Note: I wrote this post last week, before she announced her pregnancy. #allcity.
One of the reason’s why I think we are incapable of letting Lauryn go, or understanding why she has chosen her family work over her artistic work is that we do not see parenting as work.
I have friends whose parents provided for their material means–they had food clothes and shelter, gadgets and toys–but moms and pops were always at work.
And they hate their parents for always being away.
I am not doing that, and I can see Lauryn Hill’s desire to give her children some sense of stability and protection.
People always say to me, allcity, when are you gonna have a baby? I look them dead in they face and say, listen, a child requires you to reorganize your entire life, and I believe that that child should be your priority, because as parents we bring them into the world. I also believe that women are hyper-criticized for parenting choices AND also given little support to be parents.
So until those conditions change, I am cool.
This is not to say that I don’t struggle with it. Because I do. AND, I am still cool.
How we think about Lauryn and what we feel that we expect from her is interesting.
I began thinking about this as I watched two videos of her. The first video was filmed when she was twenty-five, the other was from last year when she first started really touring again.
At one point in the video filmed last year (the 34 second mark) Lauryn spoke of her kids, saying, “I wanted them to have normalcy and privacy…I wanted a real life as well.”
In the initial video, a younger Lauryn addressed a crowd of students and spoke about the sacrifices she made for her music.
All of her accolades are, “really not [her] accomplishments to be proud of” (1:24 mark).
Throughout the speech, Lauryn constantly reminds the crowd that she isn’t perfect, that she’s young, and that she has given up so much for her “art.”
I noticed, in watching these two videos, that she says twice, “I didn’t have any new experiences to write about.”
A lot of my blog posts are based on a mixture of experiences and things that I have read, so I can see her point.
I read a biography of Billie Holiday last fall, If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery, and the author Farah Griffin explores why we know what we know about Billie Holiday. She also forces us to think why Black male Jazz artists can suffer from drug addictions and still be seen as a genius, but Billie Holiday’s addictions seem to always overshadow her genius, her knowledge production.
I mention the Griffin book not because I am inferring that Lauryn Hill is suffering from an addiction. I am mentioning it because it is one of my favorite books that I have read in the last year AND because it forces me to think about how we think about Black women artists and the art they produce.
It forces me to question how we see Black women as geniuses.
I am thinking about how we know what we know about Lauryn Hill.
How the demands for her to come back don’t take into consideration that parenting is work. That making music is work.
And that it was particularly challenging for her to be a petite Black girl with natural hair in a music industry premised on approximating blond, white beauty ideals.
The ability to accept Lauryn for who she is may be a barometer of freedom for Black women in this country.
Answer me this…
Why the investment in Lauryn Hill?
If we acknowledged that parenting and being an artist was work, would we view Lauryn differently?
Can Black women breathe?
*This post first appeared on Renina’s blog, NewModelMinority.