Many of us can only hope to be on the right side of history as often as Maxine Waters has been throughout her tenure as longest seated African American Congresswoman. She saw the value in gangster rap when both Black and white people alike were attempting to discard and discount it. She knew that Trump deserved to be impeached from the moment he was sworn into office. She gave us a prime example of “reclaiming our time” in hostile (and even racist) work environments.
And now, in the conversations she’s had with rapper Megan Thee Stallion, she’s speaking about the importance of Black women using their voice and agency in a world that is ever ready to discount and discredit us.
More often than not, there exists a chasm between the older and younger generations. Old folks are often too judgmental, don’t understand the ways in which the world has changed for young people. And sadly, these same young people are sometimes too short-sighted to see and value the wisdom of their elders. It’s an unfortunate cycle that keeps the two groups from learning from one another in what could be mutually beneficial ways.
Thankfully though, Ms. Waters is not like that. She makes it a point to stay connected to the younger generation, often advocating for them as well, whether they are famous young artists or the layperson being hassled by the police.
It was a sweet and thoughtful gesture. So I was happy to see that these two dynamic women continued their conversation as a part of Megan’s spread with Harper’s Bazaar.
The whole thing was full of warm fuzzy moments and represented the beauty and power of Black women connecting intergenerationally.
Check out some of the highlights below.
What it meant for Megan to receive the letter from Maxine Waters.
Megan Thee Stallion: Just to receive any type of recognition from the wonderful Ms. Waters, it really blew by my mind. Because, I know that me being a young Black woman in my generation—what I fight for, the things that I talk about every day–it seems new for us because we’re just now going through it. But to be recognized by a Black woman who has always spoke out about these issues and has always been an advocate for Black women and the whole Black community, I felt overwhelmed. I felt seen. I just felt very appreciative. It’s hard to feel like you’re doing something new, like you’re speaking on something for the first time. I’m seeing the things that people are saying to me—some people may not agree with what I’m saying, they think it’s controversial and people are taking it like I’m saying something crazy. Just to be supported by another Black woman who sends the same message, I feel like, ‘You know what? I am doing the right thing. And Ima keep doing it cuz Mazine Waters said I can.’
Why Waters wrote the letter to Megan
Rep. Maxine Waters: I was moved by your article and I was so pleased that you wrote the article for a lot of reasons. Often times, particularly it happens with entertainers. They put you in a box. And somehow they don’t see you as a person who has a life that includes family, that includes interactions, decisions that you have to make, that has nothing to do with your performance. So they don’t see you as thinking about the plight of Black women or civil rights or any of these issues, so that’s why I was very pleased that you wrote it…
And I want you to know that when you speak of yourself and you say that people think you’re being too controversial, pay that no attention. Some people who don’t have courage and don’t have confidence, they don’t understand it when they see it in other people. So you should be proud of that. You should be proud of who you are. And I know you are—not only of your talent but your person. What do you care about? What are you doing that’s not only good for you but good for others? So thank you very much.
How do they both build community between other Black women?
Maxine Waters: We have to take people where they are, and we have to be honest with people about who we are. We have to be honest in ways that will help people to open up and be honest with you. And so if we put ourselves high on a pedestal somewhere, and we’re talking about, “I’m your role model, and you got to do this and you got to act this way and you got to dress this way and you should be doing this,” we’re not being honest.
We have people who address the issues in different ways. We have people certainly who have different thoughts, things that we don’t even think about or know about. We have people who dress differently and we have people who don’t accept tradition. We have to respect that. We have to take people where they are.
When we approach people, it is not trying to have them believe that somehow you are more pure. You are more knowledgeable, you are more anything. Accept people where they are and they’ll accept you are where you are.
When I see someone and I’m talking with them, I’m looking at them and I’m listening to them. I don’t care what they have on. I don’t care about anything else, but what this person is expressing. And I’m not judging them on anything else except what they’re sharing with me. For me, that is the way that you connect with others. That is the way you build community. That is where you get trust. And that is where you come to other people’s aid.
When people need you, you come to their aid and it’s not all always about money. I’m talking about just having the ability to have someone listen to you, that’s hearing what you’re saying, or you are sharing a moment that you experienced, that you want someone else to know about.
That’s how you build community. You respect people, you take them where they are, and you come to their aid when they need you.
Megan Thee Stallion: I was raised by women. I had my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother, and my aunt. Growing up, they always taught me, “You can do whatever you want to do, be whoever you want to be as long as you’re a woman who knows at the end of the day, you don’t have to depend on anybody else. Get out here in the world and make it yours.”
Now that I’m in a position where I felt like I have to give back to my community, my women. I want everybody to feel the way that I feel growing up.
I am currently still in school. I remember what it was like to be a freshman on campus. I was so confused about everything. I took out the student loans, but you know what I did? As soon as I got money, as soon as I’m making salary money, I paid off my student loans and I paid all my tuition fees outright.
And when I got in a position to do that for other women, I really wanted to be a part of other women’s story where they’re like, “I was going to give up. I couldn’t do it. But guess what? Megan Stallion said I could, so I did. And she really helped me.” I know that if I can make it easy for somebody, I want to do that.
How do Black women ensure that they’re not taking on too much work as the world expects us to save it?
One of the most important things for each of us to do is to examine who we are and to get grounded in who we are and have our own philosophies about life and what we care about. That’s very important to know yourself. And when you do that, and you set out to do things like Stacey Abrams and other women who have been involved in voter registration, it’s because you want to do it. It is because this is who you are. This is because you believe that you have the power and the ability to be helpful and to change things. And when you do that, you are living the life that you want to live.
Now, how do you do that and then not have others expecting of you to do other things and more and more and more? Once you get grounded in whom you are, then you know how much you want to do, how much you don’t want to do. You are not driven about what others always want you to do. You’re driven by what you feel and what you think and what is right, because you know who you are. You are grounded in such a way that your direction is determined by you.
I’ve learned that if you don’t say no, you will be overwhelmed with what everybody else wants you to do. And people call on me sometimes to talk about subjects I have no idea what they’re talking about. And I have to say, “You’re talking to the wrong person. I don’t know anything about that.”
You can’t do everything and you’re not good at everything. And so, do what your heart, your mind, your soul tells you and what you know about what makes you feel right and good and be grounded in all of that. ” So, that’s how I handle the world.
How Ms. Waters felt about “W.A.P.”
I listen to the young people around me and they may tell me something maybe you ought to pay attention to. But then they told me to look at, was it WAP?
Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry. I said, “Now that’s audacity. That is audacity.” And that is the ability for women to take charge of what they want to say. I had paid attention to the young gangster rap time, when men were in charge. They said whatever they wanted to say about women, what have you. But women didn’t say, for a long time, what they could say or wanted to say or dared to say. And so I thought “that’s audacity.”
When hardcore rap was not accepted, even by black people and the ministers in the church, the pure creativity and the talent of rap took over. And it took over not because the white media or anybody else helped with that, it took over because it was so accepted by so many and so loved by so many. And that’s how it keeps evolving. It keeps evolving in ways that now you have a Megan, who is up for four Grammy awards, but doing it her way. Okay.