First one. Than two.
Before I knew it I was busy wiping away several tears from my face upon what I can only accurately describe as experiencing Alicia Keys’ video for her new song Blended Family (What You Do For Love). The visuals, a powerful homage to the best case scenario in a co-parenting situationship, were only surpassed by the powerful words that, dare I say, may officially become the national anthem for blended families everywhere (it’s already a staple in my household).
Blended Family (What You Do for Love), which features A$AP Rocky, powerfully documents the journey Alicia Keys and the family she has created with producer Swizz Beats, has traveled on in an effort to cultivate a positive and nurturing space with the mother of his other children, in particular Mashonda Tifere who had a very public confrontation with the singer in the beginning. It is a powerful narrative, not only in that it speaks to the difficulties that one may and most often encounters when trying to build a new family with pieces of the old family unit, but also hits us with a core message reassuring us that it can be done, and the outcome is well worth the struggle.
“It may not be easy, this blended family, but baby
Cause what you do, what you do, what you do, what you do for love, love”
– Alicia Keys, Blended Family
As the step mother in my own co-parenting journey, Alicia’s lyrics resonated with me even more deeply, taking me back to a time where my ego ruled and I didn’t think the word “blended” would ever describe my particular situation. In fact, it felt more like an uncomfortable mash of people who were all trying to assert our perceived power and superior knowledge as we attempted to carve out our distinctive roles in raising my then 4 year old step-daughter Sherika. Truth is we were all new to this situation and no one knew what the hell they were doing. Therefore, as one can imagine, the road was rocky for quite some time, littered with insecurities, deep seeded trust issues and emotions that still needed to be unpacked – all roadblocks to curating any kind of functional co-parenting relationship.
Finally both Sarah (Sherika’s mother) and I eventually realized that neither of us was winning. In fact the more we bickered and continued to indulge in our spiteful and petty actions, the more Sherika continued to suffer and ultimately lost the most. 5 years later I am very proud to declare that our blended family could easily be substituted for Alicia’s family in the video ( I mean people tell me all the time how much I look like her) Therefore her story is our story, and speaks to the stories of many who have climbed the co-parenting mountain, successfully curating a family dynamic that serves to empower, encourage and support all members of the family.
“I know it started with a little drama
I hate you had to read it in the paper
But everything’s alright with me and your mama”
– Alicia Keys, Blended Family
But Blended Family is not just a song about one family’s journey that ends in happily ever after. It is a song that more importantly cuts right though the copious amount of negative stereotypes that sabotage these kinds of co-parenting relationships before they even have a chance to start.
In my experience, popular media can more often than not define blended families with characteristics that often suggest that the majority will fail and those which are successful are exceptional and not the norm. After all according to statistics, the divorce rate for second marriages is over 65 percent, and that is when only one child is involved. The rate raises to 70 percent when both partners have children, and the divorce rate for third marriages is 73 percent.
I find that these negative characteristics are especially attributed to blended families in the black community. From books to movies to overly exaggerated reality TV shows like Love and Hip Hop, blended families within our community are often associated with words like drama, ghetto and ratchet. Father’s are transformed into nothing more than babydaddys (often absent from their children’s lives), while mothers are reduced to being just the babymama (who are often portrayed as the crazy, angry, insecure and often violent black woman who seem to revel in aforementioned drama as a means of asserting one’s territory). Thus attempting to blend families in the black community is made to seem unrealistic, unsuccessful and unnecessary (unless it’s for mass consumption via HBO).
This is why the images in Keys’ video are so important. The message is a clear alternative to the mainstream messages we are forced to consume and internalize about how our family units are defined. The statistics are proven wrong, black love is celebrated and two women are shown cultivating a narrative that is free from drama and puts the focus back on the ones who matter most – the kids. Even the relationship both women have with Swizz Beats moves away from one that focuses on ownership, instead depicting a deeper, more mature meaning to the word relationship.
Most importantly this song is redefining the meaning of the word family and doing so in a very powerful and public way. In a Rolling Stone article, Alicia is quoted saying, “To me, the word ‘family’ has no singular definition and the modern family is made up of all kinds of beautiful people of different walks of life willing to put love first.” Based on my own story with Sarah, I couldn’t agree more.
Check out the video for Blended Family and let us know what you think.
Click here to view Alicia Keys – Blended Family (What You Do For Love) Feat. A$AP Rocky