For those of you who may not know, June is National Black Music Month! It is my favorite national observance, because I am a HUGE music head. (Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Black Business Month are close runner ups.)
Music has always been an essential element of my being. I breathe, walk, talk , listen and think in rhythmic hymens. Music has helped define some of the most important moments of my life. But what makes my musical experiences richer are the artists themselves and the stories behind their music. In this installment of DP Taught me, I want to take the time to spotlight some of the key Divine Nine members who have helped mold me into the woman I am today through their musical contributions.
4. Natalie Cole – Don’t Let Adversity Kill Your Fortitude- Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
Natalie Cole is famously known for her musical chops and her divine lineage to the late great singer Nat King Cole. Natalie’s interest grew as she watched her father create magic in big band music and the entertainment world. Natalie and Nat King Cole were thick as thieves and served as inspiration to each other as they developed in their musical pursuits. Unfortunately, when Natalie was fairly young, Nat King Cole passed away from lung cancer and there began Natalie’s downward spiral.
Throughout her collegiate years and well into establishing her music career, Natalie experimented and fell victim to a nasty drug addiction. Heroin and crack cocaine were her worst frenemies. Natalie’s destructive relationship cost her her marriage, her career, and almost her life as well as her oldest son’s. Even though she had many failed attempts, Natalie eventually found a rehab center that would bring her back to her ultimate greatness. Since she’s been clean, she has been able to carry on the legacy of her father with great integrity. Natalie’s testimony has served as preventative measure for others struggling with life’s demon.
I tell you this story because, when I first heard Natalie’s voice, I didn’t know any of this. Her voice was refined and timeless. Little did I know the tracks I was listening to were recorded in her most turbulent times. After learning of her story, I appreciated the power in her fortitude. It also reminded me of all the crazy things I had been through. I KNOW I should not be here, figuratively and physically. Yet, many of my friends and family would never know half the things I’ve been through. All they know is my poise, my smile, my optimism. And that is because God has cloaked me with courage as walk through my adversity. I hide my insecurities in Him. When times get tough, fear and mistakes are evident. In those times it is important to tap into your faith and practice fortitude so you can get past the storm and elevate yourself. Sing past your struggle. (Hebrews 10:35-39)
3. Cathy Hughes – Make Your Own Opportunities – Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
When I was in 5th grade, I attended my first summer program at Texas Southern University called YEP (Youth Enrichment Program). Because of my love for music, I eagerly enrolled in their Radio Broadcasting program. Everything about radio fascinated me: formatting, soundbites, targeting, bits, cueing, the air personalities, everything! What was most fascinating was the opportunity gave me to reach people who looked like me and cared about the things I cared about. I’ve never been told I had a face for radio, but I still think it would be a great field I’d strive in. As I became more and more enamored with the industry, I started to do more research. Our local “urban” radio stations were owned by Radio One, so I looked more into it. I was emphatic to find out that Cathy Hughes was the owner AND founder of this iconic corporation.
Cathy Hughes is not a stranger to being the “first and finest”. So it’s no surprise that she was the first and only African American woman to establish and own a publicly traded corporation at that time. Starting her radio reign at Howard University, Cathy quickly made a name for herself by reinventing radio formats and adding creative content that resonated with her audience in an innovative way. Cathy Hughes is THE godmother of the urban radio format. From the legendary “Quiet Storm” evening set to the heated social and community commentary segments on Sunday mornings, Cathy molded the black perspective into a entertaining, relatable and insightful format that we have all grown to love.
What’s most inspiring about Cathy is that she did this in predominately white male dominated industry. Although she knew what she was up against, she knew her niche, what she had to offer and that if she wanted to hear the narratives of her audience, she would have to create a channel for it.In other words, she created her own opportunity. In turn, she would beable to open the doors for others and that’s exactly what she did. Today, Radio One has over 70 stations in 9 major US regions and has catapult the careers of other famous NPHC members such as Tom Joyner (Omega), Steve Harvey (Omega) and Ricky Smiley (Omega).
Having a natural entrepreneurial spirit myself, I admire Cathy’s tenacity, creative mind, purposeful and intentional drive and ability to think in a transformative way that elevates her industry and culture. In a similar way, I hope to do to the same with youth leadership, entrepreneurship and activism within the NPCH Greek system, starting with DP Taught Me. I created this blog because none of the other Greek channels were addressing issues or topics I deemed a priority nor did they reflect the conversations my friends and I were having. Instead of suggesting to other people what they could talk about and risk rejection, I decided to get approval from myself. Create my own opportunity. I want to be in control of my narrative, my stories, and my experiences. I also want a place where fellow Greeks can share their narratives that help build, elevate and shed light on real life issues we deal with as council members. Once you realize that you don’t HAVE to be dependent on someone to GIVE you the opportunity you want, the sky is truly the limit. The possibilities seem endless. That is a powerful notion to hone in on. I intend on holding onto it with dear life.
I hope this installment served as a catalyst of inspiration for you. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!