It's important to me to acknowledge my "faculty"--those whom I find myself quoting, as they are clearly important to me. Today I want to honor my friendship with Joan Morgan. I met Joan in the early 90s when we were on some women in hip hop panel. We hit it off right away and she has remained a crucial presence in my life.
Joan is an award-winning feminist author and a doctoral student in NYU’s American Studies program. She published the groundbreaking book, When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost in 1999. Her book has been used in college coursework across the country and she is regarded internationally as an expert on the topics of hip-hop and gender.
The bio is modest. Joan is a fearless thinker and intellectual innovator. She coined the phrase "hip hop feminist" and "black girl magic" back in the early 90s. She is my go to when it comes to issues about black and Caribbean Americans. She was the first to draw my attention to the distinction and sometimes collision therein.
Joan is also astonishingly beautiful: she has large luminous eyes that express a dizzying range of emotions, cheekbones that could slice bread, a bosom that inspires clenvy in me (cleavage envy), and banging ass calves that show you that she's walked and ran and danced and kicked her way with elan through this life. And then there's the cropped hair, which only highlights her beauty and ferocity.
I took Joan on her first trip to Cali to write a piece on Hieroglyphics and while we were there a couple German (read WHITE) guys on an elevator at the Mondrian asked if they could touch her hair. I'd never heard of such a thing. She's taught me everything I know about the trials, tribulations, and beauty of black women's hair.
Joan taught me a lot about what ride or die friends do for each other. She was there when I met my ex, had both children, left my ex, became single, fell in love again, and became single again. We have danced, cooked, laughed, learned, cried, divorced, and raised our children together. She has supported all my efforts and assured me when my course was unsteady as well as pointing out my missteps. Here are just a few highlights of our time together:
As soon as she told me she was pregnant I thought "shit, now I've gotta have a baby!" Joan also inspired me to buy a home. By the time she was 37 she had already owned two Brooklyn brownstones and a huge house on a hill in Kingston.
Post-divorce and fully in the swing of being single, I told Joan that I'd managed to finagle my schedule to entertain four different men in the past week. I said "God works in mysterious ways." To which she replied "God don't have shit to do with that, Soph. That's just your pimp game." And when I was at my most anti-commitment player phase she said "Well, Soph. I think that's it. You've officially become a man. Now you just have to grow testicles."
We have also shared profound heartache. It was Joan who called to tell me that our dear friend, Chris Lighty (RIP), had passed. Our friendship had previously been in a fallow season, but the grieving reunited us and was, perhaps, his parting gift to us.
This past February I was at Harvard with Joey Bada$$ when someone told me there was a woman outside who wanted to meet me. I figured it was a friend playing a trick on me. It was Christina Qui, a brilliant Harvard student, who recognized me from a video in which I talked about my friendship with Joan. She studied with Joan and was so moved by our obvious bond that she felt compelled to meet me and this past September had me come speak at Harvard.
You see, the thing about friendship is that it keeps giving, but it must be carefully and lovingly fostered. Like everything that's worth anything, friendship takes work. As Candide would say "Il faut cultiver son jardin." Today I say thank you, Joan for over a quarter century of cultivating our garden. I love you like the sun loves the moon.