Janelle Monáe Wants to ‘Fem The Future’ In Beverly Bond’s ‘Black Girls Rock!’ Book Excerpt
Creator of the Black Girls Rock! movement, Beverly Bond, is shining a light on melanin magic with her forthcoming book, Black Girls Rock! Owning Our Magic. Rocking Our Truth. Bond taps icons across all industries from celebrated tennis player, Serena Williams, to Congresswoman Maxine Waters and music’s elite a la Janelle Monáe, Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu and Solange for motivational essays and empowering affirmations.
Before BGR hits shelves Tuesday (February 27), pump your fists in the air to the words of Monáe in this excerpt below.
FEM THE FUTURE
Artist, singer, songwriter, actress, and activist
I AM A CAREFREE BLACK GIRL. I AM NOT ANYONE’S EXPECTATION. I AM NOT trying to live up to anyone’s idea of who I should be. I do not believe in being a slave to someone’s interpretation of me, even if that someone is me. Being in full control of my magic and how I choose to use it is where I find my freedom. I won’t allow anybody to take that from me. How I describe it today may be different from how I describe it tomorrow, and that’s okay. I’m ever-evolving. It’s my process, and having this freedom, this power and agency that so many generations of women before me didn’t have—I’m thankful for it.
I love being able to tell stories through music, film, theater, and writing. Music brings people together and unites them. It has no religious belief and no political party. It is not a red state or a blue state; it’s a purple state. And that’s what I love. I think it’s important that we, as artists with platforms, become voices for the voiceless, that we speak for those who don’t get the opportunity to hold the mic. I use music as a weapon. I use music to fight against those who fight to silence us, to beat us down emotionally. I try to tell stories of otherness. I try to celebrate and tell stories about the marginalized, those whose voices are oftentimes erased because of their gender, their sexual identity, and their race. I feel a personal responsibility to be outspoken against injustices that happen in our communities and all over the world, especially for women and girls and others who are marginalized.
As I began to work on my new music, I really wanted to work with more female producers. So, I went on this wild-goose chase for the top ten female music producers. I read that there have been only six women total to ever be nominated for production between the Brits and the GRAMMYs, and that no woman has ever won. I thought, “Wow, why is this, and why aren’t more people talking about it?” I produced and was heavily involved in my last album, and even though I had a hard time finding female music producers, I still found a lot out there. I knew it wasn’t that women can’t compete at a high level—we just haven’t been given the opportunity. I said that something has to change. We’re just too spread out, maybe; people are not hearing our voices. I came up with the name “Fem the Future” as a way to hold people accountable for not bringing more women into the room and into the conversation, whether it be music production, film production, media, or tech. We need to be in the room and be given as much opportunity as our male counterparts.
I feel I am a product of those people who walked before me, those people who saw something special in me and decided to pay it forward. So that is what I want to do for women. Black women are my first tribe, whether it is my mom, my aunts, or women in the entertainment community. I’ve had a community of black women who have supported my uniqueness, my messaging, what I’ve had to say, and who I am. They also believed in who I was way before people knew my name—the ones who tell me, “We love you, Janelle. We love that you want to redefine what sexiness is and that you love science fiction.” This type of support and encouragement is what helped me stay confident and allowed me to keep being myself. I knew my tribe was there supporting me, holding my wings up even on days I didn’t feel like flying.
I had people in my community who saw something special in me and pitched in to make sure I succeeded. I am very thankful that BLACK GIRLS ROCK! was supporting me very early on during that process, and that was no small thing, because I think I was able to get my confidence from platforms like this. I’m grateful to have a community of black women who supported my uniqueness, my messaging, and what I had to say and believed in it and awarded me before anybody else knew who I was or knew that I was going to have endorsements or be in movies.
Just appreciating the freedom, the power, and the agency that so many women didn’t have generations before me, having that agency and that power and knowing that I am in full control of it, is what being a black girl with Black Girl Magic is all about.
I am not to be marginalized as an artist. I am a music lover; I think that music is different sounds, different lyrics and styles, and having the liberty to inspire so many people. Music brings people together, it unites people, and that’s what I love.
Copyright ©2017 by Beverly Bond. From the forthcoming book BLACK GIRLS ROCK! edited by Beverly Bond, to be published on February 27th, 2018 by 37 INK/Atria Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed by permission.
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