While outside on a sunny day getting ready to do some yard work, I decided to listen to some of Brandy's hits from the 90s. I almost forgot how amazing some of Brandy's songs were -- you could tell that most were probably written by someone much more grown than she was at 15, but she still sang those songs with such emotion that you could swear she was going through it herself. Here are a few of my favorites:

- Sitting Up In My Room
- Almost Doesn't Count
- Baby Baby Baby

But what I also noticed about 10 songs in was that some of the messages in those songs for young women were very twisted. For instance, here are some of the lyrics from her song "I Wanna Be Down":

"I wanna be down with what you're going through
I wanna be down, I wanna be down with you
No matter the time of day or night it's true
I wanna be down

If all you need is the time that I got plenty of 
I'll dedicate all my love until you call baby 
I wanna stay by your side 
Be there to call you up 
And let you know everything will be all right"

I don't know if that's the kind of mentality I would want my 15-21 year old girl to have about boys or ANYONE for that matter -- not even their future bosses. In fact, I think that this mentality is part of what causes so many young black girls to run behind boys like they don't have any common sense. It's this "ride or die, I wanna be down" mentality that has thousands of young black girls in jail or caught up in the criminal "Just Us" system in some form or fashion. It's this desperation for the attention of men that has taught some of our big sisters and aunts that it's perfectly normal to have children with men who don't love or even care about them. It's also this "rider" mentality that caused some black women to defend OJ Simpson even though he didn't give much of a damn about any of them.

I had this aha moment about 90s R&B a while back, but only took a mental note about it and tucked it away. What first triggered the thought (that 90s R&B music confused some of our big sisters, aunts and in some cases mommas) was the song Anything by SWV. Here are some of the lyrics that we were all dancing and grooving to back then:

"I'm down for you, and whatever you want
to do... it's all up to you, because


Anything you want, baby Gonna try to
I am gonna try to do It's alright
I'm gonna try, to do
Pleasure every way You can ride
Just to get with you If you want to


Whatever method used, is alright with me
As long as you get to where, you need to be..."

"Whatever method's used it's all right with me?" That's basically saying a man can have his way with your body, protected or unprotected as long as he's pleased. These were the "love songs" black girls wee exposed to in the 90s.

Now let's take a quick look at the types of love songs young white girls were listening to in the 90s. Here's a sample of a song by Celine Dion ("Because You Loved Me"), who frequently topped the charts:

"You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'coz you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me"

See the difference? I don't think it's that much of a coincidence that a lot of young white girls from the 90s ended up getting married instead of being used and tossed away.

If this doesn't convince you, take a look at the music that young white teenaged girls of the past 10-15 years or so have been listening to:

- gangsta rap calling them bitches and hos
- Britney Spears
- club music encouraging them to drink and party all night long
- songs about getting high all of the time 

Is it a coincidence that the jail population of white women has skyrocketed in recent years? That there is a heroine epidemic happenings in white communities across the country? That so many white women at now struggling single moms (many with biracial babies by black men who don't love or care for them)?

Now let's take a trip back in time to the 60s and 70s, when black people were singing about being unified and loving each other as well as themselves. Black people got married and built families. Black people had a strong sense of cultural pride that couldn't be shaken.

I could go on and on about this topic (rap music in particular). But I think this is plenty to think about for now -- many of us listened to those songs by black women and took the messages to heart because we looked up to them.

Music is a Major Part of Our Culture
I recognize that there's more at play than music that causes women to make the choices that they do in life. But we would be remiss to not pay attention to the lessons of history, and this is one of them.

Responsible music is important.

Things Are Changing for the Better
I always have my ear to the ground, and I see something wonderful happening in the black community. We aren't as accepting of garbage music as we were in the past. A lot of black women are rejecting dumb rap music and demanding better. Songs by black women are much more empowering (see Janelle Monae). We're looking at our musical choices more critically and that's a good thing.

I personally believe that in about 10 years time young black girls will be empowered and confident to a level that none of us have ever seen before. And that is in part due to our decision to think more critically about the music and entertainment we consume.

I'm also encouraged by recent news that the White House, congress and private organizations are doing more to help young black girls and women have better opportunities. This is exactly what's needed to propel us into the next couple of decades on an entirely different (and more positive) trajectory.

At the same time, I think it's important that we stop and take note of things from the past that didn't work and stop history from repeating itself.

Love CBL
"Time to Thrive"



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