#IStillLoveHER: Love Letters to Hip-Hop -- MaBinti Yillah
I have the great pleasure of bringing back the #IStillLoveHER letters, and this one comes from MaBinti Yillah, one of my favorite people to have met via social media. Check out her beautiful, yet bittersweet, letter and learn more about her below.
I used to love you.
It started in middle school. You reeked of ‘gin’ and ‘juice’. You were a dangerous mix of charisma and defiance. I notoriously ditched dolls to play soccer with the El Salvadorian boys. Your rebellious nature inspired me. Unfortunately, not everyone appreciated your influence. When my father caught us together, he forbid me from seeing you and he sent me to a private school in the DC suburbs.
I resented my father for separating us. My new school was full of unfamiliar faces and social challenges. While I eventually made friends, none of them understood me like you did. None of them understood the pain of seeing your friends’ parents quickly hide their disappointment when they see you in their homes or the anxiety on their faces when you invite them to your home. Above all, none of them understood my fervent desire to be seen and heard. It wasn’t until our reunion in 2001 that I found my voice.
The summer of 2001 was a trying time. Aaliyah just died and 9-11 happened a few weeks later. I felt like I was being punished for something I didn’t even do. Some lunatics stole my identity and committed unspeakable acts of evil in the name of God. Parents avoided me because they feared I was like them and I was losing the few friends I had. Just as I was silently screaming for acceptance and dying for love, you offered me a lifeline. You gave me “One Mic”.
“One Mic” reminded me that I wasn’t alone. You eloquently voiced my feelings of isolation and disillusionment while providing a space for me to speak my truth. Your embrace restored my pride and battered sense of self. In you, I recognized an ally and a formidable partner in the universal struggle for self-determination and human dignity. I felt whole. I felt loved. After “One Mic”, it was all about our love.
For years, I relished being your girl. I reveled in your fiery indignation that mirrored my own. I cherished your introspection and your unique worldview. When others belittled you, I defended you and fought for you. I endured all your changes from dropping out of college to your newfound penchant for international groupies and Maybachs. I didn’t mind because for all the excess and gaudiness that defined your latter years, you were still mine. That had to be enough.
By the time I started college, we grew apart. We no longer shared the same priorities nor shared the same vision. I wanted us to renew our commitment to social justice and our shared sense of social responsibility. You wanted me to accept your evolution and the spoils of globalization. I yearned for exclusivity. You yearned to be free. No matter how hard we tried to reconcile our differences, we stopped trying to make ‘us’ work. You just became somebody I used to know and I became somebody stuck in a ‘golden era’ that never really existed. After Graduation, I left you without warning.
Now, I realize it was unfair to hold you to such high standards when I fall short too. You are more than my hopes and dreams. You are more than a crusader for justice or a voice for the voiceless - righting wrongs with wit and dope beats. You are the hopes and dreams of everyone who claims to love you even if they don't deserve you. While I don’t regret aspiring more for you and more for us, I regret not understanding that to love you is to acknowledge all of you even the parts of you that make me cringe. That's love – the promise of something greater coupled with the realization that what you have is great too.
I don’t know where we stand but maybe with time, I can learn to love you again—all of you. For now, I'll cherish my precious memories. Thank you for everything.
MaBinti Yillah is a self-proclaimed 21st Century bard and serial entrepreneur. Working as a brand consultant by day and a multimedia producer by night, she enjoys helping small businesses and creative entrepreneurs develop their unique voices. MaBinti is also an avid soccer fan (Arsenal is her favorite team) who loves Korean historical dramas and 70s music. Follow her @mabyillah.