Thursday, 1 December 2011

Young, Gifted and Black: A Badge To Wear With Honour and Pride

The lyrics of the above song still resound within my soul, forty plus years after its release. This song was written by Nina Simone - one of my favourite artistes of all times- however, growing up, I'm familiar with the above version and it brings so much happy memories for me.

The song and the lyrics still make my soul sing and revitiise my spirit. It makes me smile and feel all warm and secure within. It makes my soul hunger to hear  these kind of lyrics again within popular culture. Not because they validate who I am, but they validate in my own personal belief and philosophy of being gifted and black. The young, not so much now! However, let me just interject here, that I say all of this with utter humility, but because I feel this way - it took me a long time to reach this destination - in the past, I have been accused of being  'arrogant', 'aggressive' and 'too confident'. Hmmmmm... sounds familiar! See, when you are Black and a woman ( or a Black man for that matter, but the labels are usually more pernicious), these negative labels remain a burden around your neck and a heavy weight that you have to carry on your back - until you are ready to eject them and, metamorphise into a beautiful butterfly and  feel free, once again.

Earlier on, I was reading an online newspaper The Continued Cyberbullying of Mischa B about Misha B. For folks who are unfamiliar with this beautiful, young, darkskinned, talented young woman, she is a contestant on the UK's X Factor. From the beginning, when I saw this beautiful young woman sing in her auditions, I knew that she'd make it far in the competition, however, since then, when she showed that she was confident, young, gifted and Black, she seemed to have struck a nasty and begrudging  nerve with the UK viewing public. It was made even worse when she was accused of bullying Misha B accused of being a backstage bully Ever since then she has been accused of being 'over confident', 'arrogant', 'having a chip on her shoulder' and other negative descriptions. One only has to see the majority of negative and hurtful comments that have been attached to her.

Why so much venom and hatred? Is it because she shows, in the face of adversity, that like Maya Angelou's poem, that she will 'still rise'? The level of bullying that she has been accused of in the past - and these were just allegations which have never been proven by the way - definitely has some hidden agenda from some of these rabid media outlets, waiting to pluck her bare bones when she is finally voted out of the competition. In fact, the media are guilty of doing the same thing that Misha B has been accused of. Woe betide if she remains a finalist. It will be interesting to analyse the media's reaction then and what their next step will be. She'll probably be accused of being a cannibal or a serial killer. Yes, I know I'm being a bit over the top, but I know I may not be far from the mark.

I know that the two most famous black women in popular culture at the moment are Rhianna and Beyonce, but they seem to be 'safe' and 'non threatening' and dare I say, seen as 'beautiful' and 'desirous'  to the general public. In fact, they are embraced by the majority of people, regardless of race. So why has Misha B, who is just starting her singing journey, singled out with all of this unrepentant hatred? Well, I know, from experience, as I explained at the beginning, why this common, yet, unconscious (or is it conscious?) occurrence always happens. Once you are a black woman - stone me now if you want -  and darkskinned as well, you are meant to 'know your place' and position in society. Your not meant to be 'young, gifted and black'. Because, if you carry these positive labels around with you, expect the venom, hatred and absolute fear from mainstream societies. Yes, I said, FEAR.

I do not have any girls, however,  I have two, fine, young men and I used to sing Young, Gifted and Black to them all the time as a lullaby when they were babies. I really hope that Misha B has somebody strong in her life - and I think she has, as she was brought up by her aunty who instilled a sense of self within her; this is evident ( I know this from the audition I saw of Misha B).

I know that when I watch Misha B this Saturday on TV, I will be cheering her from the sidelines and singing Young, Gifted and Black at the top of my lungs to cheer her on. If she does not win this competition, I know that her star will soar far into the universe, leaving the lukewarm competitors behind in their soon forgotten singing careers. Good luck Misha B, I'm rooting for you!

Young, Gifted and Black

 To be young, gifted and black,
Oh what a lovely precious dream
To be young, gifted and black,
Open your heart to what I mean

In the whole world you know
There's a billion boys and girls
Who are young, gifted and black,
And that’s a fact!

You are young, gifted and black
We must begin to tell our young
There’s a world waiting for you
Yours is the quest that’s just begun

When you feel really low
Yeah, there’s a great truth you should know
When you’re young, gifted and black
Your soul’s intact

Young, gifted and black
How I long to know the truth
There are times when I look back
And I am haunted by my youth

Oh but my joy of today
Is that we can all be proud to say
To be young, gifted and black
Is where it’s at

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