Songs for Mama
Jennifer Lewis is literally every old school Black mother that I know.
She is blunt. She likes to cuss. She can sing. She knows Jesus, Jack Daniels and Ron Isley on a first name basis. But most importantly, in every role, though her tactics may not be the most conventional or perfect, she loves her children and the intention is always teaching them lessons with tough love that can only come from living a full life that hasn’t been no crystal stair.
That’s what motherhood is.
The ability to raise and nurture children into productive human beings by imparting the knowledge and wisdom you have gained from the world onto them while providing the love, care and attention that you know the rest of the world will never give them.
Today is Mother’s Day. It sounds cliché, but honestly everyday should be Mother’s Day for the women who have done, currently do and will continue to do so much for us. These are the women who have at times given up their dreams to see our dreams as their children come into fruition. The women who so many of us lucky men have married and made families with. These women deserve nothing more than to be celebrated and cherished.
I also challenge you today, to get to know these women beyond their title of “mother”. When a woman becomes a mother, it doesn’t mean that the rest of her identity disappears. I can admit that I have been guilty of forgetting that.
Get to know your mother, your wife, your significant other’s story. Remember her likes and her dislikes. Do not give her a hard time when she needs to be alone. Encourage and support her professional endeavors and her pursuits of personal passion. When you see her feeling down and forgetting who she is, be the first to remind, support and encourage her. The more you love, appreciate and pour into her personal desires, the more she will love you and most importantly, love herself.
So today, we celebrate you. The strong, beautiful resilient Black women who carry the weight of the world on your back and for 9 months, the weight of the world in your bellies.
And what is a celebration without music?! The following songs are my personal favorites to celebrate the women who gave life to the world. Thank you mothers. We love you!
- You are My Friend- Patti Labelle
There are two things that every Black mother loves unconditionally. When all the family has got the hell out of her house after Thanksgiving dinner and Patti Labelle. Your mother loves Patti. Trust me. Maybe more than she loves you. Your mother is your first friend. Whether you realize it or not, her love is what gives us the confidence to go out and face the world. This song is a perfect reminder of that bond.
2. Dear Mama- 2Pac
For the mama who prefers Hennessy over Prosecco, 2Pac’s Dear Mama is a classic and the quintessential Mother’s Day anthem. Tupac’s story of how his mother made him into a man and his appreciation for her sacrificesis all the more endearing and special as his Black queen, Ms. Afeni Shakur passed away last year. This song pretty much is Mother’s Day.
3. Sadie — The Spinners
The original version of Sadie was made famous by the Spinners. Back before your mama was your mama and was out here ignoring your daddy’s phone calls, she may or may not have thrown her panties at them at the Orpheum or the Apollo. This is a beautiful song that recalls the sweet sweet nature of a mother. It speaks to the old school in all of us and is perfect to play for your mother and give her a much needed trip down memory lane.
(I actually prefer the R. Kelly version but you know…he’s nasty….So yeah.)
4. Hey Mama- Kanye West
Kanye West’s ode to his mother tells the story of a woman who supported her son’s dreams and never gave up on him. It also tells the story of a son who is apologetic for the times he let his mother down and a tale of appreciation for believing in him when the world did not. For those of us who have leaned on our mother’s when the world turned its back, this is the perfect song to show your appreciation.
5. I Look to You — Whitney Houston
The only singer your mama loves more than Patti Labelle, is the late Whitney Houston. The lead single from Houston’s final album, I Look to You serves as the personal testimony of a woman who has been to hell and back and realizes who truly is the source of her strength. For so many of us, our mothers have served as our strength when we didn’t even realize we had any left to give. Look over your life and tell me how many times have you looked to your mother?
6. Ring Off- Beyoncé
An ode to all the mother’s out there who have to battle the one true disease that does not discriminate, fuck boys. Hell the fuck boy may even be your damn daddy. In this song, Beyoncé celebrates her mother’s freedom from a man who did not value her worth and the rediscovery of her identity and true love. This is for all the mothers who finally took that ring off and found themselves again.
7. A Song for Mama- Boyz II Men
No explanation needed. If you love your mama, you already know what it is.
8. Umi Says- Mos Def
This is perfect for the mother who burns incense, texts the ancestors and wraps her hair in kente cloth. Umi is a Muslim term of endearment for mother. In this song, Yasiin Bey recounts the words of advice that he received from his mom, to shine his light on the world. Mother’s constantly instill hope in their children and believe that if only the world were able to shine like the light that we as their children have inside of us, the world just might be a better place.
9. All That I Got is You- GhostFace Killah
For all the mothers who wear knee length North Faces, smoke Newports and rock a hard bang over at least 20 packs of Janet collection “bundles”, Ghostface has love for you. This soulful Mary J. Blige assisted hip hop classic tells the tale of struggle and survival of a young child growing up in tough conditions but being able to make it with the love and support of his mother. Deadass B.
10. I Remember Mama- Shirley Caesar
All jokes aside, while Mother’s Day is a day of joy and celebration for most of us, for some it serves a painful reminder that the woman we love the most is no longer here. Shirley Caesar’s gospel classic ode to mother’s serves as a memorial anthem to the mothers who have gone ahead to prepare a place for us in the afterlife. To all of those struggling today, remember that the best way to honor your mother’s memory is to believe in yourself because no one believed in you more than your mother.