Beyonce and Prince

A lot has happened over the last two weeks. As many across the world mourned Prince, I sat closely watching with awe at how many lives he has touched through his art, philanthropy and mentorship. He was such a complex man, a talented musician and a ground-breaker in ways that many never imagined or had the courage to face. Prince redefined manhood and artistry – doing this in such a way that I never even questioned who he was, why he wore eyeliner or heels or even bothered to wonder about his sexuality. He was just Prince – doing his own thing and many of us accepted him as so.

Just a few days after Prince’s death, Beyonce released Lemonade. I didn’t watch the visual album on the night of its release, but didn’t wait too long afterwards to indulge in craze. As a non-Beyhive member :-), I watched simply to see what all the talk was about. I found it hard to pull away from the first viewing and convinced that I’d missed something monumental, I watched Lemonade again on the same night.

There is nothing new that I can add to the seemingly endless praises, critiques, analyses, dissections, accolades, and affirmations. What I will share is that Prince’s death and Beyonce’s release of Lemonade came at a time when I was closing one chapter and opening another. For those of you who have been following me for the last four years during my academic journey, you’ve read about my many revelations and realizations; challenges related to attempts to find balance in my life, practice self-care, excel academically, sort out personal and professional relationships, recreate my voice, honor who I am … it has been a long FOUR years! But on Friday, I celebrated a HUGE milestone. This semester marks the end of my time taking coursework fulltime (four to five classes); it marks the end of evening classes and late night commutes; it marks the end of the academy controlling 70%-80% of my schedule with required courses, homework, and papers. Yes, I still have one more elective and my dissertation but no other semester will ever be like those I have experienced over the last four years.

I am in no way comparing Beyonce to Prince, but what I am doing is gauging the inspiration I gained from both these events. Prince’s legacy lives on in my life as a reminder to JUST BE ME. There are no boxes, no limits, not constraints on who I am and exactly how I perform in my me-ness. Both artists remind me that my platform – writing and teaching – is not for my own success or celebration, but as a gift to the world: to shape, recreate, define, alter, and inform those who I reach.

I approach this summer like many of previous years with grand plans, long reading lists, a quasi-schedule and high hopes of being renewed along the way. But this summer is also a little different. I am starting a 21 day vegan challenge on tomorrow, attending a 10-day silent retreat in July and aggressively attempting to regain control over my physical health. In their very own ways, both Prince and Beyonce gifted me over these last two weeks: they gave me an extra bout of courage to move forward, press on, and be me authentically … without apology. They also reminded me – yet again – that I can’t give or serve without first caring for me. Let’s see what the summer brings … stay tuned ;-).

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