BHM Heroes: Lauryn Hill

During the month of February, BRTW ensemble members are selecting personal Black heroes to highlight everyday. These heroes may have spoken the magic words that first made them see their Black beauty, the people who inspired them to become artists, or even the person who taught them how to make proper mixed greens.

And deep in my heart/ the answer it was in me/ and I made up my mind/ to define my own destiny. – Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

It’s difficult to match words to my Black joy at the mere mention of Lauryn Hill. It’s hard to imagine a world without her, certainly not a BRTW without her example. Her honest engagement with her personal journeys and activism showed me the possibility for groundbreaking and unapologetically Black artistry.

I grew up in a Fugees house, singing No Woman No Cry in my best approximation of a Wyclef Jean rasp on the way to elementary school. We thought we were prepared for Lauryn Hill to go solo, but her album quickly sailed from R&B, Hip Hop, and Pop charts straight to the woke zeitgeist. Her music touched on the complexities of Blackness- the systemic oppression and racism pressing against us, the intersectional journeys of gender, sexuality, ability, access, and economy within. Track after intimate track shared her views on music, the industry, spirituality, and motherhood. I grew up to the soundtrack of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, an album that was as much declaration as art. At once, and indelibly, Miseducation entertained and demanded critical engagement, adding a flavor of conscious engagement to roller rinks, fish fries, bus rides, and block parties.

In recent years, many of us have eagerly awaited an inkling of a return, knowing that there will never be a substitute for her talent and passion. Her poem turned song, Black Rage, originally debuted in 2012. Later, she set it to the Roger & Hammerstein classic, My Favorite Things,  and in 2014, she dedicated the “sketch” to the fight for racial justice in Ferguson, MO following the police shooting death of Michael Brown. She is also heavily featured on the album, Nina Revisited: A Tribute to Nina Simone.

– Heather Harvey
Co-founder & Ensemble Member