many other black/brown girls/women through the experience of trying to BE  in a world where our being is critiqued, challenged and stifled. Too often, black/brown girl/woman being is characterized as a traumatically painful experience, and we are told in so many ways that our trauma and pain are deserved. Our trauma and pain are not received with compassion and understanding that are experienced by other girls and women. If we give way to the hurt, we are not resilient. If we let depression take hold of our psyches and bodies, we are not strong. If we soothe our pain with sex, drugs, or alcohol, we are fulfilling the expectations. We are to be forever constrained by the metaphysical dilemma of being us. Black/brown girls/women are not supposed to win. I fucking want us to win! The selfish part of me wants to see Bobbi Kristina win – for all of us. Win.

However, as I read updates on her status suggesting that her family members are saying their goodbyes, I am reminded of the prayers that I have asked God and the Universe to grant for Bobbi Kristina. My prayers focused on healing energy, lifted spirits, sincerity, energy, and love. I prayed that she be well and find peace. Be well. Be at peace. Just BE… And then it occurred to me that being well and being at peace are not connected to physical presence. Being well and at peace are spiritually conceptualized, and I sincerely believe that her spirit is well and at peace. So whether Bobbi Kristina continues to be physically present on earth or transitions to be cradled by her mother, as long as she is at peace, she wins. She wins for her.

Bobbi Kristina, fight for you, be well for you, be at peace for you, win…for you.

 

 

Futuristic Black Love – on 3000

Futuristic Black love
on 3000

Because 2,999 won’t do
You, me and Badu
Space traveling through galaxies
Building our families
Resisting normative boundaries
of social expectations
Highest love levitating
and creating
Bodies and ciphers and
Intergalactic escapes to lands
That celebrate

Futuristic Black love
on 3000

We’re on that new shyt
Black love on 3000
That some folks can’t
Get wit
We don’t live in boxes
Fluid, undefinable identifies
and I’m checking pansexual
Because our passion connects
To the intellectual
While our love births those

SpottieOttieDopaliscious

Aliens from Atlanta, Dallas and West Blocton
We three – a true southern concoction

of Futuristic Black love
on 3000

Find us in our spaceship
No rear view mirrors
Ain’t looking back while
We dip
Into the exosphere
So damn high, elevated
Clouds are miniscule beneath
Our feet
Our next lifetime is now
Breaking atmospheric beats
Loving, living, creating

Exactly

How

We

Pleeeeaaaaase.

No need for a player’s anthem
Ain’t nobody choosin
With these three bodies
Ain’t nobody losin
Because it’s love, love…

We’re just on that

Furturistic Black love
on 3000

He – She – and I
Capismini, Capismini.

Messages from the Universe: Be Open, Raw, Authentic – Write.Me.Free

Writing is like breathing is like loving is like mothering is like exhaling is like speaking (out) is like dancing is like exploring is like living. It’s like freedom. That I must have. ‪#‎WriteMeFree

The Universe moves in such mysteriously correct ways. Over the past few weeks, She has sent me several messages that require that I listen.

I received the first message during a vacation to the Dominican Republic. My partner and I rented a condo at the beautiful Alsol Resort in Punta Cana. We spent time relaxing by the pool, partying with the local citizens at Carnaval, and attempting to navigate the country with our limited Spanish. Because much of Punta Cana caters to tourists, many of the restaurants lacked the authentic food that we craved. So we rented a car and drove to Santo Domingo where we enjoyed asopao de camarones, arroz con pollo, mofongo, and asopao de pollo. We also spent time on the beautiful beaches of Punta Cana, and it was during the trip to Juanillo Beach that I felt renewed. I am not a swimmer – partially because I nearly drowned as a teen when a cousin tried to teach me to swim at a family reunion (in 10 feet of water) and partially because salt water, chlorine water, etc. burns my contacts when I have tried to swim – but after relaxing for a while with my face to the sun, I ventured into the water. With splashes of miniature waves hitting my breasts, an energy consumed me that I can only describe as the feeling I had when I was first dipped in a baptismal pool as a teenager. I started to cry and speak – reciting random poetry, narrating lines to the beginning of the book I’ve been writing in my head for quite some time. There was a spirit of newness surrounding me.

My eyes were watching God...

My eyes were watching God…

The second message came as I was researching information on substance abuse, and the phrase ‘self-silencing’ caught my attention. Self-silencing is a term used to describe people who suppress their feelings, thoughts, and needs…especially when doing so is an effort to protect others. For example, Flett, Besser, Hewitt, and Davis (2007) contended:

People high in self-silencing are self-sacrificing individuals who keep their distress to themselves in an attempt to maintain or improve interpersonal relationships. Their distress often takes the form of unexpressed anger (see Jack, 1999b, 2001). People high in self-silencing conceal their true feelings out of desires to maintain relationships and obtain the approval of significant others. (p. 1212)

Anger is not an emotion I experience often, but occasionally self-silencing leaves me disconnected and emotionally flat. Anger gives way to numbing indifference.

The third message came through Facebook. Scrolling through my timeline, I was stopped by a reposted blog on For Harriet’s page by Zakiya Brown. In the blog, Dancing to My Own Drum: How Embracing My Authentic Self Set Me Free, Brown wrote that the deaths of her mother and grandmother along with a move to a new state encouraged her desire to let her soul dance to music she selected. I identified with this post in so many ways. Although I have not encountered the losses that Brown has, I know the implications of faking good and dancing to music that doesn’t move my spirit.

For Black women, the intersection of self-silencing, self-sacrificing, and inauthentic living is a place of exhaustion where we become more susceptible to mental health issues. Yet, we view our strength as our defining characteristic, our badge of honor that masks any perceived weaknesses. We are Superwomen. This rationalization of the silent, sacrificial Superwoman makes being strong synonymous with quietly coping with hurdles that challenges our physical, emotional, and mental well-beings. [We are forever jumping hurdles.] Then as much as our resilience is our savior, it can also be our batterer. Finding the space to be resilient and vocal and authentic without being wholly sacrificial of ourselves can be a challenge. Lifelong internalization of using quiet strength while we mask our hurt takes great energy and support to unearth. But we have to engage in the process…

Bag lady you goin’ hurt your back/Draggin’ all ’em bags like that/I guess nobody ever told you/All you must hold on to/Is you, is you, is you… Each day has to be a process of putting down our bags and holding on to ourselves.

It is not that Black women have not been and are not strong; it is simply that this is only a part of our story, a dimension, just as the suffering is another dimension— one that has been most unnoticed and unattended to.   —bell hooks, Talking Back

We must talk back, write back. So I receive the messages that the Universe sent me and will address them the only way that I know how – to write. For too long, I’ve been a writer…that doesn’t write. I narrate the stories in my head but refrain from putting them on paper, on screen because that makes them real. That makes me visible. And to borrow Brown’s contention, I would be Open. Raw. Authentic. And that’s a scary feeling. I always have been an introvert, satisfied fading into the background. But like I was told during a conversation on tenure and the academy, “You have to put yourself out there. Your name should come up in these conversations.” That, too, is a scary feeling. Yet, no matter how frightening being open, raw, and authentic can be, the only other option is to remain in this space of numbing indifference. To remain in this space where I literally canNOT breathe, move, grow. A place where I canNOT live or be free. I must Write.Me.Free.