Can You Hear the Sky Falling?

[Updated 8 July 2102]

I know that I haven’t been posting much in the past two weeks, in large part due to the extended visit Daughter and I are making here in the US (see Sensory Overload for insights into the overwhelm of crossing back into the culture of ‘home’).

This trip has many moving parts: we’ve got such a crowded itinerary at times that it would frighten even the hardiest cruise ship director. It has moments of rest and relaxation tucked into the necessities of being present for a number of people, places, events.

Many a morning I’ve woken up to the sleepy confusion of not quite being sure where I am. My eyes dart around the room and slowly the awareness seeps into my consciousness.

It’s Tuesday so I must be in X.

I’m in Y, so it’s Thursday.

But amid the travel and getting from here to there to do this and that, the creative juices have been flowing.

I knew that I wouldn’t post yesterday as it was the 4th of July; I wanted to savor that holiest of national holidays with my brother’s family here at the beach.

I’ll definitely share more about Independence Day in another post because it raises so many differing thoughts and emotions, especially from the perspective of having lived abroad for three years now.

I went to bed on the 3rd with my mind brimming with a host of ideas for posts that I wanted to share on a multitude of issues. We call that ‘manna from blogging heaven’.

But my plans for today’s post changed drastically with some news that hit the headlines here in the US yesterday morning. When I first heard the news from Daughter, I was thinking of it in terms of the person involved: how his life had changed, his fears and bravery, how he might be experiencing any response.

I also thought about its connection to a stop later in our trip, which I’ll explain in a bit. But I certainly didn’t intend to post about it until I heard the knock on my bedroom door a little later.

I had changed clothes and was relaxing for a bit when Daughter entered.

‘Mom, I am just so proud of him, you can’t imagine,’ she gushed. ‘This is big, especially in hip hop. You have to blog about this. Please.’

My blogging (or any of my writing for that matter) rarely surfaces on Daughter’s horizon. It’s just something I do, not something she follows. She could probably give you a general sense of the topics I write about, but not much beyond a sketchy outline.

So when she begged me to write about this, there was never any doubt that I would do so.

She’s right, which is why we need to join our voices against fear, hatred and bias.

The news?

Frank Ocean came out of the closet as gay yesterday, experiencing his own Independence Day of sorts.

You’re forgiven if your initial thought was Frank Who??

Frank Ocean is the next biggest thing, poised to break through at any moment.

A New Orleans native who headed west to make his way in the music world, Frank is a talented lyricist and songwriter who has written hit songs for Beyonce, Justin Bieber and many others.

While some attempt to label him as a hip hop artist, that’s only a fraction of his talent.

Yes, he writes and performs hip hop songs. And rap. Pop. R&B. Rock. The truth is, he dislikes genre labels, so much so that he will tell people his genre is bluegrass just to prove a point.

No trying to stick Frank in some slot, he wants to tear down walls and be known for working across the board. He has a beautiful voice and a real way with words. He’s established himself as a go-to songwriter in many forms of music, and he’s only 24.

There’s a depth in his songs that hints at far more than the latest chart-topping pop drivel froth. In short, the guy’s got chops.

Many will get to know him shortly as he’s opening for Coldplay (Chris Martin and Jay Z being close friends, natch) for a number of dates this concert season. I know this because Daughter was beside herself when it was announced he was the opening act for them in The Hague in September; tickets were a must, Coldplay an afterthought.

To say that Daughter is a Frank Ocean fan is a serious understatement.

So when we were going over our trip schedule recently andshe realized that we would be arriving in Atlanta early evening on the night in which Frank would be performing…well, let’s just say that I will be introduced to Mr. Ocean’s music front and center that night.

Frank will be a household name any day now, at least in homes with teens and music lovers in the know.

So why is his coming out such a big deal?

Three reasons: he’s black, on the cusp of fame and an artist who works in hip hop.

I don’t pretend to know every little nuance of African American culture, but I’m aware of enough to know that there is less acceptance of homosexuality or bisexuality (or whatever Frank chooses to refer to or keep private)  than within the broader white American population.

Which, given the religious and social leanings of some, is saying something.

And who comes out before they’ve hit it big, right before a major album release?

You can imagine what the suits in the music industry and public relations would have been telling him had they known of his intentions.

Finally, when it comes to machismo and masculine swagger in music, hip hop leads the pack. It’s an open secret that the hip hop world has tended toward outright homophobia.

But Frank doesn’t care.

Rumor has it he was asked by a British journalist about some of his songs on his upcoming album mentioning ‘he’ and ‘him’.

So Frank stood up and smashed this stigma to smithereens.

Here’s some of his statement about realizing that he had feelings for another man a few years ago:

‘Whoever you are, wherever you are…I’m beginning to think we’re a lot alike. Human beings spinning on blackness. All wanting to be seen, heard, touched, paid attention to… In the last year or 3 I’ve screamed at my creator, screamed at clouds in the sky for some explanation. Mercy, maybe. For peace of mind to rain like manna somehow.’

‘To my first love, I’m grateful for you, grateful that even though it wasn’t what I hoped for and even though it was never enough, it was. Some things never are, and we were… I’ve never had more respect for life and living than I have right now, maybe it takes a near death experience to feel alive. Thanks to my mother, you raised me strong. I only know I’m brave because you were first…So thank you, all of you, for everything good. I feel like a free man. If I listen closely, I can hear the sky falling, too.’

I especially like hip hop mogul and co-founder of the Def Jam Records label Russell Simmons’ response: ‘I am profoundly moved by the courage and honesty of Frank Ocean…Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear. These types of secrets should not matter anymore, but we know they do, and because of that I decided to write this short statment of support for one of the greatest new artists we have.’

The Los Angeles Times has called it ‘the glass ceiling moment for music.’

It’s unfortunate that who you choose to love is still news in some circles.

Thank you Frank.

Update: So many people (big names and never-heard-ofs alike) have voiced their support for Frank. I think Beyonce’s is especially lovely.





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