Nothing Even Matters by Lauryn Hill ft. D’ Angelo is one of my favorite songs on the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill album for both its lyrical and overall presentation. Both Hill and D’ Angelo are exemplary of soulful music, which makes this song particularly great and timeless. The lyrics center on a consuming relationship which triumphs over any other aspect of someone’s life because the love between the two people is so strong. The song is beautiful to listen to in how Hill and D’ Angelo can express such secrete and private feelings. Personally, the song reminds me of my grandparents because the respect and love they have for one another parallel the sentiments the song illustrates. The title of the song although not in a romantic sense reflects some of my own sentiments on various instances during my college experiences thus far. There have been academically straining moments where the rhetoric “Nothing Even Matters” was my train of thought. This was typically when I exaggerated the severity of my perceived academic shortcomings and attempted to project it to the rest of my life. In contradiction to the song, my use of the phrase “Nothing Even Matters” functions in a less positive context.
It has been an exhausting week at the University and has only heightened the stress people have faced over the past year. Last week effectively reveals a lot of problems black communities face both within and outside UVA. The prevalence of racially driven police brutality in the U.S has triggered responses from black students in the past months, but having one our own students endure it has truly pushed people to their breaking point.
Responses from people that compose what is supposed to be an honorable community have been appalling and quite frankly hurtful. The concerns of black students have not been taken seriously enough to translate into any substantive sociocultural change. The past week has made that painfully clear. Whether it was anonymous social media forums (in which everyone believes they’re an expert on race issues) to uninformed articles that reveal the racist rhetoric embedded within the UVA environment. This community and institution refuse to legitimize the concerns of black students and consequently fails at any hope of accountability. I need people to wake-up. Feeling uncomfortable does not excuse compliancy that perpetuates the normalized discrimination here at UVA and the larger American society.
Listening to other black students talk about enduring micro-aggression at UVA not only made me re-live my personal experiences, but also highlights once again instances like last week are not isolated. There is a continuous tendency to de-value black bodies and attending a creditable university does not exempt young black people from this discrimination. We are humans. And we are hurting. Like my peers, I am tired and angry. However, I find solace in the passionate and intelligent individuals around me that work collectively towards tangible solutions. I hope this serves as a source of strength and inspiration for others.
The songs I would sing if I were late to class would be “I Get Out” by Lauryn Hill, “Schoolin’ Life” by Beyonce and “Jombolo “ by Iyana and Flavour. I chose these three songs for either their lyrical significance or because of my memorable experiences when hearing them. “I Get Out” was the song I choose to include into a presentation in the eleventh grade on the novel Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In this song Hill’s refusal to become a victim of systematic manipulation parallels with the struggles of the character Kambili, and the oppression she faces from her father. I also chose this song because anyone who has ever felt marginalized can find both solace and empowerment from the lyrics. Second, “Schoolin’ Life” was a song I had first heard on the day of my high graduation, which still stands to be one of the best days of my life. In addition to Beyonce being one of my favorite singers, her lyrics in this song resonated especially well with my life as I made the transition from high school into college. The song emphasizes the message that regardless of one’s age, life does not always go according to plan, however it is important to remain relentless when pursing your goals. I try to remember the insight this song offers whenever I get overwhelmed during the school year. I had first heard “Jombolo” on the metro, and I remember blasting the song because it was the only way I stayed awake during an early commute to work. After discovering my love for Nigerian music this summer, “Jombolo” instantly became a favorite of mine. Also, my friends and I always played and danced to this song over the summer, which is why the song has such a positive connotation in my life.
Expanding my network effectively will require an approach that fosters collaboration of ideas and resources towards unifying issues. One avenue I believe this can take place within UVA would be solidarity among minority students. A majority of the collaboration I have seen between cross-cultural groups has been for social events, however I think students can expand their networks to work towards a more welcoming environment for minorities.
Meaningful discourse and engagement between different cultural groups can provide new opportunities to utilize platforms. For example, my position as a writer for the newspaper can illuminate issues facing other students once I have familiarized myself with those specific issues. By expanding my network, I hope to become knowledgeable of concerns facing minorities in order to use my capacity to make them more visible to the larger university community. Similarly, I think students can use their respective resources to highlight the minority experience. Unifying issues such as marginalization or underrepresentation within important sectors of the school like student governance at UVA are starting points for minority student who wish to mobilize themselves. I also think a multi-cultural newsletter would serve as a way to expand students’ network and provide insight on current matters cross-culturally.
The State of the Union Address, I believe encompassed a majority of the election objectives that are trademarks of Obama’s administration from when he first came into office. His reiteration of strengthening the middle class was reflected in his plans for the American economy as well as ensuring that the upper class does not hinder the success of the working class. I think the SOTU once again demonstrated how Obama has continually dedicated his administration to ensure these goals to come to fruition throughout his presidency. I thought that his inclusion of the couple’s story was an effective way to relate to a majority of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet. If Obama had placed himself at the center of understanding the stress of financial situations, his attempt to relate to the public would have not been as successful. Often, I think politicians attempt to claim to truly understand the financial insecurity most people experience on a daily basis, but the public is quick to identify those efforts as insincere. A majority of how what I saw of the SOTU on social media was in reference to Obama stating that he had no more campaigns to run because he had already won both. A lot of tweets and memes had replayed that part making for humorous jabs against Obama’s opposition who had clapped after he stated he had no more campaigns to run. At first, I think it was popular because it was clearly a line, which had not been scripted, and was an opportunity to see the president in a more humorous light in an otherwise serious and formal event. In addition, it was both a witty and quick response to the people who pose serious obstacles to both the success of the U.S. and Obama’s administration. Traditional news works like Business Insider included a YouTube video of the famous line in their report which was centered more on Obama’s comeback rather than the issues discussed in the SOTU.
The song “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin, which came out in the late 1960’s, and “I Am Not My Hair” by India Arie from 2006 parallel in that they address the issues facing black women. Franklin’s song reflects how intersectionality works against black women to create specific sources of subordination: racism and patriarchy. The repetition of the lyrics “chains, chains, chains” and her disdain for the man in her life provide a lens into how this multifaceted oppression functions. Consequently, this song contributes towards a productive discourse on the continuing implications that the long-standing legacy of slavery has for specific members of society. The use of word “chains” highlights how black bodies continue to be owned as commodities, however the song offers a new face of “the owner” which is not necessarily a white man. Franklin’s refusal to be victimized is reflected in her identifying the chains as weak links because oppressors are dependent on people’s silence to their abuse. The song acts as a source of empowerment for women who are in similar circumstances and seek better outcomes for themselves.
Similarly, Arie’s song also functions as a source of empowerment but in the context of hair. The song is liberating in a way because it allows women to claim their identity outside of the confined definitions society projects upon them. Arguably, the content of “I Am Not My Hair” may not be as sophisticated as the structural racism Franklin’s song explores, but does highlight another way in which black women can be confined and defined by social factors.
How would you use your talent, resources and energy to create change about an issue?