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.


  1. Very nicely written as usual. I don't have an opinion about her life, because I did not feel that it was my place to have one. Nonetheless, while she was still among the living, I really hoped she would get better. Forty-eight is too young to die. Great job; keep posting.

  2. Exactly...I didn't watch it either (neither did I watch much of MJs). I recorded it for my mom who wanted to see it.

    You're right, people are so wishy washy...they're with you when you're on high but as soon you make a mistake, all love is lost.

    Now people are harping about how much love they had for her..well, where were they when she was "seemingly" on a path they didn't like.

    Regarding what you said about not doing enough...I recently had a cousin pass and he was a destructive path and people did the exact thing to him after his death - blame others and ask why didn't anybody help him.

    Well, for one, I know someone who tried - his sister; but he wanted to do his own thang. You can't make people do things they don't want to do. Secondly, all those who were asking AFTER the funeral about what could have been done was no where to be found during his struggle. tsk, tsk, tsk...

    Awesome post Stephanie!

    You know I already love your writing style :-)


  3. Such a gifted singer laid to rest much too soon. I used to listen to her all of the time, growing up. Her voice moved me.

    You're right--we'll never know what really killed Whitney. I pray she has found peace.

    Great post. :-)