Put a Little in The Baggie, Put a Little In the Purse…

As the day of 4:44’s release rapidly approaches, Shawn Corey Carter’s die hard fans are engrossed in all things Jay-Z. “Rank your favorite albums.” “What are your top five Jay-Z guest verses? “What’s your least favorite Jay-Z album?” “What was his coldest diss?” “Renegade: Em or Hov?” “Which metaphors made you react like →”

The content of the questions may not be original, but the conversations are generally fun. We engage in these discussions with fervor…as if it’s the first time we’ve ever even thought about these questions (of course we have). On social media, via text (my brother asked me the ranking question just yesterday), at dinner, before going to one of his concerts, sitting on park benches, we have all at one time or another debated the best and the worst of Jigga. With ourselves, with each other, and with complete strangers.

This week, inspired by what I assume to be her own longstanding love affair with the one we affectionately call Hov, Twitter user @RedBeKnowing asked the question “What has Shawn Corey Carter taught you?” The responses varied. Some people spoke of his use of words and the ways in which Hov has manipulated the English language in manners they never thought possible. Some people spoke of perseverance, of never giving up, of how to try and to fail, the two things they hate. And naturally, some people responded with lyrics.

Having a tongue-in-cheek, kneejerk reaction I replied “And if your man got you baggin’ up it could be worse, put a little in the baggie, put a little in the purse.”

A minute after I replied I considered my answer. Her question was serious. Was my answer facetious? After interrogating myself I came to the conclusion that no, I was not being facetious. I was deadass serious.

I’m not going to rewrite Hov’s history as him being some champion for women or women’s rights. But when I answered her question off the cuff, I realized that those bars go beyond what I heard at first listen. I was hesitant to get into a dissection because I think, at some point, I have to stop writing about Jay-Z.

But baby it’s Hoviweek and Hoviday is right around the corner so I thought we could look at those lyrics and draw some inspiration. Set some Hovtentions, if you will.

Walk wit’ me.

Your man might have you baggin’ up at the Ramada. Maybe you signed up for that shit and maybe you didn’t. Sometimes, because life does what it does, we wind up in situations that we didn’t (or couldn’t) predict. Women, particularly women of color, have chips stacked against us and are admonished for carrying chips on our shoulders. We’re in jobs where we’re underpaid and overlooked. We’re single mothers making ends meet the best ways we know how. We are survivors of abuse. Survivors of neglect. Survivors of trauma.

Survivors.

It could be worse. And oftentimes it’s there. In the blink of an eye it’s worse. And we don’t see how it can possibly get worse-er.

I remember the day my home burned down. Thinking about it I can feel my heart banging in my chest as I ran down my block frantically searching for my dog because I wasn’t yet sure if she made it out. Apparently when the firemen broke down my door poor little Diva was walking around in circles waiting to be let out. My neighbors held her for me as I made my way there from work.

As traumatizing as that was, it isn’t the memory that sticks out most. My ex graciously invited me to stay with him while I worked to get back on my feet. I remember thinking “This is it. This is the thing that breaks me.” All I had left was my purse, the clothes on my back, a Red Cross representative’s business card, and my phone. As I headed to my ex’s place I can clearly recall thinking to myself “At least I have my purse. My ID. And my phone.” Having lost every ounce of stability I was so grateful to have my phone and my charger. At least I could communicate with friends, family, work. After I settled down for a minute the ex and I realized that my dog desperately needed a bath. Before she fought her way out, she was in the apartment for at least 10 minutes as the fire very quickly spread. She smelled rank. As I washed the smoke out of Diva’s fur, unbeknownst to me, my phone fell in the toilet. That was it. In the moment, that was the thing that broke me. We put my phone in rice and waited to see what would happen. When we realized the phone could not be saved the irony and the “of course-ness” of the situation set in. And we laughed. We laughed until we cried.

The reality is it could be worse for so many of us. Knowing that doesn’t diminish the pain we’re in in the here and now. And although it’s unfair to use the pain of others to try and heal our own, knowing that we haven’t hit bottom yet can propel us forward. And believing that if we have hit bottom, there is a light at the end of that tunnel of darkness, even if we can’t see it right now. It’s there.

I don’t see the uphill battle women are climbing coming to an end anytime soon, but women are beyond begging for space. Women are building the spaces. Women are hustlers. Whether it’s the dope game, the corporate world, the protest, the academy, the arts, the home, or a combination thereof, women get shit done.

You can leave us with the dope on the table and we’ll bag it up for you.

But until we can take the whole goddamn table, a little goes in the baggie and a little goes in the purse.

I see your vision, mama.

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