Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: Mary J. Blige

I’m Mary J. Blige and I’m telling you

you don’t have to be ashamed.

– Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige is empowering women with this message in her music, her interviews, and at the new Mary J. Blige Center for Women in her hometown of Yonkers, New York.  The Center is a sanctuary for physically and emotionally abused women.  It provides a network of support and services including psychologists, doctors, day care centers, and scholarships.  Ms. Blige intends to expand the concept from her home base to the world:

It starts here.  I can’t start in Africa because we need help here.  Women are suffering all over the world.

She and Steve Stoute founded the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now (FFAWN) “to inspire women from all walks of life to gain the confidence and skills they need to reach their individual potential.”  Their web site is loaded with information to help visitors achieve Ms. Blige’s daily mantra:

You will never feel more alive than when you live the dream God created for you.

Ms. Blige’s jazz musician, abusive father abandoned the family when she was four.  The family moved to Yonkers:

We lived in the ghetto.  I never saw a woman there who wasn’t abused.  You look at the way your mother is being treated and you think this is the way you’re supposed to be treated.

I was surrounded by drug dealer chicks who spent their money on cars and clothes.  The people I knew sat around drinking and cursing and living in denial.  These were my role models.  Life was about surviving ~ getting money any way you could.

Mary J. was molested by a family friend when she was five years old.  The only place she felt safe was at church.

“Everyone around me was looking for a quick paycheck.”

Her music career was launched by Sean “Puffy” Combs.  She had a series of abusive relationships including K-Ci.  In an interview with the New York Times in 2007, she talked about her autobiographical album My Life:

Mary. . .always cared about people more than she cared about herself.  And she would give so much away to people.  And no one would give her anything back.  And it would hurt her really badly.

I was crying out for help.  I was saying:  “Somebody help me.  I’m about to end it all.”  Not with slitting my wrists or taking pills, but whatever drug, whatever alcohol, whatever I could do.  I’m about to slowly start the process of ending it all.

In a 2007 Parade Magazine interview she described her life in the valley:

I wanted to find real love, but it was a far-fetched dream because of all the dream-smashing going on around me.  . .gun put to my face. . .depending on [guys] to make me feel good, and it turns out they hate themselves too. . .I couldn’t even love myself.

Do you really want to know what this girl’s been through?  I’ll tell you:  Hell, literally.

I never had anybody who cared for me.  None of my boyfriends loved me or even liked me.  The people hanging around me used me, put my money in their pockets, pushing drugs, alochol.  But real love?  That’s a beautiful thing when you find it.

After hip-hop star Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash shortly before 9/11 in 2001, Ms. Blige’s life was transformed by love.

Martin Kendu Isaacs:  God Works in Mysterious Ways

At the 2006 Billboard Awards, Ms. Blige’s prayers were answered when she met talent manager Kendu Isaacs.  She says he saved her life:

Although I was trying to kill myself, I didn’t want to die.

It was during the No More Drama album when I realized:  if I don’t do something, I’m not going to be here anymore. . .I prayed and asked God to send me someone to help me.

He’s a great man ~ very smart and full of love, because his parents gave him love. . .I began to trust and have faith.

He told her:

It’s like you have a cut, and it’s infected.  You have to let me put proper medicine on it so it can heal.

But, it wasn’t smooth sailing:

I treated him so badly for a while, because I’d never experienced real love before.  I was suspicious.

The couple married in a small, private ceremony at her estate in New Jersey on December 7, 2003.  Her music, her fan base, and her circle of friends shifted toward freedom.  She told Oprah in 2006:

No one is going to give you anything for free. . .My breakthrough came when I stopped feeling sorry for myself and took responsibility for every part of my life.  No more pity parties.  I’ve gotta love me more than anybody else loves me.

. . .I went from cocaine to hard liquor to wine.

After the No More Drama album, people came up to me and said, “You saved me.  You talked me out of an abusive relationship”. . .That’s why I know I need to tell people what’s really going on.

A lot of people hate me for this.  People say things like “Mary, I liked it better when you were singing them sad songs.  You need to pick up a pack of cigarettes and come back down with us”. . .They just want someone to waddle with them in their enviornment.

. . .I gained many fans who were like, “How do we get free?”  Those are the people I want to reach.  In the hood, the minute someone steps up and fights the tough guy, he or she gets respect.

Mary J. Blige Center for Women

“We have to save each other.”

When Ms. Blige was a little girl living in the projects, she dreamed of coming back to her old neighborhood to protect and empower women.  On the day her Center opened, she told CNN:

I’m back to help.  My dream is coming true. . .as celebrities we’re given this job. . .to be able to touch someone and say, “me, too.”

. . .I will definitely be here.

She’s sharing the wisdom she’s learned and the confidence it has given her:

Don’t be defined by what your circumstances are.  Free your energy up.  Don’t think that money or being able to pay your bills makes you who you are.  God made you the way you are, so don’t let not having money take that away.

Believe in yourself no matter what, no matter who doesn’t like you or doesn’t want to support you.  Believe and love yourself.

Patience is mandatory.  I know loving myself is bigger than any love anybody could ever have for me.  I know that if I don’t have confidence in me, and in what I do and who I am, nobody else will.  I know that.

Education is the key.  Knowledge is power.  Knowledge can elevate you.

Mary J. Blige’s Leadership Mission

Today, Mary J. Blige is secure in her own skin.  She believes that fame means she must remain humble and grateful.  She’s discovered that she’s a leader and a fighter.

With her new album Stronger with Each Tear, she wants people to know that it is OK to cry.  On the Today Show this week, she told Kathie Lee and Hoda:

I have forgiven myself for things that I know I didn’t do and things I can’t change ~ I am not beating myself up anymore and I am not allowing anyone to beat on me mentally about anything.  I am giving Mary some love, giving Mary a break, laughing with Mary, crying with Mary ~ whatever ~ and telling her that I love her.

When she was younger, she was depressed like Precious in the movie.  This is what the lyrics to “I Can See a Color” mean to her:

When you are depressed, everything is in black and white.  You don’t even realize it is a sunny day.  Now, I can see in color because I am constantly working on myself.  I have chosen life like Precious chose life.  It is hard.  It is a job.  It’s not like “OK, I’m all well.”  No, I am not.  I am well because I want to do better and I want better for myself.

Bravo, Mary J. Blige!  Bravo!


2 responses to “Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: Mary J. Blige

  1. To Whom it May Concern :

    I am writing this letter seeking information on how to open my own help center for victims of sexual and emotional abuse. I am a mother of three adult sons who is still struggling which the nightmare of sexual abuse from my step-father. When I was a young girl growing up I had a low self-esteem. I was labeled the black big lip, big butty girl with the short hair. I was always academically below level in school verses my light skinned A student brother with the wavy hair.
    Throughout my years I believed that every man that approached me was trying to do what was already being done to me. Once I moved out of the home at twenty one I began dating a married man and had two sons. After having my two sons’ I became a workaholic. I never felt loved so I didn’t know how to give the proper love to my boys. I believed if I provided them shelter and material item I was doing the right thing. I never wanted totally expose my love to anyone. I was afraid that any love I give my love to would hurt me like the other males that abused me.
    Because no one knew that I have been sexually abused for years my goal was to work hard be successful and have this lovely life.
    Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I than married an older man that was abusive mentally; from that marriage I birth another son. After having my third son I began to work more. I didn’t understand why I rather am on a job then at home after some therapy sessions and years of prayer. Finally, I understood why I rather am at work then at home. I was afraid to love my boy unconditionally. I began to realize I had given up on showing my love. I was afraid they would hurt me the same way my birth father did by never around to save me from my hurt and pain of abuse. My step father and uncle who molested me. The failed relationships I had with men that used me for their purposes. Males I really thought loved me. I became afraid to hug my boys to show my true love and emotions to them. I was afraid.
    Soon after I began to be this over protected mother who wanted to know where my boys were at all times. I never wanted to live with the horror of closing my eyes then opening to someone harming my boys.
    Still I felt if I let down my guards my boys with disrespect and walk over me like every male I have had in my life. “See I thought I needed to keep my molestation a secret in order to keep the peace in the family.
    Doing my growing up period my stepfather was abusive to the entire family. But, he had a good job my brother and I was going to a Catholic School our living arrangements was pretty good and my mother was afraid of him. He was an alcoholic he would beat her up and beat my brother when she was gone. My mother seemed like she was not a where of the problems in our home. Then she decided to have four daughters by my abusive stepfather. Because we lived better than most children I know: I didn’t want to tell know one about the physical abuse to my brother and the molestation that was going on in my life.
    I figured my brother and I would be adult soon and my sister needed a place to live. I made myself believe that he wanted do those bad things to his own daughter. Unfortunate, the older I got the more I worked the faster my career goals began to disappear. I was very unhappy. My secret refused to stay a secret.
    I find out my sisters were leaving their daughters with my step-father. I also find out my mother was still having relations with him. It was a reoccurring night mare. As an adult with three children of my own it was time for me to reveal my secret. I couldn’t allow that bad thing to happen to my nieces. I just couldn’t live with the additional pain of knowing I could have exposed him.
    I thought disclosing this information would be removing that heavy burden of secrecy from my heart. I thought my mother and my sisters would be happy. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way. My mother and several of my sisters turned against me. I was called a liar. I was said to be jealous because my father didn’t raise me. I was asked why I pretended to love my stepfather if he had molested me. Why did I continue going to his home after becoming an adult? I was accused of being the criminal instead of my stepfather .I was said to have liked it etc. Everything that happens was my fault.

    My major problem as of today is the more I try to achieve the more that secret gets in my way and I fail. I was going to college and continued to fail because those same family member that called me a liar needed me I put them first. I was on my job for the Chicago Board of Education for eighteen year and recently lost it because of recession.
    Every relationship I have had was unsuccessful; I was used one way or another.
    The reason I write this letter is for advice. My dream has always been to open up a business helping girls. I want girls that need help to know that they are not alone in this world. See, I always wanted to know how it felt to be a princess. I observe so many young girls of today without direction. I have heard people called them whores. I have watched how inappropriate they dress. How disrespectful they speak about themselves and other girls. I see our girls of tomorrow using their body as a tool for love. It hurts me. Some of those girls are victims of physical and emotional violence and that’s their way to divulging their pain. Those girls needs some positive people in their lives and way to disclose their secrets .They need be shown how to achieve and feel like a princess.
    “Something I always wanted to feel but never given the chance.
    My problem is I am stuck. I have had this dream since I was a teen but don’t know how to begin. I have many plans but always end up back to square one. I just need some advice on how to begin my purpose in life. I would like some guidance.

    I want my journey to greatness to be a success. My life had not been complete because I haven’t been effective in doing what I believe God wants me to do.

    Please someone tell me how to remove this reoccurring secret from my life. I don’t want it to interfere with my goals. Secondly, could someone give me some ideas on how and where to begin? I will be 50years old in August. This will be my dream come true.
    My business name will be DRSW

    Tell me how I can help some trouble girls fill and act like princess.

    Thank You

  2. You are an inspiration, a light, in an otherwise dark life, I’m grateful for your inspiration and truly sorry for your past, I’m glad GOD got you!!! Love you MJB!! Stay up!! STAY STRONG!!

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