Nearly twenty-five years ago to the day, my parents took my brother, cousin and me to New York City for summer vacation. We ferried to the Statue of Liberty, devoured pizza, were blinded by the lights of Time Square and saw as far as we could from the Empire State Building’s observation deck. I equally recall the sounds of the Big Apple. It wasn’t the car horns of New York taxis or contentious conversations between New Yorkers. In fact, it wasn’t really sounds, but a sound. A sound that was probably no different from the sound of any other city during the summer of 1987. The sound – a voice. The Voice. From every corner, every establishment, every taxi and every boom box we heard the declaration I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Whitney was truly the sixth member of our family that week.
In middle school I wore a stud in my right ear and a cross that hung from a hoop in the left. I memorized every lyric and every detail of her life. My love for Whitney was deep and unwavering. Unwavering like her faith, her quality I admired most. The vicissitudes of life revealed that she was more like us despite the barriers she broke and records she shattered. She, too, suffered from the pernicious lies that cause low self-esteem and self doubt. In her valley, my prayers consistently asked that life would treat her kind. My ears, like fiends, awaited another number one Whitney hit. My heart was always rooting for her epic return. She did. Not as most hoped or expected through song. She did, through wisdom – wisdom she shared with younger entertainers and the wisdom she freely gave all. One of my favorite moments continues to be the insight she gave into her struggle as well as the wisdom she imparted upon accepting the BET Honor for Entertainment Award in 2010.
Happy 49th birthday Whitney!