Sunday, 12 February 2012


It was very tragic and shocking news to learn of Whitney Houston's (DE/EN) passing. Her superlative lists of accolades and firsts, pioneering within the music industry, will certainly demand time and appreciation to recount and celebrate, but she has other important legacies in her charity and activism--for instance against apartheid in South Africa, which did not end so very long ago. Of course her talent resounded year in and year out but the timing was disconcerting and regrettable on a personal level, what with presentations and activities marking Black History Month, with the theme black women in history.
Her image was in the montages of fame and achievement with many others. I always found these events interesting, inspiring and necessary--but I found myself a little uncomfortable being made acutely aware that for this month, all these politicians, professionals, educators, entertains were different. Then I realized that it was all well and good that I was not seeing the colour of people's skin but that did not mean that the colour-blindness was universal nor did it ease the struggles that all people with any kind of otherness are facing. I guess no individual or group should be so arrogant as to think that they are the only audience, intended or otherwise. Perhaps that too was a part of Whitney Houston's accomplishments, not that she achieved fame despite or because of her heritage and not that her success was accepted despite or because of the same reasons--neither she nor her audience ever minced her roots and her talents were never pigeon-holed as one typified genre or another. For the one cinematic role that she is remembered for, in The Body-Guard with Kevin Costner, no mention was ever made that the characters shared an inter-racial love interest.  Her vocal abilities and personality carried through her pop mainstay, and also managed to famously decompartmentalize gospel and patriotic music in her career. We'll miss you, Whitney.