Dear Aretha

I was raised in your voice

Precious Lord on the ride to church while I tugged at itchy crinoline and tried not to mess the perfect plaits my mother made

Feet swinging off the floor in spinning salon chairs while Ms Reed scratched out my scalp… humming Until You Come Back to Me right into my head

We thought we were so cute
so chic
Angeline, Erica and I in our pink turtle necks lip syncing Respect in the elementary school talent show

When we finally moved into a house with a shower I would open the window, lock the door (the only door mama would let me lock)and sing Natural Woman until my brother’s banging became unbearable.
I’d wipe the mist from the mirror and stand there wrapped in a towel pretending to be grown even though I couldn’t even fill my bra.

Someday I was going to be a Do Right Woman for a Do Right Man

Nearly a decade later I realized I was just a fool.
I was washing dishes in the sink after Christmas dinner and I kept singing
You told me to leave you alone
My daddy said come on home
My doctor said take it easy


My heart would start pining
My brain would start questioning
My pussy would start aching


and then I’d be dancing around the living room screaming Freedom! Freedom! Freedom! Freeeeeedom! with my new roomies pitbull

I eventually found myself and that freedom ontop of black go go boxes, under a red and blue Hard French banner, in a tight dress with a belly full of El Rio margarita dancing to Rock Steady

You were
You are
You will always be rock steady
a rock steady bridge over troubled water

Like on the day they shot up that church
Or the day that baby saw her father murder by the police
On the day they drug her from her car over a signal light
And the day they marched in Charlottesville

The days I lost hope

Your voice reminded me that a change is gonna come

Rest in power Black mother
mother to a million black babies who were raised and raised up in your voice
We salute you and add your name to the list of our Magnificent Mighty Dead.

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