There are four women in the world that I can identify with for very different reasons. I can look at each one of their personalities and find similar characteristics in myself. But more importantly, I can look at their actions and tell that most of their decisions are rooted in love. In no particular order, those women are Jada Pinkett-Smith, Tracee Ellis Ross, Michelle Obama and Erykah Badu. I could also tell you how pieces of each of these women are entangled in my personality, but not this time. This particular story is about Badu and how she gave me exactly what I needed when I needed it.
Have you ever accepted an invitation to hang with a friend and wasn’t quite sure what you were signing up for? Well, this is often my experience with Thabi Moyo. She is that one person in my life that’s always like “trust me, you need this!” She finds her happy place is in taking spur of the moment trips and planning along the way.
I love this about her.
Don’t get me wrong. I know planning is essential, but there is something so liberating about living in the moment. Sometimes we worry too much about where we’re going and how we’re going to get there that we miss the beauty of right now. Being completely present in every moment with gratitude is one of the greatest gifts that you can give yourself. Thabi reminds me of this often.
I get a text from Thabi: “Yo! What are you doing the weekend of the 4th? Let’s go see Erykah Badu.” How do you say no to that? Without thinking, I checked my schedule and made plans to travel.
The concert was Sunday, and so we decided to drive down on Saturday to have a little fun in the great city of Memphis and boy did we luck up. We stumbled across a place called Mollie Fontaine, and I loved everything about it. This antiques-filled Victorian house turned lounge gave me all the life I needed, and it reminded me of an old poetry spot I used to frequent back home called Seven Studioz. We ate downstairs in the chic lounge area filled with mismatched easy chairs, couches and love seats. The perfect soundtrack of house music mixed with hip-hop and R&B pulled us upstairs where we were pleasantly surprised to find a woman DJ’n! Seeing all of this black girl magic made our night. @djad901 was phenomenal, and she was the perfect nightcap and prelude to Erykah. The night ended there with great music, good drinks, and dancing.
This was not my first Erykah Badu concert, but in many ways, this was my first Badu experience. We arrived at the festival early around 2 pm so that we could catch another group we love called Tank and the Bangas. (Please look them up if you’ve never heard of them.) Erykah wasn’t set to perform until 9 pm, so we had plenty of time to chill in the hot sun. Thabi wanted to catch Big Baby DRAM’s performance, and I had no idea who he was until he started singing his “Broccoli” song. And then I only still kind of knew who he was. Somehow we managed to make it to the very front of the crowd. I can’t remember the last time I was this close to a performer in a crowd this large. But there I was sandwiched in between a bunch of kids born in the 90s, letting this singer/rapper throw bottled water on me as he slung it across the crowd. This was my rite of passage to Erykah who was scheduled to perform next. Once he was done singing about “sticking his banana in girls” and baptizing us with Ozarka water he exited stage left and we were all waiting for Badu.
Her set up seemed to take forever, and by this time my legs were aching, and my back was stiff. I’d been standing behind Thabi as she had barely managed to make herself a space on the gate in between two territorial fans. We were closer than close. The band was set up, and the sound was checked, finally. Lights went out, and the music started. Suddenly the energy on the stage shifted completely. Then out stepped Badu in an oversized hat accompanied by an oversized men’s suit. Nobody cared what she had on. The hundreds of people behind me just wanted to bask in her presence. Erykah seems to have the kind of light inside of her that could generate enough energy to power an entire city in Texas for a week. She carried the type of freedom that speaks to the freedom inside of us all, giving our freedom permission to exist. She’s like a freedom starter of sorts. And watching her always reminded me to live unapologetically.
Halfway through her set Thabi and I decided to switch places. Unfortunately, our transition wasn’t the smoothest, and now the only part of me that was on the gate was my hand. And the two people in front of me weren’t giving me any leeway. Then something magical happened. This guy standing next to us started feeling faint. After moving around and drinking water, he and his girlfriend decided to leave. She turned and looked me dead in my face and out of all of the people standing nearby she asked if I wanted her space on the gate! It was a tiny Christmas miracle. Hell yeah, I do! “Thank you.” So here I am front and center. Nothing separating me from this magnetic energy but a little black gate. Erykah starts singing “Bag Lady.” And while I’ve heard this song a million times, tonight it felt like she was speaking directly to me.
Let me back up and be transparent for a moment here. I had been feeling heavy for some time now, and I came here in the hopes of escaping that feeling even if only for a moment. There I was standing in a crowd of hundreds of people feeling emotionally and mentally like I was miles away. Heavy.
She kept singing, “One day, all them bags gonna get in your way. So. Pack light.” I instantly started tearing up. I didn’t use to cry so much but lately, my tears were committing suicide and jumping off my face more often than not. So I just “let it go, let it go, let it go, let it go” as the song went on.
Then another miracle happened. As she sung about being hurt inside and letting it go, she started climbing down off the stage. My heart dropped, and I grabbed my phone and pressed record. I knew that I wasn’t going be able to stay focused enough to record a decent video, but I also knew that I wanted to take this moment home with me. I quickly decided to be present in the moment. She stepped up to the gate about 10 to 15 feet down from me and climbed up to sing out to the crowd. Then she stepped down and made her way towards me. She stopped directly in front of me, jumped on the gate and as she was leaning over me; the song shifted to the bridge, “let it go, let it go, let it go, let it go.” Then almost as if the universe knew what I needed she looked right down into my eyes and shoved the mic in my face. I froze and forgot the words, but then I quickly regrouped and found them. And in the worst karaoke voice ever I yelled into the mic,
“I bet ya love will make it better!!”
It was terrible and beautifully freeing all at the same time. She kept moving, and I stood still holding on to that line in the song that was undeniably meant for me in that very moment. She went on with the show, and I stood there trapped by the words, “I bet you love can make it better.” It was exactly what I needed to hear because I had been struggling with being kind to someone who had hurt me. Someone who I loved dearly and who undoubtedly loved me but we just couldn’t seem to get it together. Somewhere in between trying to heal and still being present, I had turned cold. I didn’t mean to be. It just happened. I suddenly realized, leaning up against this black gate that I had not tried loving through the hurt. It was such a simple truth, but the moment I yelled out the words I knew that love was the answer. It’s not easy to be kind and show compassion to someone you feel hurt by, but in the end, the goal is to come out better. So why not try love?
The show ended shortly after that, and I felt full, kind of like you do when you leave church after a good word. And now when I feel like shutting down or being cold I just close my eyes, take a deep breath and sing to myself, “let it go, let it go, let it go, let it go.” A last minute spur of the moment trip reminded me that being rooted in love makes everything better. Thank you Badu.