Today, A White Woman Sang To Me About My Demoralized Black Life.
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” sang Janis Joplin as I ran by Black Lives Matter Plaza.
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose
Nothin’, don’t mean nothin’ hon’ if it ain’t free, no no…
Today, I heard Janis Joplin sing “Me And Bobby McGee” in my earbuds as a hazy sunset cast a filtered haze over Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC.
Also, today, in one verse, a white woman sang multitudes to me about the demoralizing nature of my Black life.
The yellow letters cautioning against ill-tempered fascism’s literal and metaphorical march into the heart of America’s capital city finally appeared less vibrant and proud and more forlorn and foreboding in their muted, under-lit tones. At present, fist-shaking activism feels like the most tired and empty way to prove the physical validity of my Black existence. Thus, seeing a mural as a testament to the whole body, whole mind, and entire soul exhaustion, I feel about the matter smacks of a level of visceral exasperation that only Janis Joplin’s uniquely sonorous tones can calm.
When cast in the context of the 1969-released single being a part of Pearl — Joplin’s last studio album before her untimely demise in 1970 — her raspy mezzo-soprano’s devil may care qualities shine through most profoundly when soulfully extolling the virtues of relieving one’s self of existential anxiety. It’s as if the hippie icon’s acutely aware of the spiraling hold of alcoholism, heroin addiction, hyper-exhaustion, and manic depression having a perilous grip on her existence.
When cast upon my own life as I regard the words “Black Lives Matter” in low light at the height of anxious times where the difference between Black life and death is thinner even than that of a blue line on a t-shirt celebrating the essential nature of police forces, Joplin’s voice is profound. It melts and muddies the viscous, sludge-like anger that viciously churns in the pit of my stomach…