I’m Not Weak

“I’m not weak.” Kelis wanted to assure us in her recent interview with Hollywood Unlocked that revealed an abusive past with hip-hop juggernaut Nas. It was interesting that even in discussing what seemed like some of her darkest moments, a woman of color had to be sure to assert her strength. No woman who endures the perils of this world and relationships is weak, we’re all just a summation of our experiences. She survived, many don’t.

I didn’t expect to watch the whole thing. I saw a few tweets and thought I’d see a little of the goings on and go about my evening. But I watched the whole thing and at every moment that she teared up, I did too. Her instincts to protect her son and even her willingness to still protect Nas’ image while giving a candid interview about her truth in their experience together was admirable to say the least.

Sure, she threw out words like “coward” and “narcissist”, but in the same breath talked about inviting him to Thanksgiving dinner after he gave her his ass to kiss when her mother had a stroke and would never full-out say, “he abused me” but that they would fight. There’s three sides to every story of course, but you can’t tell me that if you watched the interview and have any sense of empathy that she wasn’t speaking from a place of truth. We say it all the time, but when will we decide to believe black women?

Kelis has opted not to share any details of their relationship publicly over the last 9 years. There were murmurs of the custody battles, but still we got a whole album out of Nas and never really heard the “Caught Out There” singer’s side of the story.

She spoke clearly and passionately in the interview about their extreme “highs” and “lows.” Which if you are anywhere near the music industry, you can certainly understand. But I felt it. I felt every part of it and felt so happy for her courage and her decision to be brave because we all know just how unprotected the black woman is. We see it at every turn and at this point, if we don’t stand up for ourselves, we realize, no one else is going to.

Now, I know that the interview will receive a lot of backlash and a lot of support. But the validity of it, the factualness of it, doesn’t matter to me as much. I don’t like when people try to make others prove their truth. What I saw was the humanness of it all. As Tracy G often declares “humans gonna human.”

There are so many women that are living in private hells. And it doesn’t take away from any one experience, but I guess I wonder, when, just when are we going to realize that money and fame does not suddenly take away their humanness? Nas is the same block boy that many of us grew up around who maybe read a few more books and could put some dope rhymes together that saved him from the hood. But dassit. You don’t think they take the same broken home, seeing friends killed, having to survive trauma mentalities into their success?

I hope that men like Jay Z and Charlamagne da God talking openly about therapy may help some of the other prominent black men in the public eye take the same steps as well as those that aren’t in the limelight. They are just as hurt and broken as so many people in the black community. And as Meek’s recent situation showed us, not even money can always help you escape the grips of the systematic racism and infrastructure designed to destroy black families.

People will argue about whether they believe Kelis because Nas is loved by many. Women will be triggered from their own traumatic relationships and experiences and champion her. But the important question is, how are we using these situations to help heal our own?

People who make good music are no super heroes. God if there was a week that proved that it was this one. But I find that in every publicized situation, there is an opportunity to discuss issues on a more basic level.

The abuse will take precedent for headlines. And yes, abuse and violent relationships are absolute horrible things. Violence against women is way too prevalent in this world. But she also spoke on a lot of things. On custody battles and the laws in LA that make it difficult for one parent to protect the child from an absentee parent. She spoke of the need to reinvent herself after her marriage ended and she looked up and had nothing. She spoke of her awesome business Bounty & Full that is flourishing. The sacrifice and dedication of going to culinary school to set up for her current success.

I pull out my hair at times thinking about how much we miss it. About how much easier it is to cancel everyone than to explore the real issues in as diplomatic of a way as I feel Kelis did in her interview. Did he hurt her, and does he continue to? ABSOLUTELY it seems. And did she also mention not being a saint? YES. But how can we take a deeper look? How can we save young women from the grasp of thinking that aggression is normal or in the most dysfunctional way, a sign of love? How can we assure black women that they don’t have to look strong in every moment? That being 5’10 has nothing to do with whether a man should hit you or not or that you should feel that makes you any stronger or capable than a smaller woman getting her ass beat every single day for nothing?

And newsflash to men that love to troll black women issues on Twitter, no one yells from the mountaintops that they’re an abuser! And you are the reason so many women wait to get the audacity to tell their own stories. And I once saw a quote long ago that I truly believe:

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” — Anne Lamott

There’s so much work to do here. Sure, celebrities have a bigger platform, but there is work in the trenches to create a safer environment for women, especially black women. We ask ourselves, how can black men not be up in arms about the treatment of Chaqitta Clemons-Howard in Wafflehouse? Because if they are treating black women that way, how can they see it? How can they protect us?

I watched the whole thing and it made me feel more endeared to Kelis, it made me feel sorry for someone like Nas who is supposed to represent something so much better, and it made me more conscious of regular, every day women who put on their makeup and their best smile to walk out the door every day, yet in private face violence from those who say they love them.

Nobody wins when the family feuds.

It’s bigger than Nas and Kelis though her pain is just as valid. But there are women every single day that are not protected, that are sent back to their abusers, that no one believes. We owe it to ourselves to tell our stories and get people talking which hopefully results in actions to make this world safer for black women.

http://eacada.org is an organization owned by a woman of color that helps those that are victims to abuse.

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Ashley M. Coleman

Writer and Author of GOOD MORNING, LOVE. Avid tweeter, because what is life without these jokes? http://ashleymcoleman.com.