An “auntie” in the Black community is a term of endearment to the women who grew and nurtured us outside of our mother’s bosom. It is not a matter of age, but wisdom that is imparted for you to take in and take heed. They are the ones who shoot the glances when you’ve done just a bit too much and at the same time will hit you with a shot of something you’re not even supposed to be ingesting just yet. They give us the building blocks of womanhood — brown, smooth Crown Royal style; straight with no chaser.
And alas, our Saturday night was blessed by two of the queen Neo-Soul aunties. Erykah Badu and Jill Scott joined forces to partake in “Verzuz”, a concept that was created by super producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland that quickly became a social media quarantine family reunion. In its normal format it’s a friendly competition where each artist or producer goes song-for-song and the people decide who had the best line up.
But, in its first woman-to-woman showdown there was no competition to be found — only a mutuality love and respect. It was sisterhood at its finest three hours in which Instagram must’ve taken an age-old lesson in the Black community by not cutting them off at one-hour like the other lives — “don’t interrupt Black women when they are talkin’!”
Jill Scott entered the live with a poetry from an ultimate auntie, poet Nikki Giovanni.
“This is a banner we fly for respect, dignity, assumption of integrity, for a future generation to rally around. This is about us! Celebrating ourselves and a well-deserved honor it is…”
The scene was set to let everyone know that this was none other than a Black woman’s night to a rite of passage. Scott later admits that it was Giovanni’s poetry that opened her up to begin writing her own poetry, “I never saw myself on paper like that.” This was a sentiment that Black girls and women have felt and understood deeply and as we waited for the music, it was the dialogue that massaged our womanhood.
Before ever playing a record the two inquired of each other as mothers and women — as humans. Badu, a mother of three (Seven, Puma, Mars) and Scott, a mother of one (Jett) gave a message in healing — a feeling that Black women understand in-depth that they always seem to have to do it all or have to have it all figured out. But in this moment, we were given an opportunity to witness the vulnerability of two Black women who acknowledged that they do not have all the answers and are simply doing their best during this time of extreme uncertainty.
“It’s a lot of effort, energy, patience. So much love involved… In correcting myself,” Scott explains through her respect for teachers and currently homeschooling her son.
The set-up for the evening was that each woman would go song-for-song and play back-to-back records from their own discography. Leading the evening, Erykah Badu made a choice that as fans, not only did we anticipate at some point in the program, but wondered who would be the one to play it. Badu chose a 1999 record by The Roots, whose hook was written by none other than a young Jill Scott and performed by perfectly by Badu, herself.
“They played me this song with this lady’s voice on it and said ‘Erykah do you want to be on the song?’ I said ‘Okay, let me hear it.’ Heard your (Scott’s) voice and I said ‘Well what Imma do?’” Badu explains how beautiful and melodic Scott’s pattern of singing was. That sparked another nuance of wholeheartedly embracing each other. There was an esteemed appreciation for what each woman brought into the industry of music as artists. They were indeed not adversaries nor opponents for this night, but women who were giving other Black women the blueprint of what it means to genuinely love and support your sisters.
We sat through the music and awaited some of our favorites like “Other Side of the Game”, “The Way”, “On and On”, “Gettin In The Way”, “Next Lifetime”, “A Long Walk”, “Bag Lady”, “Cross My Mind”, “Tyrone” and so many others. However, reflecting on ourselves as young girls back then to being women, now we got a window seat to unveil the trajectory of our own stories. It was reflection on the one that may have gotten away and they had just run across your mind but maybe you will see them “next lifetime”. It was the minute we knew our earrings were coming off because we might have had to throw hands with a chick who was “getting in the way” by inserting herself with our man — although he may have had a “complex occupation” that could put you in a little bit of danger. It allowed us an unspoken inner circle that told us sometimes we carry way too much weight and that it’s okay to “pack light” in order to live our life “like it’s golden”.
This night was a rite of passage of cleansing chakras and acknowledgement of spirituality, delving into sex and sexuality, matriculating through generations of Black women who dared to say what they meant and meant every damn word. Activism. And with over 750,000 Instagram viewers and 1 billion impressions, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott solidified that the voice of Black women need not be denied, but embraced. But it also coagulated Black beauty and challenged its current trend as a social media costume through gracefully existing in realness as variant, radiant, and elegant. OURS!
“This is not a poem, no. It is a celebration of the road we had traveled. It is a prayer for the roads yet to come. This is an explosion, the original Big Bang that makes the world a hopeful, loving place. This is the Black woman. In all our trouble and glory. In all our future forbearance and all that ever made love a possibility. This is about us.” -Nikki Giovanni