Taxation without representation

It’s a family affair, Tina Knowles and Ivy Blue join Beyoncé on stage at the Grammys 2017

How marginalized people paid the price to be upset about Lemonade losing Grammy Album of the Year and excited about Hidden Figures and Moonlight. By Kevin E. Taylor

 

Kevin E. Taylor

I’m a native of Washington, DC.  Not the DMV or some surrounding area that people reference because they partied in DC or went to swanky events there.  I am from there—Chocolate City of Old.   I am a rare breed of brother from the Nation’s Capital, who lived in all 4 quadrants (Southwest, Southeast, Northwest and Northeast) before moving out of state for work.  I bring this up because DC’s bold license plate motto is “TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION,” speaking directly to the fact that Washingtonians pay full taxes as any other US citizen but don’t have a voting member of Congress or Senate to speak for them beyond symbolism. They have no legislative voice.  I know what it’s like to live a life without a voice that speaks for me.

I was thinking of that when as I read about Taraji P. Henson’s chagrin at not knowing the story of Catherine Johnson, the Black woman who was a math genius and helped to get The U.S. and John Glenn into orbit in 1962 and who she portrays masterfully in “Hidden Figures,” the breakout hit of the Oscar season.  She says it could have changed what she thought she could do as a young girl.  

Many Black women talk about how Beyonce’s “Lemonade” project (both audio and visual) played a huge role in conversations among women, especially women of color and Black women in particular, as it relates to relationships, pain, struggle and healing.  

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I was personally thinking about how many times I have paid to go into the movie theater to see “Moonlight,” the story of a young boy in the projects of Liberty City in Miami, struggling with his mother’s addiction and his own self-discovery as a queer colored boy trying to find his way and his own skin. I have seen people of every race, color and orientation love on the movie’s tenderness, but Black boys who lived it shed tears and revisit the theater time and again, some like me as many as a dozen, because we paid the price to finally be able to sit in a public space and engage our private pain.

Each of these masterpieces are pivotal imperatives to people who are hungry for the kind of soul food that feeds those places in us that simply wanted to be affirmed and not approved, lifted even when they’re not liked.  When “Lemonade,” didn’t win Best New Album at this year’s Grammys, the chagrin from women of every race, including the woman who beat her, UK singer Adele, was rooted in feeling like this project had championed people who are marginalized, but who look at magazines and TV shows and all media, desperately seeking self.

When you download music or buy cd’s, as many still do, or pay for cable and theater tickets and DVDs, bootlegged or from Best Buy, you are hoping to escape the world you live in and go somewhere that forces you not to think, to struggle.  You think you want to get away UNTIL you hear lyrics that go to those places in yourself that you’ve kept hidden, like hurt and pain, betrayal and denial.  You think you’re good until you see a little boy on the screen who doesn’t look anything like you but whose story is ripping off the layers of your elaborate hiding places and you feel free and exposed all at once.

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As a nerd, a little Black boy who used to read the dictionary for fun and who memorized every phone number my Momma ever gave me so that I could regurgitate them at will, I walked out of “Hidden Figures” feeling like I could now be proud of my uncanny ability to recall information from everything I’ve ever read and to be able to articulate facts about things that make people wonder why I held onto the data.  When women and men, gay and otherwise, gather to listen to “Lemonade” like it’s a church service, it’s because there’s music and messaging in it that speaks to some space, something that felt vacant and void for too long.  But how many songs have you listened to trying to find your own story?  How many movies have you watched, not knowing that you were hoping for a glimpse of or a glance into a world that looked like or felt like where you wanted to be?

I’ve spent plenty a dollar hoping for a Black male nerd as the lead or hoping for a love song that didn’t mess up the pronouns so that I could dance with my bae to at our wedding, not that that’s legal and we’re still standing, living a life that our ancestors couldn’t have ever imagined?

I’ve paid the price—through admission, through subscription and support of artists and actors and advocates—hoping that someone would tell my story or at least tell stories so genuine that I could see myself in them.  That’s why this season is so sweet.  Not just because the #OscarsSoWhite “curse” is broken, but because it was broken by smart Black women doing math and #BlackWomenMagic on the screen and because I was able to sit in a theater, watching a boy struggle to find his way and his voice and I realized that my living isn’t in vain and that little boy who becomes a man before our very eyes might just get to walk in the moonlight holding the hand of someone who isn’t afraid or ashamed to love him and the soundtrack isn’t the angst and heartbreak of “Lemonade” that got her through the pain, but the “Champagne” soundtrack that somebody felt inspired to finally create because they saw themselves in all of these characters and heard their stories in all the music and decided that they had finally and fully paid the cost to be free.

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About the Author
Kevin E. Taylor is an author, TV producer and empowerment speaker who tours the country and is the senior pastor of Unity Fellowship Church NewArk in Newark, NJ.  Taylor has written seven books and novels and his autobiography (NEVER TOO MUCH: this is my story of big words, big dreams and an audacious big life) chronicling his childhood in the projects, coming out as gay and as a person of faith and his conversations with icons like Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder and his personal friend and sister Natalie Cole, will be out this Spring.  Taylor is a father and grandfather and can be reached through his website www.KEVINETAYLOR.com

 

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