Dr. E. Faye Williams | 10/18/2018, 6 a.m.
A few years before Aretha Franklin sang “Respect,” Otis Redding’s version had a laudable meaning, too. When Aretha sang “Respect” in 1967, she turned the song into something women have never let go. The song became a powerful anthem for many, but moreso for black women. It still resonates with us today. Her version was not just about resonating with our civil rights. It also resonated with our feminine side.
Anyway, you look at it, “Respect” is a most powerful song for black people, especially for black women. Whenever we hear that song, we know she made it for us.
Today we are still crying out for respect. When I hear black men and women getting rich at the expense of black women, it’s painful. Too many rappers have taken the 30 pieces of silver to denigrate us, and I’ll be the first to admit, it’s done not only by men, but by a growing number of black women rappers.
If you’ve ever listened to the vulgarity in some of the songs, you can be sure those who are backing them financially or otherwise never intended for us to believe they’re talking about women other than black women.
Yet, it’s the black woman who has given birth to them and nursed them to adulthood while she herself may have had little or no joy in life. But she cared about her sons and daughters to the extent that she could without ever complaining. Life most likely had not treated her with respect, but she gave the best she had to her children.
Unfortunately, some of them grew to be influenced by outside influences who taught them and paid them to disrespect their mothers, daughters, nieces, wives and girlfriends. It’s time for us to get back to promoting respect for black women and girls.
Recently, the National Congress of Black Women joined with Bob Law, chair of National Black Leadership Alliance, and Kwabena Rasuli, chair of Clear the Airwaves Project, to once again work to end the travesty of what negative rapping is doing to our community, especially to black women. Aretha has left us, but our desire for respect is still with us.
Bob Law reminds us that our ancestors have won every challenge they’ve seriously taken on. There was a time we were in slavery. They brought us up from slavery. We now have a right to be educated. We now have a right to non-segregated housing. Once we couldn’t vote; now we can.
Our ancestors made a difference then, and we have a duty to make a difference now. We must change the conditions under which our children grow. Some believe they can only make a living by denigrating our people, especially women.
It’s time for us to support conscious rappers and artists who work to perfect our community.
We met with many powerful women during the joint initiative and media chose not to carry our story, but the word got out. Action followed — and we can do it again.
It’s time to “wake up and stay woke.” The time has come for us to demand respect with more than our words.
The writer is president of the National Congress of Black Women.