Sunday, February 19, 2012

Whitney: A Reflection

While many people sat glued to their TVs watching the funeral services for Whitney Houston, I went about my day. I had a full agenda that day so I knew that I would not be tuning in. Not that I had planned to. I don’t like funerals. So, I am not in the habit of watching any of the funeral and/or memorial services for well-known people.

Like so many others I am shocked and saddened by Whitney Houston’s death. I am grappling with her passing because I feel like I grew up with Whitney. We were born in the same year. I recently celebrated my 49th birthday. Whitney didn’t live to see hers. It is disturbing when someone your age dies because your immortality is staring you in the face.

Her death reminds me of the way we love in the African-American community. Hard. Strong. Unforgiving at times, but forgiving in the end. We place our icons on pedestals, and when they fall, they hurt themselves and they hurt us. But we rebound take and them back with open arms no matter how far down they have fallen. It was this way with Whitney.

When Whitney first appeared on the scene we loved her Golden Voice; she belonged to us. But when she crossed over, we got upset. Never mind that it was about the dollar, to us it was about loyalty. She was a “sell-out.” Then she married “Bad Boy” Bobby Brown and got her black card black. Then her star started falling, and all you could hear was the tsk, tsk, tsk tongue sucking comments of those standing in judgment.

All is forgiven in her passing. We are fiercely protective of the image that we want to project of our beloved Whitney—a sharp contrast to the one we feel is being forced on us by the media. All they want to talk about is the crash and burn where as we want her to be remembered as the shining star that she was.

In the days following her death, everybody with an opinion has an opinion on Whitney— her drug use, her relationship with Bobby--you name it somebody has something to say. The truth is we will never know what really killed Whitney Houston. We’ll learn what the toxicology reports say, but we’ll never really know why Whitney Houston died that night. And when learn the “cause of death” will it make her any less dead? Will it soothe the souls of those who loved her?

There are those who are saying that her family and friends didn’t do enough. Somebody should have intervened. Again, we stand on high looking down. Who among us doesn’t know someone in need of an intervention— drugging, gambling, drinking, beating or being beaten? How many of us step in? Or do we stay on the side lines and watch them self destruct? And we have the audacity to talk about what someone else should be doing?

I have never done drugs in my life. I’m not bragging. It is simply a fact of my life. I grew up when crack ravished urban communities—mine included. People who I went to school with are either dead or dead-walking looking for the next hit. My first love is strung out on drugs. He was brilliant, and I believe that he could have been anything he wanted to be. I see him and I am sad and angry at what his life has become. I want him to get his life together. I am also humbled by and thankful for what mine has become. Only by the grace of God have I not followed the same path.

We were all rooting for Whitney’s comeback because we don’t like to give up on one of our own. But the heart-wrenching lesson is that we don’t always get what we want no matter how much we want it, especially for someone else. Whitney Houston is gone, but her legacy will live forever. Her death forces me to reckon with what my legacy will be.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Soul Train Tribute

On Friday were were having an African-American feast in honor of Black History month. And while we were chowing down on a traditional soul food meal complete with fried chicken, greens, corn bread and banana pudding and peach cobbler for dessert, one of the teachers was putting slides together for our Black History Month program. He was showing clips of Soul Train.

Laughter filled the room as we watched the dancers shimmy and shake down the Soul Train line. Those of us old enough to remember were transported back into time, when watching soul train for the latest moves, stylish fashion trends, and an opportunity to hear our favorite artists was a must-do on Saturday morning. A native Chicagoan, I remember when Soul Train made is debut on Channel 26 before it moved to California.

We had no way of knowing that we were watching history in the making and the rippling effect that Soul Train would have in the Black community and beyond. What's a social gathering without a Soul Train line? Soul Train was not only a vehicle for African-American creative expression,it also opened doors for Black businesses that had been previously locked out main stream media.

My heart is especially heavy at the passing of the iconic Don Cornelius for numerous reasons. Not only was he was a trailblazer as evidenced by the numerous tributes this week, he did what each of us should strive to do--leave the world a better place. Soul Train was an integral part of my childhood and young adult years; I saw people on TV who looked like me. Mr. Cornelius suicide slaps us back into the reality of the world we live in, that no matter who we are and how much we have, happiness and peace within can elude us.

In parting I wish Don Cornelius, the Love Peace and Soul in the next life that escaped him in this one.