The thing that I love most about my family is that we never give up on anyone. We set “high” expectations. Do well in school Go to college. Get a good job. Take care of your family. Say no to drugs. The usual.
But sometimes people don’t make it. They fall prey to both outer and inner demons. They struggle. They flail. They completely drown.
And we do our best to save them. We pray. We pull them out of the gutter. We lift them up. We give them second chances. And thirds. We use tough love. We encourage. We hold interventions. We walk them to rehab. We walk away. But we never give up. And we welcome them with open arms when they make it back.
But they don’t always do.
The recent passing of Whitney Houston makes me think of this idea of the Black community and family. We shall suspend the debate for the moment that there is no such thing as a “Black community.” When icons pass away seemingly tragically and too early, we tend to mourn as a community. As a family. The pain is raw. Our grief is real. Yesterday both my pastors said to keep Whitney’s family in our prayers like they had been church members for 50 years! And like someone said on the T.witter, “Black celebrities seem like our distant relatives.” They are not just ‘singers’ in our world. They are reflections of ourselves, representing the absolute best and worse that can be found in us.
Because we watch how the worlds eats them up. Loves them. Then chews them to pieces. Spits them out without a care. Makes money off of them. Uses them. And then talks about them. Shames them. Ridicules them. We watch them succeed. Beat the odds. Break records. Take home a ton of awards. And then flounder. Take two steps forward and then five steps back. They appear on the covers of JET and EBONY magazines, sometimes years before the mainstream gets a hold of them. And they become “ours.” And we love them fiercely. Try to protect them. But it is not always enough.
Both within and outside of Hollywood and the entertainment industry, there are deathly, harrowing demons that plague folks. Addiction can have a stronghold on anyone regardless of wealth or fame, but sometimes seems to be more powerful because of those trappings. You can try to pull them out of it, but sometimes what you want is not enough. They have to want it too.
And knowing all of this, while standing witness to their madness and continued setbacks, you don’t want to give up on them. Can’t give up on them. And I don’t think we ever gave up on a comeback. On full sobriety. On the voice returning.
Too many of us have felt the sheer weight and pain of wanting to save a family member or friend from whatever ailed them. And not just because we love them. But because they are a human being. They have value. They are worth it. They are beautiful. And we desperately wish they would realize it too.
But sometimes, no matter how hard it hurts, there’s nothing we can do but let go.
This is what I put on my FB the other day:
I think that one of the reasons it’s so sad is because as a fan (and human being), you wanted Whitney (and I’ma just throw in Michael) to get it together and truly be ok. To stop being a punchline. To get all the way “whole.” For their sake. And sanity. And so they could shimmy shake it in the naysayers faces. But maybe it was not for this world to see….