This song is deep. If you can’t see the video, look it up in your country. It’s called “Brenda’s Got a Baby” by Tupac. The song is based on a true story. In March of 1991, The New York Times published an article about a baby who was saved by maintenance men from a trash compactor (umbilical cord still attached) where his 12-year-old mother put him. The maintenance men heard the baby’s cries and called the police—the baby was ultimately placed in Foster Care.
The girl got pregnant as a result of being raped by her cousin. The inspiration for the song came when Tupac read the story in the NYT when he was filming the movie Juice. They filmed the music video in January 1992.
This isn’t the first time Pac’s done this either. He dedicated lyrics to Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, the 11-year-old who died in Chicago and garnered National Attention (the catalyst for the tearing down of the Chicago Projects, read more about him in my post here.) And the killing of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old Black girl killed by a Korean store owner in 1992, where he dedicated the song “Keep Ya Head Up”, saying in his sophomore album, “because a bottle of juice is not something to die for.” Latasha’s death, along with the beating of Rodney King that same year, became detonators of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
Like I said on this blog before, black music and television are also part of black history. I put the most powerful lyrics (in my opinion of course) of the song in bold below.
“Now Brenda’s belly is gettin’ bigger
But no one seems to notice any change in her figure
She’s 12 years old, and she’s having a baby
In love with the molester, who’s sexing her crazy
…he left her, and she had the baby solo
She had it on the bathroom floor and didn’t know so She didn’t know what to throw away and what to keep
She wrapped the baby up and threw him in the trash heap…”
Historical Fiction (specifically Black Historical Fiction) is my favorite genre to read and to write. I have to specify “Black” because I am not a fan of all Historical Fiction. My interest lies specifically in fiction stories that explore black history in some way.
Historical Fiction is the past recreated around the stories of people who seem real to us, including actual historical figures at times.
As we witness how fictional characters we care about interact with our ancestors and navigate a world now gone from us, it allows us to experience the past vicariously. Through the stories of the characters we can “visit” history and get a feel for what it was like to live in that time. But why is this important? I think a quote from the Toni Morrison Documentary “The Pieces of Me” (Hulu) sums it up:
“You imagine the past because the past has been ruptured. The record of the past of your people has been degraded. It’s been burned up, it’s been taken away.”
Not only has the black past been degraded but also entirely and tragically whitewashed. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a good example of someone whose humanness has been reduced to the one “Negro” who bridged the gap between blacks and whites. A Civil Rights hero who succeeded in making blacks docile enough to accept that merging with white people was the best version of themselves possible. That, if we integrated, we were better people than if we had our own communities and businesses, and could determine the direction of our own destinies. Not that segregation was wrong, but that integration was better. That blacks were better when mixed with something else; that we could not be the midwives of our own selves.
Although King was known as a civil rights leader and Malcolm X as a “black radical” both men were advocates of oppressed people. King told black people their blackness was beautiful, believed in economic freedom and establishing black businesses, preached on black power, and even owned a gun. King was just as “radical” as he was patient…but this isn’t the version of King we are given.
White America adopted Dr. King and used him as the black friend that is used by some to say, “Hey, I can’t possibly be racist because I have a black friend.” King is that friend. Sadly, we have someone whose name is widely known, but who, as a person, is not very well understood.
Forget about the Civil Rights icon, who was Dr. King as a man? Who was Malcolm X as a man? What could we imagine their persona’s to be like? Those of us born after they lived do not know but we can imagine.
What I do as a writer is to take the part of history not taught in schools, and use it as a tool to invent people who could have lived in a world that did exist. To then take these people and let them show us the truth about that time and place. To give these people real feelings and a voice that is authentic to what they could have said or what they could have done. I love to go back to a time before I was born and, through research and creativity, imagine what it would have been like to live in that era.
Book One Re-releases on March 24, 2020
About Book One:
Cynthia McNair and her boyfriend, Alex, express some racist feelings toward blacks. The visit Cynthia’s grandmother Sidney McNair, who recounts the story of her ancestor, an enslaved woman named Stella Mae. Cynthia has no idea of her African ancestry or how deep this rabbit hole goes. Will she accept the truth about herself?
There are only TWO days left of the $200 Amazon Giveaway! You can enter as many times as you like! Go, go, go! Link below:
Note: Due to the content of this post I am filing it under Black History Fun Fact Friday.
Erika Alexander (Max/Maxine Shaw/Pam, Living Single) did an interview with The Breakfast Club(I want to say it aired yesterday?? 1/29) that brought out some interesting facts. (Funny because she was not supposed to be a regular on Living Single but…). Like I tell people, Black History INCLUDES music, television, film, art, and much more.
Yvette Lee Bowser created Living Single for Warner Bros and it debuted in 1993. One of the original suggested titles was Friends. Asked if he could have any show on TV, NBC’s President said Living Single. Queen Latifah’s show’s suggested title was called My Girls when they first did their pilot according to Erika Alexander, but it didn’t do well. The networks then chose Living Single, and then the next year they named a separate show Friends. But you got that much from The Breakfast Club. Let’s go a little deeper.
To go further, I wonder why it was decided to call the black show Living Single? Did it have anything to do with black families being largely headed by single women at the time? I am still researching the specifics for 1993 ( the year Living Single debuted) but so far the numbers continue to increase for single-family households in the Black community at the time. In 1991, 68% of Black children were born outside of marriage. In 2011, 72% of Black babies were born to unmarried mothers. In 2015, 77% of Black babies were born to unmarried mothers.
What was really behind the networks naming this show “Living Single?”
Was it the stereotype or assumption that Black men weren’t present that led them to the decision that the black show should be called Living Single? (“We are living Single…”) instead of Friends? (Because I mean, the sistas on Living Single were Besties, you hear me? They were really Friends. Sooo I got questions…)
I know ya’ll probably think I’m reaching so …if you think this is too far-fetched, consider Good Times.
Good Times only had a father figure because Esther Rolle fought for one.
Originally, the show would be based on a single woman raising her kids in the projects in Chicago (I am from Chicago AND I grew up in the projects, trust… we know these things). Rolle said no, she wanted a father for her children and she became a pioneer in fighting for a black father on TV: George Jefferson (played by Sherman Hemsley) on The Jeffersons, Cliff Huxtable (played by Bill Cosby) on The Cosby Show, Phillip Banks (played by James Avery) on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The list goes on and on but one woman opened the door for a complete black family to be shown on television and her name is Esther Rolle.
Good Times was revolutionary because it broke ground not only by showing a low-income family on television but also, a COMPLETE black family. The list of shows Good Times inspired is too numerous to mention, including NBC’s 227 in 1985, Regina King’s first breakout role. Then, in 1989, ABC launched Family Matters as their answer to 227. UPN sought to create the magic of the Cosby Show with Moesha in 1996. It goes on and on and down hill from here…
“I just thought it was a poor representation of what Black women were being able to do. And frankly, if you didn’t fit in that mold, there was nothing you could do. It was like watching a train wreck. I actually didn’t think it was real at first. Took me a long time to sort of get that, no this is real, and yet, it’s not real.”
The black father was the hardest legacy Rolle fought for. She grew up with one and an intact family; she wanted that to be shown on television. “I had a wonderful father,” said Esther Rolle, “and I couldn’t bear that television virtually ignored black fathers. I could not compound the lie that black fathers don’t care about their children,” she said previously in media reports. “I ruffle a lot of feathers. And I’m also selective–that makes you a troublemaker, but so be it. I laid a cornerstone for black actors, and that makes me happy.”
Although Rolle worked hard for a black father, they still eventually killed James off. So, I ask, what was the real reason behind naming the “Black” show, Living Single Hmm? That is the question.
I don’t listen to a lot of mainstream music that’s not an early 2000 hit I liked before I stopped, 90s jam or real throwback but I do love me some Alicia Keys and I think her Red Table Talk was the best so far. (The only thing that had me thinking was how the song below was written in dedication to Key’s grandmother, not a man. (Though I do think about my man when I hear it lol… but that’s my point) Why is it, my mind began to think, the video doesn’t reflect that? Most people think this song is about a romantic relationship and the video further perpetuates that. I can’t help but wonder why the video doesn’t showcase the song’s intended purpose).
I’m looking forward to that Alicia and Lauryn Hill collabo! My favorite quote of the evening was:
“I don’t wanna be on nobody’s pedestal. I can just be me. I can be all my flawed, beautiful self, you be your flawed beautiful self and we just hang out and talk and sort it out.” – Alicia Keys