Respecting Aretha: Respecting Ourselves

Today, I am hopeful that Ariana Grande knows what to do, after she was disrespected,

While many were watching.

There are times when apologies don’t mean a damn thing,

But I know what will,

And, Aretha Franklin knew.

We can talk all day about what it is to be a queen,

But to be a queen, or like a queen, haven’t we learned that we MUST demand respect?

In this world, we MUST stand, and fight and be heard

A queen stands up for herself and for her people, even when it is clear that the fight could be lost.

As the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin taught us how to stand up and be heard; she showed us, like so many other cultural leaders have shown us, how to respect ourselves.

To know respect, WE must say it, sing it, and believe it,

We must tell the world that respect is ours.

And we must first own and embrace the respect that we desire from others.

We must spell it out,

R – E – S – P – E – C – T

Until we find out what respect means, for ourselves, as individuals and as a collective,

Ain’t nothing gonna change.

When we know respect for ourselves,

When we tell our loved ones and the strangers that we meet that it is their responsibility to “find out what [respect] means”

When we make our boundaries clear,

When we stand up for ourselves and fight for ourselves in our own lives and in our own kitchens,

And bathrooms,

And bedrooms,

And garages (Marissa Alexander),

And conference rooms, classrooms, and boardrooms,

And in any of the rooms that we occupy

That there will be respect for who we are and what we are.

When we refuse to accept the unwarranted and violent advances that the world tries to place on us in private AND in public,

Then we are respecting Aretha,

Just as we are respecting ourselves!

This I have learned, and it was not easy.

Now, Ariana, you’ve got the mic.

And it is okay to use it as Aretha once did.

Some of us are with you, but you must stand up for yourself. We cannot do it for you.

And, what you choose to do, or not, will teach others to respect themselves, or not.

© 2018 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

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A Brief Word on Harriet Tubman, American Hypocrisy and Tokenism

Harriet Tubman on the tool that greedy humans use to manufacture their wealth while murdering and impoverishing millions on this land and on lands around the globe? What is there to applaud? Why should I rejoice?

I want those who made this decision and the United States government to use money to do justice, not to divide nations, destroy the Earth, and re-enslave people and their communities. This thing called “money” is used daily to rank and classify the quality of our lives. It is a small piece of paper that has become a very destructive yet powerful global mechanism of social and economic control. Try to exist without it. Try to matter without it.

How can I be happy or moved about the decision to put the face of Harriet Tubman, a courageous African and American woman who liberated herself and others from those greedy for profits and power on a $20 “bill” while a bounty was placed on her head, as if putting her image on money is an adequate way of honoring her life that was repeatedly threatened and endangered by white hate and contempt? And, does this mean that the American people and the U.S. government respect and honor black womens’ lives, especially poor black womens’ lives, just as they honor famous white men who are memorialized on U.S. currency? Of course, black women are noticed and appreciated by the powers that be if and when they are making money to the ultimate profit of a small white minority, and often to a single white man or family who is hidden behind a sheet, or in today’s terms, he is hidden behind a screen (which sounds a lot like a plantation economy to me). On the contrary, in many U.S. cities and towns, black women make less money than their black male counterparts, thus, though we may be very visible, economically and socially, we are not valued equally as black men, and certainly we are not as valued and thus not as compensated as white women. And, if recent events have demonstrated anything, we know today that in the eyes of the law black women (like Marissa Alexander and Sandra Bland), black mothers, black men, black lesbians, black gay men, black-trans, black children, and black lives in general DO NOT MATTER. If in fifty to one-hundred years from now the Department of the Treasury or the Federal Reserve puts their faces on paper money it will not make them matter. It will not erase or undo the past and the harm that has been done in the name of American economic and so-called globalized progress.

Harriet Tubman, one of the greatest Emancipators this nation has ever known, does not deserve to be made a monetary token to support the American economy that was built on the backs of African peoples and others this nation’s colonizers chose to exploit. To honor her is to dare to set the captives free and thus to live an emancipatory life! To respect the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman, whose first name was Araminta Ross, we must live by her motto, “go free or die.” Because in the end, when we take our last breaths, it will not be money, the Department of the Treasury, or the Federal Reserve that made our lives what they were: it will be our humanity and the courage we had, in spite of our oppressors and oppressions, to face life and death, free.

© 2016 annalise fonza, Ph.D.