Being a little girl in Central Jersey during the 80’s while the rap music phenomenon was busting out onto the scene left me with one of two choices, shrink back into my shell and hold onto my lily white preferences and benefits or throw myself down off the pedestal that society had perched me high up upon and become one with the entire world, soaking up the joy, devastation and complete cycle of humanity, at the hands of my new, black teachers.
My father’s family, a racist blend stretching from your minor to your extreme, pushed me. They wanted to teach me hate, but instead they unraveled in me a deep desire to be better than they were. They made me want to trust the love I felt, the compassion and quest for unity that was wrapping itself around me from a very young age. I had less doubts about my love for my fellow man than I ever did for my love of my fellow family member.
So I got lost in the words and rhythms of rap music, the all-consuming beats and the soul infecting history lessons that were never mentioned in my classrooms. People who looked differently than the people from my church, preached. People who sounded differently spoke about concepts that were familiar to me, allowing me to understand for the first time in my young life that not everyone had to be from the same genesis to enter into the same core of family, neighborhood, festival and fear. We were all so much alike and yet at some point, we were splintered apart. There were deep rooted separations and there was a definitive story that needed to be told, first to me and then by me.
This is when I became obsessed with American History. Not just the Revolutionary War, which I had already been introduced to even at this young age in my life, but the Civil War, the years before it and the years after. The Civil War of the United States of America which, as far as I am concerned, is still going on because there is not true equality in this country for the people who live here. Not for my fellow black citizens and not for so many others who live, fight and participate here.
I continued to read all that I could get my hands on. I also continued to listen to rap music and all of the many branches that rap stretched out into over the years; paying close attention to the African American community and how it started to gain not only power, but self-explorative abilities. What started at a young age as a love for B.B. King and the Blues was now a full on appreciation of a varied popular musical culture where the artists were not just trying to get you to dance, but were explaining, educating and pouring out their hearts so that other people within their communities and those willing to listen on the outside might come to understand the history, the current status and the possibilities.
There are times when I wonder what it will be like in the future, say in like two hundred years, when the people of the then United States of America study the music and arts of the 1980’s to 2015. When they come to the section of artists that fall under Rap, Hip Hop, R&B and so forth, will they be able to reconcile the horrible treatment of black people from the time they first were brought to this area via large ship for the purpose of slavery until the civil rights movement had made large steps in procuring fair and decent treatment. I can’t even give a year because in my estimation this “decent” treatment hasn’t truly been reach yet. Just because we have a mixed president doesn’t wipe away the fact that our prisons are full of black and brown people, doesn’t changed the fact that the laws are written unfairly and doesn’t make me blind to the extremely racist truth that so many crimes against innocent black men and women take place on a daily basis by cops who just can’t seem to understand the concept of “protect and serve”.
As a gay woman I have a taste of what being discriminated against feels like. I have my cloudy days against the thunderstorms of what it feels like to be a black man in these United States. And I do not wish to stand idly by. I take the concept of “One Love” seriously. I have all of my life. I haven’t followed up with my love of rap music into my adult life. I guess, my white girl won the fight when it came to my music in the end. But the lessons were learned and if you throw on that old school shit from back in the day I can’t be any happier. And the newer stuff sits well with me. But what it all comes down to is this, I let that into my heart and it changed what it needed to change. It opened me up and brought my heart from that dark place my people were trying to tie me down to and it rose me up to a greater purpose.
In this election year, we need to stay strong. We need to stay united. We can’t let the wrong people get that White House. We have to vote. We have to speak up. We have to come together.