WHAT'S SPIRIT GOT TO DO WITH IT?
I belong to a church that is based in the performing arts and my career is constantly validated by the 85% who belong to the same industry. The challenges of being a faith based woman is that the majority of my friends and associates are progressive and wary of religion of any sort. It's not like I can't understand on some level. The latest stories representing people of faith have been less than flattering bordering on lunatics. Every time I hear someone says how this climate change is the fault of homosexuality, I just have to find a place to pray for strength.
My faith is tested regularly and I struggle sometimes even sitting in church. There are members in my church who's faith seems to withstand Hurricane Sandy and there are times I feel I fall short on the ability to believe monitor. This monitor of course, is all in my head there is no competition and everyone's spiritual journey is their own. There always those that believe they know the right way to salvation but of course that is ridiculous. If you are of the Christian faith, the Bible provides a road map but how we read that map can be different for each person and how that maps directs you is based on what you view as east, west, north or south.
I have always been of the mindset , we don't have to share the same Faith but you have to believe in something greater than yourself or science. I have had very strong feelings for two men who were Muslim and someone who was "spiritual". I do believe if you are a person of faith, its crapola that you can just feel your way through your spiritual development. If we can take the time to study for our career, how to drive a car or how to manage our money, how can we give any less to the protection of our spiritual health. I feel that is just an easy way out of having to be responsible and face your own inner challenges. Your study may not look like everybody else's but it worth some effort on your part.
My hope is that my Faith will be like steel, that I will be able to rely on it like a well oiled muscle and it will silence the constant fear and doubt that plague me at times. The struggle of being political progressive and spiritually focused is real and it creates such division amongst many of the people I know. Not being able to mix company and it seems like I have two lives. The irony is, my political commitment is fueled by my spiritual commitment. It is the responsibility I feel to contribute to the world, to walk in the path that the Divine has paved for us. If I didn't feel that spiritual responsibility, I would never have the energy or desire to see things through. I don't receive financial rewards and many times I feel like an outsider at these political outings. The sting of classism and racism still permeates even the places that are looking to create a "better tomorrow". I sometimes go to phone banks, where I am merely tolerated or just not seen or rally's where I am ignored. It doesn't matter, my motivation doesn't come from a need for community but to be anyplace where the work is to create justice for all.
The stronger or deeper my relationship with the Divine, the more I sensitive I am to images and sounds. I am a fan of SVU but I realize that I used to be able to watch marathons, I cant now. Hearing and experiencing painful images of assault and degradation just doesn't sit well with my anymore, it feels wrong. Television shows that rely on insulting or talking rough to one another disturbs me and I cant watch it, songs that degrade someone over and over and again I just cant tolerate. My need for beautiful imagery or thoughtful conversation becomes even stronger. Trust, I can always enjoy sexual imagery but it has to be done in caring way. Even if the result is just for momentary pleasure, there has to be some connection.
I have never enjoyed violence, I don't like action movies but now I cant even watch someone being shot, I have to turn my head. When I was watching 12 Years a Slave, I was practically doing spins in my chair because I had to turn my head so much.
Whatever your spiritual choices, it must and has to change you. It has to deepen whatever is strong within you and bring to light your challenges. I believe that is the purpose of bringing the Divine into your life, your soul, your being is to change you and always for the better.
In the age of being your best self, learning to understand your emotional development, just focusing on what is your place in the world, sometimes it is hard to justify the need for more than you. When you are feeling the pangs of desire for companionship, you are told "when you dont think about it will happen", or one of my favorites, " that is nothing but demons working inside you to keep you from your focus on the Lord". Dont get it twisted, I am purely G*d's Property BUT after the Earth, there was Man and after Man was his mate Woman. There is nothing in Genesis about.. " Adam, when you have self-actualized you will find that mate ", or " Adam, are you the person that you are looking for" the understanding is that people ( not to be a cliche musical) do need people. A baby will suffer without human contact, a animal becomes rabid without attention, and in a jail the harshest punishment is SOLITARY confinement. The need for love in your life is essential and there is no need to apologize, rationalize or pray it away. I am surrounded by people who love and care for me, in my life I was not blessed with an extended family. My family truly consists of me, my younger sister and a brother who I met 6 years ago but our relationship is a slow development. My support was created through friendship and work over this many years and I feel blessed to have people in my life, who care for me but have no blood relation to me. It was not until I hit my late '20's that I truly understood, "G*d Bless The Child Who Has Thier Own" when you dont enjoy the luxuries of a strong family, the need for self-reliance becomes incredibly important. Even beyond that need, is a stronger, more silent ache that longs to have someone who cares for you, just because you are who you are. Even on those days, when you are not particulary witty, those moments when the only person who would want to be around you is a mother and even she is reconsidering her decision. Those times, when all you want is someone just to tell you are beautiful, or to sit and read the paper with. We get advanced degrees, workout, brush our teeth, acquire fabulous jobs and become a more interesting human being so we can find that mate. It is not our only purpose on earth but it is what fuels us for the emotional rollercoaster that is life. I have no resolve on this issue and that plus one remains elusive but I celebrate the people who have a union that helps them this complicated forest of life. For those, like myself are still on this journey alone, never apologize for wanting to give and recieve the most precious of human emotions. I believe it means we are still alive!
Whitney Houston the name conjures up all sorts of images and memories. Classy, diva, anointed singing voice, pain, tragedy, irresponsibility and sadly junkie. Truthfully, no one is one thing or another, we are a combination of our experiences. In the discussion of feminism- looking through the lens of male privilege, the struggle of female/feminine equality, discussion is critical and a prime example witht the pairing of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown.
This was a relationship ripe for the tabloid fodder. The beautiful American princess shacked up with music's bad boy. The sexual tension births illusions of illicit rendezvous and passionate arguments. This combined with a history of long term drug dependency it becomes Wilsonian in it's tragedy. After all the stories, interviews and commentary it is clear that Whitney Houston was not a victim, she was culpable in the downfall of her career and image. She was an international musical superstar who wielded an extraordinary amount of power that translated into over 100 million records sold and the highest-selling single of all time. What is also clear to me is that Whitney is indicative of the powerful women syndrome and most importantly the Black female/Baby Boy dynamic. John Singleton 2000 film "Baby Boy" is a slept on as a piece of social commentary and popular culture coming together. I refer to that film so often because it is a painfully accurate depiction of an epidemic in our community. The refusal of some grown black men to take responsibility for their behavior and it's consequences then relying and/or blaming black women for being stymied. Often you will find black mothers that encourage support this arrested development.
Feminism is currently seen as a retro movement connoting images of burning bras and opening our own doors. Through popular mainstream media i.e. male dominated/dictated journalism it is basically archaic. Referenced only when a man doesn't want to pay for the first date or wants to initiate a non-committal sexual liason.
Unfortunately in the black community especially the heterosexual black community it is nearly non-existent hidden beneath the need for black liberation and equality. Many women feel forced to choose between being a woman or being black ( which by the way is ridiculous). In many ways third world communities suffers at a greater rate of insidious sexism pervasive in mainstream hip-hop, popular female black pop stars , black romantic comedies, literature, clothing and the relationship of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown.
I thought about my community's relationship to feminism after watching #OWN's Next Chapter with Gloria Steinam. I was embarrased as a women's studies minor to not be familiar with any of the black women she referenced as being important in the struggle for Women's equality but familiar with all the white women. In addition, after reading about Bobby Brown upcoming interview with Matt Lauer to clear his name, I became slightly incensed. Bobby Brown who is now engaged, finds the need to clear his name after writing a tell-all book in 2007 about thier union. To let the whole world know how he didnt get Whitney Houston hooked on drugs but that she introduced the "hard drugs" to him. Now while I question the accuracy of that memory, I ponder at some of the elements of thier union.
Whitney Houston created every inch of her fame. She sang at every event, till drugs took it's toll, she produced successful family friendly movies like The Princess Diaries & Cinderella, successful albums and mentored the careers of young female artists. She brought gospel music to a mainstream pop audience using her commericial appeal. She created a legacy that will live long after her physical form for many decades to come.
Alternately, Bobby Brown a member of the successful group "New Edition" spawned a successful solo career with the smash "My Prerogative" that launched him into superstardom. By the time they were married, his hits were behind him. During thier marriage he was arrested several times, served time in jail, claims of infidelity were rampant, embarrassed her at public events, the reality show "Being Bobby Brown" which destroyed her image was at his insistence, she financed his child support payments and even the article in the National Enquirer about her drug -ridden bathroom was a photo taken by his sibling. The first reunion tour he attempted with New Edition in the 90's was successful but he left before it was finished because of inconsistent behavior.
Whitney during their union starred in 3 successful movies, "Waiting to Exhale","Preacher's Wife" and the mega hit "The Bodyguard". The latter resulting in one of the biggest selling albums of all time, the biggest selling single of all time & Preacher's Wife the biggest selling gospel album of all time. After their divorce , she attended his mother's funeral without incident, no publicity photo ops and even sang at the service. When he attended her funeral , he created a disruption that made newspaper headlines and yet again brought attention to the mistreated /misunderstood poor Bobby Brown.
Honestly, I do not know the intimate details of their relationship and that information will remain between her spirit and his memories.
As a black woman from the outside looking in, it's disturbing to see the coddling and infantile behavior that is allowed and not commented on.
There were black women after her death, commenting about "leave Bobby alone", he didnt cause her pain. I say, "Who cares about him'???
This was about her death, the loss of her talent to the world. Even after her untimely death at 48, she leaves the remake "Sparkle" that showcases younger, female talent who have been influenced by her trained, vocal talent.
She struggled for 10 years to get this film produced and put on the major screen which will have a summer release. While Bobby Brown's latest effort is another New Edition reunion tour and granting interviews to clear his name. Does he take this opportunity to honor the woman who supported his children, defended him even during his infidelities, who shared his name on her production company-BrownHouse Productions and remained his friend till the end? Nope, like a child he concerns himself with his name and his new engagement.
In the name of defending our black men we sacrifice our feminine powers. If Whitney Houston had not fallen victim to being a "beautiful celebrity junkie" ( and possibly homophobia) maybe she would have seen the folly of her union. Not just because of her incredible fame but for a woman who's presence brought so much to the world of entertainment , she would have honored her own creativity and tenacity. She would have listened to her Spirit and knew she needed a partner who -regardless of gender-that understood and supported her growth. When your honored with a gift like that, it is beyond your own physical needs and it becomes a mission that could potentially fulfill a higher calling. She would seek someone who encouraged the spiritual and physical health, fought against her fundamental darkness and looked for spiritual light.
Whitney may have died thinking she was no more than a great voice of yesteryear. As a opposed to an accomplished, intelligent artistic powerhouse who's voice influenced the musical landscape, and who was also tragically fallible . We will never know.
An Actor/Director sharing her thoughts on creativity in this crazy metropolis, New Yawk Citay.