guest post by Monique DeBose
I am an MOB — a mother of two boys, 8 and 6 years old. They know mama is a singer and a songwriter, and that she gets dressed “fancy” from time to time to go out and make music in the world.
Before that, I was a supple, younger woman who sang in a coffee shop for tips on Larchmont Blvd. with a three-piece jazz band and then later, workshopped my own songs in that same coffee shop. I was a woman who traveled the world singing in the finest of music lounges in far off, distant places including New Delhi and Beijing.
And before any of that, I was a mixed-race girl (African American/ Irish American) growing up in the city of angels, who rollerskated in her backyard to her favorite albums — and her dad’s record collection — Donna Summer, the O’Jay’s, the ET soundtrack and OMD.
She dreamed as she skated, that she would one day be famous. Known. Seen. Important.
I have been insecure about my place in the world for a long time. As a parent, that is a quality I’m hoping skips my kid’s generation. But I know that outcome requires conscious effort on my part and even then, there are no guarantees.
I write music that uplifts, inspires and encourages me. It is my safe place. I write music that speaks a truth I am desperate to put into the world as my default tendency is to keep it locked inside so that I don’t make other people uncomfortable.
In writing my song “Rally Call,” I consciously chose to do the opposite.
I wrote it because I was at a point where I no longer wanted to compartmentalize myself due to the color of my skin. I was done with erasing myself for someone else’s comfort and I was done with buying into the false belief that I needed to wait for someone else’s permission to live my life.
When I think about parenting my kids, I want to get it “right.” That means making sure they never feel rejected, hurt or disempowered, that they’re always invited to every birthday party (pre-covid) and that they feel like anything is possible at all times. I know, I know — a parent’s perfect formula for disappointment and self-judgment.
I want my boys to be compassionate people. I want them to be proud of all their heritage — being black, being mixed, being part Irish, being part English, being part Jewish. I want my boys to be confident enough to stand up when someone is working from a closed heart and to know the truth of who they are.
Rally Call is a small part of the recipe for making all this possible. Watching their mom put out a song about ‘getting rid of those papers’ — a reference to a time when Black Americans had to actually carry papers to show they had a right to be out without a white person — and no longer waiting for permission from someone outside herself to fully be herself is inspiring.
It normalizes doing challenging things. It normalizes loving oneself. It normalizes speaking out when injustice is present.
We as parents have an opportunity to instill self-love, growth mindset, compassion and courage in the souls we’ve been asked to shepherd. We get to do that in a plethora of creative ways.
My goal in sharing this music is for us all to keep getting into ‘good trouble’ when we feel like slinking back onto our couch and scrolling our phone or watching shows to distract ourselves.
My boys love the song. They love the guitar riffs, the drums. They know some of the lyrics. And truth be told, there are some days when I’m grateful they don’t fully know what the song is about: I’m still trying to get right with god, the universe, or whatever it is that pulls the strings of life, about my needing to have a conversation about black lives matter at all.
It’s a delicate, complex melody to be a conscious parent, to be an advocate for kids loving and accepting themselves in a world that doesn’t support ALL kids in this endeavor. It is a delicate, complex rhythm change to move out of stereotypical thinking into radical love.
And I can only imagine the nuance and tension of being a parent of non kids of color — there is the temptation to overlook or turn away from the truth of people of color’s experiences.
Rally Call is my love letter to America — reminding us all that until we’re willing to own all the parts of ourselves, our country’s entire history, only then will we truly have a chance at being free…and isn’t that what we want for our kids?
Monique DeBose is a musician and mom who lives in Los Angeles.