It’s 8:30 in the morning. It’s also cloudy and humid. My home smells of residual poop because I just spent the night before trying to fix a stopped up toilet (toddlers have a lovely way of using too much toilet paper). As I sit here next to my son, watching a movie called Ferdinand, I realize something…he has not a care in the world. With the exception of breakfast, he barely notices anything else going on around him. I sit here with him watching this movie, all while trying to figure out how to put my heart on paper. As my son asks me if I’m watching, I half heartedly answer yes while really contemplating all that’s going on in the world around us, as well as the immediate concerns of booking gigs…and getting this smell out of the house.
As an African American woman, and a newly divorced mother of two, the burdens I once shared now seem to be solely on my shoulders—fixing the toilet, cooking the meals…and though there’s help, I’ve noticed how I am aware of my situation, and all that’s around me—all to protect my heart and my love for singing, my son’s innocence and love for Ferdinand, and my infant daughter’s ability to easily laugh. There’s a new term floating around: ‘stay woke.’ Ironically enough, sometimes I just want to take a nap. There was a scene in Ferdinand that summed up my current concerns about the systematic beliefs of the world perfectly: Ferdinand says, “They hate me…” The goat responds, ”Yeah, they hate you. They hate me. They hate each other. There’s a lot of hate.”
As I paint a picture of my current emotional state, I realize that these thoughts carry themselves into every area of my life, including my career. I’ve experienced a lot as a musician: Caucasians petting my head to tell me I’ve done a good job at a performance, purposefully pressing their brakes and driving off while laughing at me on the way to an orchestra gig, and being forced to sleep in a basement at a homestay while on tour, to name a few. I not only strive to maintain my dignity with every gig I book, but I try to take it a step further by cultivating a sense of respect and celebrating diversity in the industry I’m in.
Being a musician, I’ve noticed that these four terms are constant reminders of my life’s work: awareness, immersion, authenticity, and respect. I’m aware of the culture surrounding my craft and the pressure to be perfect at all times. I am aware that I’m constantly judged by my appearance, and that my beliefs may not be shared in my efforts to express myself through song. Yet, I constantly strive to immerse myself in the art of sincerely appreciating every genre I choose to sing in—teaching the same concept to all clients that study under me. I strive to maintain respect for the music that I sing by incorporating proper technique with every note, researching the history/story of the piece at hand, and giving it the time and attention it deserves. In all of these concepts, I gain an authenticity that can only be accomplished from having an open heart in the midst of my pain, my struggle, my new life as a single mother, and despite all the hate around us. Besides, as Ferdinand tells another bull, “You’re a fighter or you’re meat, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. You’re more than just a set of horns. “
It’s now 10:30am, and I’m already tired. I guess that means it’s time to start the day.