First things first, I absolutely adore Janelle Monae. You should know that before reading the rest of this.
Secondly, this will be in my usual stream of consciusness format. I have thoughts and feelings. A lot of them.
Onward and upward to me trying to hold it together while typing this, because . . . legend. Most of this was typed in the car coming home after the concert.
I’ve been feeling like plasma lately. Not completely fluid like water but not as rigid as a solid. I told myself that I’d stop trying to force things until I felt grounded in myself. Well… I feel grounded in myself, I actually believe people when they say things like “you paint very well” and “you’re pretty.” (Hey! It took me a minute but we got there. We can all thank Jay for jumpstarting that process.) I painted in high school, went to college for scenic painting, had two scenic painting internships and the imposter syndrome kicked in overdrive, combined with me being away from home and everyone close to me for and extended period of time. There were two solid years of repeated mental and emotional breakdowns that only three people know about. And those are three humans I’d go to war for by myself, not that any of them would be in that situation. Just know that anybody can catch these hands about them.
A performer. Truly. It was like entering into her world for a few hours. I feel blessed. Then again, she could have only a mic and a spotlight and she would still have my undivided attention for 3 hours.
I have a list of black women who remind me that being me is okay and absolutely necessary. Janelle Monae is the top of that list. The fact that she has run her career her way from the beginning is very affirming. She said what she would and would not do. I remember when people would say she looked “manish” or “would be prettier if she wore something other than tuxedos.” I didn’t understand why that made me angry until a few years ago when I started researching feminism and womanism. I was angry because other people were trying to tell her what to do with her body. How to decorate it, dress it and use it. I used to get so worked up and protective of her, not because she couldn’t defend herself, but because the critique of her felt like a critique about me. I had done everything “good girls” do and I felt like I was playing a role that was never meant for me. So when I say I have the highest levels of respect and adoration for her, I do, because she is me. Never quite fit in, usually existed in her own world and waiting for the day to comfortably break away from the norm.
I feel like every black girl who grew up in a super white environment had a similar experience. I went through a period of straightening my hair (while my hair laughed at me in the Florida humidity) and not understanding why my cousins were so loud and obnoxious. It took me until college to realize that they weren’t on the “obnoxious” part of the spectrum that didn’t exist and me feeling like they were was rooted in some hardcore anti-blackness. Janelle helped me work through all of that by simply existing without apology. And that might be the biggest lesson she has taught me and keeps showing me. Exist authentically and without apology. Black girl magic doesn’t need to be earned. It comes from us living unapologetically.
Have you ever watched someone do something they were born to do? Because you should. It will change your perspective.
I didn’t know I needed to listen to Django Jane with other black girls around until tonight but it was exactly what my soul needed.
I recently reconnected with one of my closest friends from high school. Naturally, we became known as Boots and Backpack. Yeah, my backpack thing has been a thing for awhile. I really like backpacks over purses. I like snacks and need an umbrella while living in Florida. Occasionally I need a backup shirt/leggings.I’ll do a “what’s in my bag?” post soon becuase I think it would be entertaining. Now, I’m going to tell you something that has zero evidence now, but just trust me. You ready? Okay. This is much harder for me that it is for you, just saying. Like, hella embarrassing. My art suuuuuuccccckkkkeeeeedddddd in high school. Not even joking. It wasn’t even worth being in a flaming trash can. Boots on the other hand, made excellent work along with Panda. I still remember her stipple portrait of Michael Jackson. Impeccable. My work looked like a struggling 7th grader for all four years of high school. My skin crawls just thinking about it. It had potential, and I’m not just saying that. The most frustrating part was that I didn’t have the technical ability to replicate the image I saw in my head yet. My artistic style is “let’s combine this and this and see what we get.” See: my squid painting. I was jealous of her ability to manipulate pens, brushes, and pencils. It was never negative and hostile, I sat in awe for two years while in class with her. Truly a great human. I wish she went to FloArts with me but that happened in a different timeline.
Jane is one affirming human being. I feel like being in my skin is okay. That’s easy for me to forget since I’m constantly in environments full of people who aren’t like me. They don’t look like me, share my interests and definitely don’t share my blackness or my magical black girl properties. Shoutout to Lazina for normalizing the phrase “black girl magic” to include us everyday black girls who don’t have beauty campaigns or thousands of followers. I’m magic and I don’t care if you agree or not. It’s difficult to not constantly feel like an outsider when I’m the only black person or one of three. It may feel like I’m the only young black woman in the room but I always have a host of black women around me in spirit. I like to think Ida B. Wells and Zora Neale Hurston drop in just to hang out with me sometimes.
Some people are born to do certain things but I don’t think most ever discover it. Janelle was born to create and perform. She has the creative vision and the ability to assimilate a team to produce it. She is #CreativityGoals, #SquadGoals, #BossGoals, and #FreeA**MuthF’erGoals. And I don’t say this viewing her as an untouchable immortal being. She is a person, just like me, who had to learn and unlearn and then evolve. She isn’t afraid of the evolution and she embraces it. Her career has taught me that trusting yourself and expressing yourself is the highest form of freedom one can experience. Do your own thing, don’t worry about people catching onto your wave. Worry about riding your own unique wave first. My love for her is one of the most important things anyone needs to know about me. I have a deep appreciation for people who inspire me to level up by simply existing near me. I’ve been in admiration of her since The Archandroid. I need that album played at my funeral, and play Dance or Die at least twice. This is a demand, not a request because it slaps.
This concert was watching someone do what they were born to do. It was watching a free black woman doing exactly what she wanted to do, how she wants to do it, and other people paying to see and enjoy her presence. One thing that room had in common was mutual respect. She is a living example of doing life by her standards and not conforming to the arbitrary rules and regulations created by white supremacy, misogyny, classism, and every other system created to demean people for no good or actual reason. I aim to create a similar space where the unseen feel seen because I know what it’s like to feel unseen. Watching black women do what they absolutely love to do and they believe in it truly is a spiritual experience. It makes me want to fully believe in the things I want to do, regardless if anybody else likes it because guess what? I’m dope regardless if you think so or not, but there is a 90% chance you will also find me to be dope because I am. Just check my reviews.
A compliment from a black woman is like an angel decending from the heaven and kissing you on the forehead. A lady behind me in line asked about my hair and said she loved it. She was in her upper 30s, I only know this because they mentioned their ages earlier. Black women age like they sacrifecd a baby animal to the melanin god or something. I’m fairly certain my grandmother participated in some form of withcraft when she went to New Orleans at some point. Just look:
These photos are literally decades apart. The left is from the later 1970s (I’m guessing, my aunt amd dad don’t look more than 10 in the rest fo the photo set), the right is from 2011. Don’t make naan lick of sense. (I used that sentence structure for emphasis. I can write a 6,000 word academic research paper using my “educated” vernaular, if I choose to do so. Don’t get it twisted.)
I guess I should talk about the concert itself now. It was excellent, perfect, fun, spectacular. She performed most of my favorites. Visuals were on 10. All 47 costume changes were on 10. Vocals . . . please . . . of course they were great. I always forget how little she is. Janelle is only 5 feet tall (BDE outta this world). Incredible, outstanding, life changing, amazing, fun, jubilant, exhilirating, energetic, thoughtful, and so on and so forth for 12,000 more words. I’d suggest listening to every song she has credited to herself and Wondaland Records.
Well friend, we have reached the edited version of my fAndroiding for the day. Go forth and be blessed. Get some sun, drink some water, eat a fruit, palo santo the house, listen to The ArchAndroid and Dirty Computer, all that fun and good stuff.