I have literally been sitting here for an hour trying to figure out what exactly it is I want to say about this experience and what I want the world (or whoever reads this) to know about me, the past 5 days, and things I have learned. Bear with me, as I didn’t really plan this out – but in a way, that seems to be a theme.
I love Rihanna. I have for a long time and will forever. She saved my life, literally. What she represents, to be yourself and to be unapologetic about it mattered to me and it helped me want to keep on living at times when I did not want to. I have to start with Rihanna and end with her because everyone must know that my appreciation first and foremost is for her particularly in this context. Despite how headlines are written, framed, many often out of context and co-opting my voice, I want to be clear that I am in support of her. I am here for Rihanna. There aren’t many artists that can throw your life in a whirlwind by simply extending their arm. So Rihanna, if you see this, if you read this, please know I love you. Truly. Deeply. Endlessly. I will always ride for you.
“Sometimes it takes a thousand tries to win”
What may not be obviously clear yet is my passion for social justice issues. This matters for a number of reasons because contextually it determines how I have observed/experienced this moment. There isn’t a book about going viral, but some of us should get together and write one! A moment like “going viral” re-introduces you to people you haven’t seen or spoke to in years, people you met that one time at yearbook camp, people that were your classmates. As well as people who orbit just outside the perimeter of regular engagement. An experience like this pulls them in, everyone wants a closer look. Because of this it is important that people feel affirmed in their identities. Representation matters, and often times informs how some of us might come to think about who we are. Who am I? I am a black, gay, cis-gendered, come from low-income, able-bodied, person of faith. Now. There are going to be many people that none of that is a surprise, and others….. maybe hopefully just a small surprise? Haha. In any case you’re exposed in away you have never been. In a way most people may never be. It makes you self-conscious. Even more so if already are, like me. And it makes people finally know exactly who you are. They finally see, as opposed to just looking. And there is no use in trying to hide or withhold part of yourself when you’ve gone “viral.”
What now. I just can’t figure it out.
A funny (kinda?) behind the scenes story: a few days prior to the concert I did not want to go. I had started a fitness journey, in September (this is my second time around) which had not been successful as I had been simultaniously interviewing for doctoral programs starting around January. Which in and of itself was a wonderfully stressful and yet still empowering experience. But nonetheless it kind of got in the way of progress. I was supposed to be snatched. I needed to be snatched for Robyn. And when that didn't happen I felt super not great about myself. I feared standing there in the front row, in the center section, in the middle seat, looking…not snatched. But I got over it.
Wherever you’re going, I wanna go.
I talked earlier about identity. Coming from a poor/working class family really helped frame how I see life. Growing up I did well in school, in fact you could not keep me from going. If you were to ask my mom she would tell about how I would try to walk out the door vomiting because I would rather go to school sick than stay home. I also had a great big imagination. God do I have an imagination. I spend most of my time imagining things that won’t ever happen. Prior to Saturday “going viral” was on the list. And with that imagination, as a kid, I loved art, and most of all to sing. And for a kid I was an ok singer. Now when I reached the proverbial fork in the road about which way to go in life. The only clear option was school. Security. In fact pursuing music as a career just could never stick although my desire to always be singing would always be there. And quite honestly the thought of music scared me. The thought of failure scared me. And I rationalized that fear to say, if I am meant to be doing music. It will happen, something will happen, on it’s own. And so, I went to school and worked, and interned. Many years and 3 degrees later there I was. Someone who loved to sing, and did, does it, will do it no matter what. This is important because it speaks to clearing up other things I will write.
I’m down for liiiiiiiiiiiife.
If you have actually made it to this page I am going to assume you have the general gist of what led up to, and what happened during #TheMoment. Here are some other things to note. Me and my group were extremely energetic. I think there was some connections we were making all throughout the concert because….. well we knew most of, if not all the words to every song. We were the only ones in the front row (that we could see) with Rihanna Navy-themed t-shirts and we NEVER sat down. Ever. If you got to my Instagram page there were lots of moments when Rih was super sweet by waving winking (to me/us) and just being one of the baddest individuals to ever walk the planet. So when we got to the point of where my friends are yelling “He sings! He sings!” I think everything prior to that might have led up to that magical moment.
The Lovers Need to Clear the Road
In my mind. In my head. I had one goal to try to meet Rihanna. That was what I wanted. I would have never in a million years dreamed she would share her mic with me. If you have seen the footage out there of #TheMoment you might have noticed before I was called over, I had my hand in the air holding my phone. I recently noticed this for myself and realized I had not until yesterday seen my own footage and it has not been shared anywhere and I will share it on Instagram and YouTube. In any case it is important because you will see through my eyes. You will see the real and honest energy in that moment. You will see Rih wave me over, and my hand immediately dropped because it was happening and I couldn't believe it. It is mesmerizing to watch now. I share this to say: I did not go there to jump start my career (in fact, I have a career in which I have found much success). Who does that? At a concert? I have been singing, and I will continue to sing no matter what because it is like air to me. But I made peace a long time ago with the notion that to love music, and to want to do it requires celebrity or fame or money. I have resisted that. I sing for charity (you can see on my Instagram), I sing for fun (at madame tussauds you can see on Instagram) the types of singing and when I was doing it doesn't really point to trying to be discovered. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Everyone should pursue their dreams, and do so in the way they want.
It was hard but I’d do it again. Holding hands with my friend again.
I am going to preface this with: I fully acknowledge that the Queen. Rih. Does not need my help. I am saying this for me. I am about loving people for who they are, building people and communities up with love and encouragement. I was not always like this mostly because I did not love myself but I am always growing and changing and I do believe this now. I do love myself. In any case there is no part of me that thinks about #TheMoment our duet? :) as anything other than special, fun, life changing. Anything other than that, anything other than positive energy for both me and my fave Rihanna, I am not interested in. And is not my truth. I am so grateful for all of the kind words but I never want them at the expense of trying to tear anyone else down. That is not what I am about. That moment was special and filled with love I think, and that’s all I care to remember about it.
You saw me on the television…but that’s just half of it.
It had not hit me until today how wide and far #TheMoment got. And to be honest all of the feelings some good, some bad, came pouring down and even now as I hold back tears I am so grateful to have experienced all of it. In our community you sometimes hear elders say “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey.” And that so resonates with me right now, because it is mine. I had so many plans before Saturday. I have been working on a book called Love Your Heart it was turning into a small non-fiction of just things I learned in my twenties because I will be turning 30 this year. I had been struggling about what the last chapter would be about, I’ll give you a hint it’ll be titled: Viral. I was working on developing social justice/diversity and inclusion online courses. I was making an extremely difficult graduate school decision, I was being super engaged in the work of my field of higher education and student affairs. Since Saturday I am not sure what any of it, and any of this means. I want to reiterate that this has been amazing. Truly and I look forward to seeing where it all goes. But please know that I am already happy. Already satisfied. I had not planned anything and therefore do not expect anything. And I am just so grateful.
Forget about your troubles it’s alright. Let em go until we see the morning light.
I am happy. My cup is full. I have chuckled because mostly there has been an outpouring of love and support and for that I THANK YOU! For every person that tweeted, wrote, commented, subscribed, I am so grateful. I want to personally write each of you because that is how special you have made me feel. How loved you have made me feel. Thank you so much, for everything. I have chuckled a bit at some of the not-so-positive comments. Like the person who said I did this “because I want to become famous and not work” guess where I just came from? Or the person who said I did not deserve this moment or any happiness because I am overweight. Or maybe the person who said this happened because I paid all of the media sites to run the story…if that were true, you know what…it doesnt even matter. I thank those folks too! I love you all to life. Also can I just say…the press and the media is A LOT. Whew. But I do want to publicly thank USA Today and Jaleesa M. Jones who wrote first, and also thank you Fusion and Kelsey McKinney. I really enjoyed your pieces (and they aren’t the only ones I love!) but they stick out in my heart and mind. Thank you.
Somebody’s gonna miss you, and that somebody’s me.
I have no idea what is next. I do know that I had already planned to pursue my PhD in the fall. But in the meantime I am going to try to sing as much as I can for those what want to hear it and when I know, I’ll be sure to tell you! I started with Rihanna and I will end with her. Rih, I don’t know if this will get to you. But I just want this out in the universe, you have forever changed my life. I will never forget this as long as I live. I still can’t believe it happened. To Rihanna, to all of you readers, whether you are a supporter or not a supporter, Thank you from here to heaven and from the bottom of my heart. I wish you all more love, and more treasure than your hand or heart can hold.
Catching my breath and forever enjoying the ride.