Mourning the loss of Whitney Houston

It never fails people always go in 3’s. This year, the world lost three soulful people who had a great impact on the music industry.

Don Cornelius of Soul Train, Etta James and Whitney Houston.

A friend of mine shared with me this blog post and commentary on the Whitney Houston’s death. This post is a window into the black woman’s experience in the U.S.

Tonight I am thinking about the fifteen years of ridicule the world put Whitney Houston through. I am thinking of the girl with the golden voice, the “good girl,” who was only worthy of love and respect as long as she maintained the image of herself that we demanded, as long as she didn’t smoke crack or fuck (or God forbid, marry) nasty black boys, as long as she was a credit to her race, as long as she looked and sounded like the best of us, whatever that means. I wonder if she thought, at 25 or so, when she was on top of the world, that the world’s love for her was real love. I wonder if she imagined that, if she stumbled, the world, in its love, would scramble to break her fall, to lift her up again, instead of piling shit on top of her and laughing.

I remember watching an interview with Bobby Brown a few years ago in which he lamented people’s reactions to his and Whitney’s troubles, lamented the fact that instead of wanting them to overcome their difficulties, everybody just seemed to want to shit on them more. If you think we’re in trouble, “pray for us to be better” he said. I don’t think anyone was listening.

I wonder about Whitney’s life. I wonder what traumas and abuses she suffered that drugs helped her to forget, at least for a little while here and there. I wonder how many times, as a black woman in the entertainment industry, she was told that she was too black, that the albums wouldn’t sell as well if she wasn’t appealing enough to white people. I remember reading that after they made “The Bodyguard” they had her do all the lines over again, and dubbed them, because they didn’t think she spoke well enough to be convincing as someone Kevin Costner would fall for. I wonder how many times shit like that happened. I wonder if she was told to stay skinny at any cost, to keep her slender ass from becoming a big black booty. I wonder how often she was advised to speak with less attitude and appear more humble because everybody hates an uppity black bitch. I wonder what being Clive Davis’ anointed favorite required of Whitney’s soul.

I think Whitney Houston was dangerous. She was fierce. We are all human and we all suffer in different ways. The important thing is how we navigate that suffering. I found CeCe Winans’ statement  to be fitting.

“I have no words to express how I feel. Whitney was not just a friend but a sister and I am going to miss her voice, her humor but mostly her friendship. She was undoubtedly one of the greatest singers of all time but she was also a great person. Please keep her family in prayer and the best way to honor her is to be reminded that tomorrow is not promised to any of us so love God and love each other.”

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