What happens when the soundtrack of your life collides with the sound track of your existence? When a marginalized member of society is on the outside of the marginalized group? I am an African-American woman. Born to working-class bootstrapping parents. Who bought and believed in the American dream.
We left the segregated west side of Chicago for the desegregated but not integrated south side of the city. At the time we thought they were one and the same; we learned they are not.
It was a glorious time—my childhood. A time of Rhythm and Blues, a time of P-funk., a time of Soul—music that soothed. It was Black music for Black people. big afros, dashikis, fists raised in salute to our brothers and sisters in the struggle for equality. My family traveled the road of James Brown, Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud straight to Roseland—a working class community on the far south side. We hummed the tune of the Stylistics Ooh, ooh, child things are going to get easier because we had knocked on the door of integration, and opened—or it seemed. We were Black; we were beautiful; we were proud.
We had ushered in another migration of bodies moving toward something better—we hoped. We prayed. And for a while it seemed like we might find that Stairway to Heaven, as music merged into an amalgamation of colorless songs. We believed Sweet Dreams Are Made of This who we to disagree in the land of milk and honey?
This pseudo-migration created degrees of acculturation followed by assimilation which should have led to integration, but instead created another form of separation forcing us into annihilation as we screamed, Don’t You Want Me Baby, Don’t You Want me Now? as the White families moved out as fast as the Black ones moved in. Then the businesses moved out, and the drugs moved in. First it was those following Rick James Mary Jane, followed by White Lines that broke and cracked into something lethal that we could not escape. Now Molly is the new girl on the block.
For awhile I lived in the theoretical Multicultural Mecca that is Hyde Park, and while Michael was King and Whitney was Queen, we tried to sink our teeth into the dream that has become our nightmare. We stopped Fighting the Power of Public Enemy and drunk the Kool-aid of white supremacy. And so the socially conscious songs that gave the world a peek into Black America across the urban landscapes gave way to the modern day minstrel shows and the self-hatred of a group of people caught up in excessive consumption and greed.
Brainwashed into believing that as long as they get theirs by any means necessary, then all is well in the world. The new millennium was nothing new. It set us back to where we started in the bowels of the slave ship—back to the realities of our blighted life. So real is the level of poverty, so real is the degradation and dehumanization , it seems surreal.
It’s the gun-toting pimpled faced boys posted up on YouTube. The onscreen spilled in real life beef of Chief Keef. It’s the Bitch Betta Have My Money track of the girls still in grade school working the track of Michigan Ave. It’s Bands that Make her Dance, when what she really wants is to Dance With Her Father—again or even for the first time.
We should have been One Nation Under A Groove, but we were Slippin’ into the Darkness –of our reality in urban America—Roseland with t-shirts that emblazoned with God Made it Roseland, Niggas made it the Wild Hun’eds. I am not a ‘hood girl. You get no apologies from me as I try to change the station from the static clinging to parts of my life. This Noise they call music reaching into my window early in the mornings and lulling me to sleep at night. The sounds of music shared without my permission from heart-bumping base that beats me all upside my head. Loud, angry voices. Sirens. The rat-a-tat-tat of a gun. Sometimes I call 9-1-1. But Flava-Fave already said 9-1-1 is a joke, only nobody’s laughing. Families are wailing against the unending violence.
Drake said we started from the bottom now we’re here, but where is here? We went from ghetto, to savage, now ratchet and we're proud of that? The madness makes me wanna holla and throw up both my hands, but I hold onto the beauty of my people. I am reminded that a lump of coal can be transformed into the sparkling gems that the world treasures. And I hold on that we will return to our greatness and know that we are beautiful like diamonds in the sky.
Shine Bright Like A Diamond
Shine Bright Like A Diamond