The late great Tupac Shakur released the song “Keep Ya Head Up” in 1993, right around the time I was born. 23 years after it’s release, the message of this song is still resonates strongly through my speakers. A message capturing Tupac as a feminist as well as empowering women to keep their heads up. On this International Women’s Day, I would like to do the same by breaking down parts of the song that speaks to me the most.
In the first verse, Tupac poses a rhetorical question and then immediately answers it.
You now what makes me unhappy? When brothers make babies and leave a long mother to be a pappy
There is no question that there is an outstanding amount of single mothers out there, for whatever reason. When my dad moved back to Nigeria in 2007, that left my mother to play both roles. Now I realized that no matter how much she tried, she couldn’t be two people. I was expecting her to be the pastor of a church, work a job, be the head of the house, and make it to all of my football games. When you think about this in a weeks amount of time, you realize the strain this may put on any one person. This is why having two parents is beneficial. Only in hindsight do I realize that I was expecting more from her than I should’ve. But every time she did her best to meet those expectations, and even exceed them. Only the love a mother has for a child could do something like this. Imagine doing it for all boys.
In the next line after, Tupac goes on to express his frustration on how women are treated by calling out the hypocrisy in being a misogynist.
And since we all came from a woman; Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman. I wonder why we take from our women; why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
Being on a college campus has exposed me to a terrible part of society, rape culture. It is reported that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college. Let me put this in perspective for you: out of ever 20 female friends you have, 4 of them have been sexually assaulted. I personally know at least 4 sexual assault survivors, and I don’t have as many as 20 female friends. This doesn’t even account for the ones that are afraid to speak out, or too embarrassed to. What’s even worse is the feeling of helplessness about the situation. You just get angry about how someone could take advantage of your friend like that, or anyone. Whether you’re a man or woman, there needs to be a sense of urgency in how this is addressed. It is even problematic that a term was coined for a culture of sexually assaulting someone. There must be a change.
I think it’s time to kill for our women; time to heal our women; be real to our women
It was time in 1993, it is time in 2017 and it will always be time. But it all starts with what you do every day. Women deserve the utmost respect for their contribution to society. As a whole, they’ve literally birthed the nation. To me, being a feminist is understanding that there are standards of gender inequality that need to be eradicated from our society. That there are wage gaps the prevent women for being compensated for doing the same work in particular industries. That there are struggles that a black woman would face, that a black man may not. That the ivtersectionalities of race & gender are far more complex than just putting one before the other.
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies, that will hate the ladies, that make the babies
It’s not easy being a single mother raising all boys. It’s not easy being a victim on your own campus. It’s not easy having to work twice as hard to get half as far. Tupac tell us it’s going to get easier, it’s going to get brighter. But only if we all play are part.
And since a man can’t make one, he has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
As a man, I feel as if it’s my responsibility to protect the women around me. From my mother to my girlfriend to any of my women friends, I would hope for them to feel safe around me. I’ve noticed how so many of my friends literally are afraid when they’re around men. I couldn’t fathom that kind of fear or the trauma that may have caused it.
Maybe it’s not my place to understand, but it definitely is to say something about it.
We’ve got to do better, so I’ll end this blog with the last two lines of the verse:
So will the real men get up?
I know you’re fed up, ladies, but see your head up.
Listen to the full song: