Catching Grenades: Dudes Do What They Want to Do. Always.


Ladies, I am going to let you in on a little secret. ¬†Something that has been paradigm-shifting for me. ¬†Are you ready? ¬†Here it goes: ¬†“Dudes do what they want to do. ¬†Always.” ¬†This little maxim is the only real wisdom I have about men folk, but it has been truly¬†illuminating. ¬†It has given me the freedom to stop analyzing and simply start living, and in the best case love with anticipation and not debilitating expectation.

As women, we have a¬†tendency¬†to get caught in analysis ¬†paralysis when it comes to our romantic relationships. ¬†We spend countless man hours and tremendous bandwidth trying to figure out what he is thinking, feeling, and desiring. ¬†This kind of behavior almost always becomes an exercise in self-deprecation. We begin to blame ourselves for why he isn’t responding, acting, or otherwise behaving the way we want him to. ¬†Perhaps it is that we don’t listen, or we are not accomplished, thin, pretty, or smart enough. ¬†We begin to create these mythologies to provide a rationale for another person’s behavior and we operate within the myth, when there is only one real truth. Again I will say it: ¬†¬†“Dudes do what they want to do. Always”.¬†

Men are uniquely binary. They tend to operate more comfortably in a space of ¬†“yes” or “no”, whereas women tend to prefer more choices; we are creatures of nuance. ¬†The fact that men tend to thrive¬†in the black and white spaces of life, and not in the gray should make things easier on us. However, all to often our choice to over analyze negates this opportunity for peace and truth. ¬†We still sit around with our girlfriends trying to figure out why he doesn’t call, why he won’t leave her, why he won’t go down the aisle or even to the movies, when the answer is simple. He doesn’t do any or all of those things because he doesn’t want to. ¬†When he does, he will. Simple.

This whole theory is not to suggest that men are not complex. I hate the idea floating around that men our “simple”; to my mind they are just has ¬†cerebrally¬†splendid and¬†capable¬†of feeling, as their female counterparts. ¬†However, the extent to which they work comfortably in the emotional realm is perhaps more limited than women, but when they do‚ÄĒI would argue that men can be far more deliberate, loyal, and even invested. ¬†So what does this look like?

I have known men that once in love with a woman will put up with every kind of demoralizing form of rejection one can imagine. ¬†Bruno Mars sings about catching grenades for the woman to whom he was devoted. ¬†Yes‚ÄĒthis song is melodramatic, but there is a lot of truth in this metaphor. ¬†Because men do what they want to do, when they decide they want to love you or make you happy, the lengths they will go to to do so are remarkable. ¬†Have you ever had a guy in your life, who was crazy about you? ¬†I don’t me lunatic stalker crazy; I mean¬†genuinely¬†into you. ¬†I have and I will tell you that in every case I never had to question how he felt or what he was thinking because his actions demonstrated everything I needed to know. ¬†¬†“Dudes do what they want to do. Always”.¬†

I hope that this little tidbit ¬†of wisdom helps you move on or move to a relationship that is affirming,¬†fulfilling, and useful. ¬†I also hope that it will help you loose whatever binds you have on your romantic life. ¬†The next time you find your self¬†ruminating¬† about what Mr. Man wants, needs, or feels immediately remember: “Dudes do what they want to do” and then channel that energy into yourself or even into serving others. ¬†The time we spend devoting energy to¬†understanding¬†what he is thinking can be much more profitably spent defining our own hopes, desires, and dreams.

Thoughts?

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What Happened to Ciara?: R&B and the New Sex Entrepreneur


It seems like it was just yesterday when little Ciara was singing an ode to the benefits of keeping one’s cookies in the jar. ¬†Six years later, ¬†her now delicately cultivated sexual¬†Lolita¬†image has been either co-opted or manipulated into outright¬†hedonistic¬†vixen. ¬†I for one am not happy about it. ¬†With ¬†her recently slumping album sales, this new level of sexuality reeked of desperation and was bad form for a clearly talented young woman.

I was extremely¬†disappointed¬†with the video for her gym friendly single “Gimme Dat”.¬†¬†The single has her once again leveraging the southern fried hip-hop laced¬†stylings that put her on the map, except this time around the audience is distracted from the intricate choreography and gravity defying dance moves that made her famous. ¬†Instead, we find her in a full sexual spectacle popping it on a handstand, gyrating, and clad in her underwear dancing in the rain. ¬†Her dancing is amazing, but the imagery makes her come off like a glorified pole dancer; she even performs much of the dancing in the ubiquitious stipper shoe‚ÄĒthe glass heel.

Make no mistake that this¬†exotic¬†dancer/stripper imagery is by design. It is not an accident. ¬† With the recent popularity of Amber Rose, Maliah‚ÄĒothers, it makes sense that the largely¬†patriarchal¬†music industry sees an economic opportunity in co-opting the images of its female R&B starlets to ¬†evoke a similar aesthetic.

I do not want to get all¬†judgmental¬†big sister on Ciara because sexuality has always had its place in R&B and soul, but there is a thin line between sexy and trashy. ¬†Take for instance, Christina Milian. ¬†She was carefully managing the naughty good girl image‚ÄĒup and until‚ÄĒher video for “Dip It Low” found her sliding across the floor and gyrating in pools of oil. ¬†Her singing career tanked soon there after. ¬†Even Janet Jackson‚ÄĒthe master of the naughty good girl image‚ÄĒcouldn’t survive the nipple slip seen round the world. ¬†She blurred the line between trashy and classy for a good run, but one near fatal move finds her musical career barely gasping for life.

With Rihanna giving us a lot of manufactured S&M imagery and both Keri Hilson and Kelly Rowland ¬†following much of the same path, it seems to succeed the modern R&B star must become a sex entrepreneur. ¬†She must balance equal parts talent, sexuality and purity‚ąíso as not to appear “deflowered” to their male fans (see inside image of Rihanna’s Loud CD). This seemingly impossible challenge has been mastered by few. ¬†Remarkably, Beyonce has managed to walk this tightrope for over a decade‚ÄĒbalancing sex kitten, with empowered feminist, diva, and business woman.

I would hate to prematurely morn the loss of Ciara, as I believe she has the time and talent to rebrand and redeem her image.  I am not suggesting she take the sex out, but instead she remember the importance of artistic integrity to her fan base.  She is certainly not a strong vocalist like a Melanie Fiona or a Jennifer Hudson, but she was well positioned to inherit a Jacksoneque like role as a consummate entertainer.

So what do you think? ¬†Are the sexualized images of R&B stars like Ciara,¬†Rihanna, Rowland and Hilson simply the norm now for a music industry plagued by poor album sells? ¬†Does legitimate talent allow artists to avoid the trappings of the¬†over-sexualized¬†image? ¬†Does the male consumer drive this trend or are women‚ÄĒas consumers‚ÄĒequally responsible for our¬†representations?

Let’s Have A Toast to the Assholes: Leave Kanye Alone….No Really


Google the search terms Kanye West + Asshole, and as you might imagine; you will get a surplus of returns. ¬†Kanye’s manic form of genius combined with a¬†decidedly¬†lax¬†brain to mouth filter has resulted in his name becoming almost synonymous with the insult in certain circles‚ÄĒamongst¬†Taylor Swift fans for instance.

With the recent¬†brouhaha¬†over the Matt Lauer interview and Bush’s claim that West’s infamous¬†black people gaff was the¬†worst moment of ¬†his¬†presidency (apparently worst than Katrina itself, the domestic economic meltdown, Wars in Iraq and¬†Afghanistan, Valerie Plame, Harriet Miers….I’ll stop in the interest of time), Kanye is back in the headlines again. ¬†And the coverage¬†ain’t good.

Lauer’s interview with West was at best poor journalism and at worst an intentional attempt to create another Kanye moment. ¬†You know Kanye moments: insulting the Commander and¬†Chief by implying he was a racist, interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV movie awards, as well a series of rants, interruptions, politically incorrect pop-offs, tantrums and most recently rogue tweets. ¬†Yet it’s these moments combined with leveraging the most creative musical brain in hip-hop to make hit after consecutive hit that makes Kanye both genius and walking spectacle.

He ¬†has been called the¬†villain,the asshole, the jerk, the douche bag but he is more accurately described as a man in progress. ¬†He occasionally back slides but this understandable for someone burden by an ego the size of the twitterverse. He is admittedly self-conscience and evidently a driven perfectionist‚ÄĒwho really does love his art. ¬†Over the years, Kanye has had a series of personal dramas play-out within the pages tabloids and on gossip blogs. ¬†Despite a life threatening car accident, the untimely and tragic loss of his mother, and a series of public break-ups, he has continued to be a prolific and evolving artist. ¬†I believe this is because he is driven first by a desire to create and is more conflicted and quite frankly limited in his ability to manage the fame.

Kanye is ¬†the modern Andy Warhol. ¬†Both aesthetically driven workaholics bound by an excess of personality, they have in common a vision to achieve wealth through their art ¬†and an unfettered desire to see their dreams manifest.¬†In another time, Kanye might be considered colorful or brash. ¬†However, with a 24-hour news cycle largely padded by entertainment news, he provides the ¬†perfect patsy for a world dominated by far less ingenious and productive assholes. ¬†So I’m saying: leave Kanye alone.

Admittedly, I¬†have a soft spot for Kanye. ¬†Okay its more than a soft spot. ¬†I date him in my mind and we are in love, but in the interest of a neutral analysis I have put that aside. ¬†Instead I have tried to speak to the madness at the heart of his genius or the genius at the heart of his madness‚ÄĒdepending on where you stand. ¬†Suffice it to say whether you love him or hate him, everyone has an opinion of Kanye.

If ¬†Kanye is anything, he is unapologetic. ¬†He is¬†unapologetically¬†Black, unapologetically brilliant, unapologetically flawed, and unapologetically wealthy. “Wake Up Mr. West”, said the late great Bernie Mac in the opening of the Kanye’s classic Late Registration album and I do mean; recall¬†Touch the Sky, Gold Digger, Diamonds From Sierra Leone. Wake up indeed and recently Kanye has woken up. ¬†Sure he is still brash, cocky, fashionable, and manic; yet he has managed to temper his special brand of swagga-dopeness with a swig of humble juice. ¬†He kind of apologized to the president, though he did refuse to perform on the Today show plaza in a return visit. ¬†With an album on the way perhaps this wasn’t the most expedient choice from marketing stand point, but it was aligned to his convictions and you cannot be mad at that.

Wherever¬†you stand, you have to respect Kanye for his what he is doing with music. ¬†I appreciate and salute him for his authenticity even in his most ungraceful moments. My only hope is that the tedium of fame that he both craves and despises does not stifle his creativity or leave him jaded¬†. ¬†I want Kanye to be his irrepressible¬†self. ¬†Hollywood is so celluloid that it is nice to see someone so¬†completely¬†themselves. ¬†Suffice it to say: Kanye I love you‚ÄĒflaws and all.

Darling Nicki: Okay I Admit it….You Had Me At Hello


I am about to admit a very painful truth. ¬†I¬†am¬†now a¬†Nicki Minaj fan and I have probably always been ***hangs head low in knowing¬†embarrassment***. ¬†My girl crush on Nicki started with her feature on Yo Gotti’s 5 Star Bitch, but for a long time I was stuck in this moment of cognitive dissonance trying to figure out who this girl was and why was she everywhere like parsley.

I know that it is standard operating procedure for the dayum near thirty and over set to hate on Nicki for among other things her purported lack of lyrical prowess (I disagree), her uncanny ability to produce strong features while simultaneously offering lackluster solo efforts, her affiliation with the Young Money Crew, her penchant for pink, her surgically enhance derrière, her fake love affair with Drake, her faux British accent, and cartoonish sputtering flow.

Yet what I’ve come to realize is what we hate Nicki most for is not being Lauryn Hill Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Da Brat, Remy Ma, or Trina. Nicki represents a ¬†shift for hip-hop fans of my generation; and the sting is¬†particularly¬†potent because she has come on the scene like an all consuming flood, after a long drought of successful female MCs.

I can imagine a similar tension was felt by fans of Queen Latifah, Monie Love, and Mc Lyte, when Kim and Foxy hit the scene. ¬†Their anti-cconscious hip-hop¬†aesthetic¬†was certainly frowned upon from a certain kind of feminist hip-hop head. Kim and Foxy created a brand that ¬†eschewed traditional feminist values‚ÄĒapart from a hyper sexual¬†aggression that could be viewed as a form of sexual liberation. ¬†They created¬†an archetype for the female MCs of today whose material largely focuses on¬†sex, materialism, the criminal life and excess.

As far as the Lauryn Hill nostalgia goes, I can certainly sympathize with a desire for her educational, heartfelt, and¬†emotive‚ÄĒif not sometimes preachy‚ÄĒbrand of hip-hop. ¬†However, Lauryn is highbrow; comparing her with Nicki is like comparing Tyler Perry to Spike Lee. ¬†They both have their unique brand of genius, but one is driven by popular appeal and the other by artistic merit.

Nicki Minaj has appropriated aspects of this brand of female rapper, but has created her own¬†infectious rap¬†style ¬†and persona that makes allows her not only bankable but primed for superstardom. ¬†Her verse on Kanye West’s¬†Monster marked my conversion moment from secret fan to outright Minaj advocate: “So let me get this straight/wait I‚Äôm the rookie/But my features and my shows ten times your pay/50k for a verse no album out…”

Fire. ¬†This lil’ broad is going in!

Nicki’s theatrics have also been subject to critique. ¬†A lot of folks have a problem with her strange voices and¬†singy-songy animated delivery; but like her visuals and the dramatics are part of her brand. ¬† A former performing arts student, Nicki understands the importance of being over the top and its has been invaluable to helping her stand-out. ¬†It’s like hip-hop Glee and I love it.

Set aside the animated facial expressions, cartoonish voices, and references to Barbie and listen to her verses. ¬† Her flow is multi-faceted and dynamic, mixing Jamerican inflections, brash storytelling, and yes pretty decent use of metaphor. Check her verse from the 2009 Hip-Hop Award Bet Cypher and tell me it’s not fire:

Nikki has the bravado, confidence, and killer instinct of some of the hottest male MCs and she does it in bad ass Giuseppe¬†stilettos. ¬†The girl’s shoe game cannot be slept on.¬†This signals another thing I’ve come to appreciate about young Nicki. ¬†She does not apologize for being a girl’s girl succeeding in a testosterone laden industry. Right Though Me and Your Love are written from a uniquely female point of view and are void of typical sexual innuendo. These songs are about relationships and I can dig ’em. ¬†However,¬†Let it not go unsaid that Nicki does manipulate and leverage her sexuality. She ¬†even plays with her sexual preferences in the same way drunk girlfriends dance with each other to beg male attention in the club, see her verse on Usher’s Lil Freak:

Excuse me little mama but u can say im on duty
Im lookin for a cutie a real big ole’ ghetto booty
I really like ur kitty kat n if you let me touch her
I kno u not a bluffer.. i’ll take you to go see usher
I keep a couple hoes like santa I keep a vixen
Got that dasher dancer prancer vixen
Comet cupid donner blitzen….

I cannot wait until Pink Friday. ¬†On November 22nd, along with much of the 106 and Park contingent, I will be purchasing the album and Kanye’s effort due for release the same day.¬†With her mentor¬†Lil’ Wayne released from prison just today, it will be interesting to see where Minaj’s career goes next. I’m excited to see. ¬†So Nicki critics, here is my message to you: ¬†put down the haterade and let this young girl do her thing.

If I Were A Boy….: Is Chivalry Dead and Did We Sistahs Kill It?


My so-called dating life is often a platform for improvisational comedy, so I am careful not to extend my romantic foibles and fouls to the whole of Black sisterhood.¬† Yet listening to my gal pals has revealed a pattern that I cannot ignore.¬† It seems chivalry is dead and according to Dave Chappelle women killed it.¬† In general, many guys‚ÄĒnot all mind you‚ÄĒare not interested in courting us anymore and this saddens me.

First, I recognize this is not entirely the guys fault.¬† Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free? Frankly, it may simply be more efficient in today’s economy to skip the wining and dining.¬† Yet, I yearn for the days of flowers and chocolates.¬† A little romance would go a long way for the scorned and broken hearts out there. In fact, there are some real incentives to be had, if Black men and women decided to kick it old school style in terms of relationships.

You see I like classic¬† R&B groups like the Dells, Heatwave, and the Mighty, Mighty O’Jays.¬† These cats knew how to woo a lady.¬† The lyrics of love songs like “Stay in my Corner“, “Always and Forever“, and “When a Man Loves a Woman” illustrate what relationships should look like.¬† There was a time when a man would sing about taking the stars out of the sky for his girl, and now what do we get: “Blame it on the a a a a a alcohol” and “Why Would You Wanna Break-Up?

The once cultural norms of the guy paying for dinner, driving, and generally putting in work to get a ladies attention has been replaced with us doing all the work. We are chasing the guys down like the last pair of size-7, heavily discounted Tory Burche’s at a Nordstrom Annual sale. I see women driving around men.¬† I’ve been there.¬† I see women paying for meals.¬† I’ve been there too.¬† This role reversal does not feel natural to me and I think it emasculates men to the point where they no longer feel a desire to be the provider. Frankly, they do not put in work because there is no need.¬† The marriage statistics treat good Black men like a commodity on the dating market, while they simultaneously devalue¬† Black women.¬† Moreover, a lot of guys in my generation did not grow-up with¬† their father’s in the home.¬† These momma’s babies are so often ruined that by the time they get to us ladies, they simply expect to be catered to.

There is also the matter of the nookie and the cookies.¬† Guys will tell us, if you want to be chased then don’t give it up too soon.¬† Noted.¬†¬† Yet, the sexually liberated among us will argue that we have the right to get ours, just like the fellas do and there is nothing to be gained by waiting.¬† Their motto: “if you don’t give it up, another girl will”. Yet if you subscribe to the anthropologically¬† proven notion that men are by nature hunters, then you must acknowledge there is a strategic advantage as well as a valuing of self that comes from resisting sex earlier on in a relationship.¬† All of us take an L in this arena every now and again, but when it gets tough I like to think of Anne Boleyn.

History buffs among you will know Henry the VIII became so enamored with Boleyn that he went on an unrelenting¬† pursuit to make her his mistress.¬† Yet she steadfastly resisted his attempts to seduce her.¬† He became so obsessed with Boleyn, he broke the entire nation of England from the Catholic Church to have his marriage to Queen Catherine annulled, so he could then marry Boleyn.¬† Moral appraisals aside,this man seceded his entire country from an entire church, and not just any church the entire Holy Catholic church, thereby changing the annals of history forever…and all because one chick would not give up the cookies.

Only thing guys will break-up nowadays is the dinner bill for us to pay our half.

I find myself sitting in the car watching my dates walk all the way into the restaurant only to find that I am not beside or behind them.¬† Many are shocked when I insist they not only open my car door but hold the door when I walk through the restaurant, as well. Most cats have so much swag there is no hand holding; or public displays of affection.¬† Moreover, they also want you to call them and text them, and we run the pace with a smile on our face because hell, a half a man is better than none…right?¬† I’d venture to say no.

I think there is something to be said for letting a man feel like a man.¬† This of course does not mean unwittingly meeting his needs‚ÄĒ¬† i.e. cooking and sexing ’till the cows come home without acknowledging your own needs. It does, however, mean raising your level of expectation from what think you can get to what you truly deserve.

All of us deserve to be the princess sometimes and sure we will kiss some frogs, but when true love comes a knocking and you walk through the door, chances are he’ll be holding it for you.

Number Crunching with Lyfe Jennings: The Problem with Statistics


I’ve never been good at math. Perhaps that is why I find Lyfe Jenning’s “Statistics” so troubling.¬†¬† Several months ago I addressed the issue of the “lonely black girl” narrative and how it is pervading the cultural zeitgeist.¬†¬† Since then this narrative has become even more familiar, as the subject of Black radio broadcasts, editorial pages, and¬† general water cooler conversation.¬† With Helena Andrew’s Bitch is the New Black on bookstore shelves and the sequel to Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale‚ÄĒGetting to Happy‚ÄĒdue in stores this fall, I have no doubt the BGBHS (Black Girl By Herself) onslaught will continue. Into this cultural m√™l√©e, enters Lyfe Jennings, a R&B artist well-known for his gritty urban¬† story lines, with his new song Statistics. While it purports to be an education to help prepare women to find Mr. Right, I¬† suggest that it is a further contributor to the widespread miseducation of Black women in the lessons of life and love.

For the sake of the overall polemic, we will leave aside Jenning’s fitness as a teacher on such matters, given his history.¬† But the basic premise of the song suggests that there is only a certain percentage of black men available due to a series of maladies, personal shortcomings, character flaws, and other characteristics‚ÄĒsexual preference‚ÄĒthat makes them unavailable.¬†¬† The song opens:

25% of all men are unstable
25% of all men can’t be faithful
30% of them don’t mean what they say
and 10% of the remainin’ 20 is gay

That leaves you a 10% chance of ever findin’ your man
That means you better pay attention to these words that I say
I’m gonna teach you how expose the 90%
and show you what to do to keep the other 10.

It goes on in similar fashion setting forth rules for the women folk, which include among others “Don’t be a booty call”, “Tell him that your celibate”, and “Be the person you wanna find”.¬† On their face, I don’t have a problem with any of these propositions.¬† However, if Statistics if at all prescriptive, it is a merely chicken soup for what has really become a relational cancer in the Black community.

I have heard people suggests how deep this song is and how Jennings really hits the nail on the head with this one.  Yet to me its more like he is tightening  an already well-driven screw.  Suggesting that only %10 of men are quality/available within the dating pool will only make the situation between men and women more tenuous.  Right now what Black women and men need to hear is a message of self-love.  One that demonstrates how to live a life of experiences and joy, how to leverage their personal power to make a difference in the Black community and society-at large, and how to the heal the historical wounds and mend the discords between them.

The extent to which Jennings algorithm is valid is debatable.¬† So many of the women in my life‚ÄĒself-included‚ÄĒare so consumed with meeting societal norms of having the loving boyfriend, big white wedding, children, and the white picket fence that we fail to acknowledge if this convention is even aligned to what will really make us happy.¬† What would it look like to be beautiful, intelligent, educated, financially successful and completely self-possessed to point that¬† having or not having a partner did not define our happiness?

The blogosphere has been rumbling for months now on the role of the Black church in keeping Black women single.  Columnist Deborah Cooper really sparked the conversation, which has since been picked up on by the likes of CNN.com, with her article The Black Church: How Black Churches Keep African American Women Single and Lonely. The article basically blames the Black church as an institution for a sort of magical thinking within its Black women parishioners that has left them single and alone.  It goes on to make the argument that Black women should abandon the Black church en masse and focus on themselves and their families.  Essentially, I disagree with this premise because it suggests that Black women and the Black church are a monolith.  However, I do think a refocusing on what it means to be a fearless Black woman is in order.

Many of us our not living our lives to the fullest because we are afraid.  We are afraid of being alone.  We are afraid not reaching our full potential.  We are afraid of tapping the most divine part of ourselves. Many of us are deathly afraid of loving ourselves fully.  We are afraid of loving the God within us.  We are afraid of sacrifice.  We are afraid of failing.  We are afraid of getting outside of our comfort zone.  We are afraid of forgiving.  We are afraid of putting down our bags (baggage).  We are afraid of our creativity.  We are afraid of our dreams.

Yet I am convinced that if we sat aside these fears and tapped into our greatness we would not care about statistics‚ÄĒdaunting or otherwise.¬† We would be convinced that providence has us precisely where we need to be and “with” who we need to be at any given moment.¬†¬† I am tired of seeing the women in my life unhappy in relationships and unhappy alone.¬† I am tired of seeing this in myself.¬† As I grow and learn each day, what has become manifest to me is that life is truly an opportunity to love and be loved.¬† This love will emerge in all manners, romantic and otherwise; it is our responsibility to be available to it in all its forms.¬† This responsibility requires us to learn to accept ourselves as whole, perfect, loving, harmonious and happy‚ÄĒeven if we do not always feel this way.¬† My hope is that in the “knowing” and “accepting” of our greatness will bring love in to our lives in such abundance that the numbers will not even matter.

‚ÄúOur deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.‚ÄĚ

Marianne Williamson

Redemption Song: Why Chris Brown’s Man in the Mirror Performance Will Save His Career


Chris Brown has had a rough year: 1,400 hours of community service and a dropped endorsement with Wrigley;  banned from the UK and blasted by Oprah; the nation was turned against this guy. A platinum selling artist out the gate, his last project Grafitti sold fewer than 100,000 units.  So now, a little over a year after pleading guilty to assaulting pop princess Rihanna, he has done the impossible.  He has redeemed his career.

Browns’ performance did what an appearance on Larry King and a scripted video apology could not do.  It showed the frailness of humanity and how our moments of greatest weakness can be the dawning of our greatest days to come.

To me Brown‚Äôs performance was a purely redemptive moment that sent chills up my spine and I was as mad at Chris as anyone. Prior to the BET awards, he was in R. Kelly territory for me.¬† And there was little to nothing he could do to get out because I just could not wrap my mind around how he could batter this girl in this way. Young, gifted, and Black, he was throwing it all away. I‚Äôve had friends tell me various versions of the ‚Äúhe didn‚Äôt beat her, they were fighting‚ÄĚ line, but I just could not get past it.

Brown’s tribute to Michael Jackson at the BET Awards was nothing less than transformative.¬† An insanely talented dancer, Brown mimicked the late superstars moves with the perfect combination of pinpoint accuracy and breathtaking artistic freedom.¬† ¬†As Brown tried hopelessly to croak out vocals to Jackson‚Äôs Man in the Mirror, he was overwhelmed with absolutely genuine emotion. I mean I can‚Äôt listen to that song without crying, much less trying to sing it live in front of a audience, perhaps less hostile to you than the general public, but still skeptical.

Yet watching him¬† stammer across the stage lost in emotion, I can say without the slightest doubt that we were watching a humbled and talented man emote in a way that is so rare in our culture, but particularly within Black community.¬† The collective experience those who watched performance had was transformative in many ways. It showed ‚Äúblack maleness‚ÄĚ in all its strength and frailties to a Nation.¬† Therefore, this moment means ¬†more than just forgiveness for Chris, it will represent seminal moment in the re-launch of a career destined for superstardom.

In our community, it is often said that Men Cry in the Dark.¬† Yet Brown cried in the light.¬† No doubt his tears were for the pain he caused his mother, the disappointment he brought to his fans, his personal foibles and failings, challenges throughout year‚ÄĒand for the loss of one of his mentors‚ÄĒMichael Jackson.

His performance left me asking, how often do we see Black men cry in our lives, much less in the media? Last Year, in an article for Black America Web, Tonya Pendleton asks: Can a Black Man Cry Openly Without Ridicule? She names D.L. Hughley, Ne-Yo, and Stephon Marbury as notable Black male celebs who turned on the tears, only to be mocked and scorned by the public:

‚ÄúSince black men in particular are encouraged from childhood to show a stoic face to the world, is it possible that their pain is viewed as unimportant? Could that be why black men tend to die earlier than white ones, and are often disproportionately violent towards women and others? Is the inability to express pain keeping black men from healing from various wounds‚ÄĚ (Black America Web 2009).

The cynics will say that Brown’s tearful and broken effort was a ploy for the nation’s forgiveness and regain his career.  This conclusion marginalizes Black male pain and illustrates a disdain for any kind of weakness shown on their part.  But let it not go unsaid that he was entirely wrong for beating Rihanna.  He was more than wrong.  What he did was absolutely unconscionable.  His behavior showed an immature spirit carrying demons that one will hope were released with this cathartic performance.  I don’t doubt that this man carried and continues to bear a lot of anger and pain from childhood and beyond; ironically having expressed this pain in a  wholly different way than the Rihanna beating, he is now being questioned and doubted.  I’m am convinced this is unfair.

Ironically, the same folks questioning the Brown’s authenticity, condemn President Obama for not showing enough emotion for the Gulf Oil spill.¬† When it comes to emotional expression, Black men face a difficult catch 22.¬† Show too much emotion and you are angry or somehow damaged, and too little you are haughty, professorial, and unfeeling.¬† Go figure.

Americans want to forgive talented people: Kobe Bryant, Robert Downey Jr., Bill Clinton, Ron ‚ÄúI want to thank my psychiatrist and hood‚ÄĚ Artest, and any number of celebs and politicians have, through the continued execution of their genius, overcome the darkest of moments. ¬†Tiger you‚Äôre up next if you can win another green jacket.

This is Chris Brown’s moment to say: “America, let me transform you; I’m about to do genius.¬† Watch”.

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