Music and Art In Your Backyard

A Love Letter to Jill Scott

Dear Jill Scott,

I am not a lesbian. I am not a lesbian but for you, I would be. I love the way you look. I love the way you sing, and I love the way your music speaks to me. I am an artist. I am a black woman, still learning what it means to be a “black woman”. Does it mean that I am loud? Does it mean that I need to wear dresses and makeup? Should my hair be long or short? Should it be straight or natural? 7 years ago, I went natural and a black man on the street told me, “ You would look so much better if your hair was straight.”

I was taught that a black woman loves her man wholly and completely. That she is loyal as dog. She makes his plate, she washes his clothes and she even cuts his toenails. I was taught that being a black woman, means that you are also Christian. That “being Christian” meant that you stood by your man through the depths of hell, even when he sought lovin’ outside of the home. You forgive him, you carry on and you do what he likes and how he likes it.

Luckily, I was always one to break rules.

Miss Scott, I began listening to your music in middle/high school, right around the time people began to question me and I began to question myself. I’ve been called it all. I’ve been called weird, a dike,ugly, a boy, a man, a lesbian,a dude... Very seldom has anyone ever called me beautiful or sexy. Once, a man on the bus felt it necessary to scream and point at me “You are a dude but you look like a girl!”

Regardless of my “questionable” looks, I’ve gotten a few compliments. I’ve gotten the “oh you’re so sweet” or “ you’re awesome” but those comments never quite carried much weight with me. I wanted to be desired! But the desire I encountered was never the passionate desire you see in romantic chick flicks with Megan Good and Nia Long. It was desire associated with disavowal, objectification and ignorance due to the very same body that was often mistakenly identified as “male”. Then you came on the screen with an afro, a pretty smile and a song titled “Long Walk”. Oh. my. God. A song about the simplicity of showing love and  loving someone who loves you just the way you are.After that I was hooked on Jilly from Philly.  Right around the same time I discovered photographer Carrie Mae Weems’ Kitchen Table Series and I fell in love with both of you. Weems’ takes a different approach to love. In the Kitchen Table Series, she documents a woman learning how to truly love herself, through heartbreak, motherhood and independence.

While listening to your music and reading everything about Carrie Mae Weems, I discovered Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Maya Angelou (always better to read her work when you’re older), Ntozake Shange,Mickalene Thomas, Lorna Simpson, Wangechi Mutu  Alice Walker, Def Poetry Jam, The Roots, Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Black Star and the list goes on and on.

I have discovered (and continuing to discover) that my femininity is not determined by my clothing, the way I love my man, my haircut, my walk, my handshake, the stray hairs on my chin, my love for men’s clothing, shoes, my 5’7”, 220 lbs frame,my love for muscle car shows or my bald head. My femininity is not determined by my love for cooking, my loyalty, my religion (or lack thereof) or the depth of my voice.

Miss Scott, as an artist, I am constantly trying to reinvent the wheel through my work as well as myself. Your albums have all mysteriously coincided with major changes of my life. And while I go through yet another change of having more confidence and learning to love myself... you’re coming out with an album this summer and Carrie Mae Weems has a traveling retrospective of her work.

 

Carris Adams Photographer: Milli Apelgren

Carris Adams

Photographer: Milli Apelgren

 

Writer: Carris Adams, an artist that works with unconventional materials to address conventional topics. She is also a Bachelors of Fine Arts student at the University of Texas, Austin. Her work is currently being exhibited at The Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin and she was one of the 2013 Participating Artist of the Five x Seven exhibition at AMOA - Arthouse here in Austin.