Friday Speak Out!: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Friday, September 07, 2018
by Jeanine DeHoney

I remember as a child my father, who was an aspiring jazz musician, choosing a record that wasn’t his usual jazz line up to play on our French provincial stereo console record player while we did our Saturday morning chores. He played Aretha Franklin’s record, “Respect.

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find out what it means to me, R-E-S-P-E-C-T…”

After I did a halfhearted job of dusting the furniture, I got out of doing the remainder of my chores by settling on our sofa in our Livingroom. My plan was perfectly timed for when my father got ready to wax our floors. Once he started, pouring the liquid wax on the floor and rubbing small perimeters with one of his old t-shirts on his hands and knees, I knew I’d be stuck there for a while. But I didn’t mind. I was prepared to sit there with my notebook, a pen and my imagination until the floor dried to a shiny sheen and I could walk on it.

As the music filled our house I wrote and bobbed my head to Aretha’s powerful and soulful voice. Back then I didn’t know how much the lyrics to, “Respect,” would resonate with me as a little black girl living in Brooklyn who wanted to share her stories with the world.

That song from this icon of a woman fittingly crowned, the “Queen of Soul,” became my empowerment anthem, my battle hymn. It helped me remember that no matter what my skin color was, no matter what others thought about me, I counted and I deserved to be respected.

As an adult those affirmative feelings carried over into my stories. Whether fiction or nonfiction, I wanted the people I wrote about, especially women and women of color like myself, and minorities to show their courage and their strength at the end of their journey. I wanted them to impart a lesson to my readers through their dialogue or actions that they mattered and would no longer be marginalized, devalued or disrespected.

When I listened to Aretha Franklin sing, "Respect,” the words regard and reverence come to mind. This song and her activism as a Black woman who was revered worldwide and by all races, encourages me to live and write from a place that speaks to the injustices in the world. That song encourages me to speak up and speak out for all those who faced repercussions when they did or those who need courage to do it now I will be the vessel to tell their stories line by line, verse by verse.

Music, good music, the kind where the melody or lyrics roll off your tongue even when the song stops playing, the music Aretha Franklin sang, can fuel your creativity and shape your platform. Aretha Franklin’s music did that for me, one song in particular. I am forever grateful to her for that and more. May she rest in Queenly peace.

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Jeanine DeHoney has had her work published on several blogs, in magazines and anthologies. Among others her writing has been published in Essence, The Children's Ark, Metro Fiction, My Brown Baby, The Write Place At the Write Time, Literary Mama, Mutha Magazine, True Stories Well Told, Parent. Co., Brain Child Magazine, Jerry Jazz Magazine, Today's Caregiver Magazine, and Rigorous Literary Magazine. She is an essayist in the anthologies "Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul,” "Here in the Middle: Stories of Love, Loss, and Connection from The Ones Sandwiched in Between," “Theories of HER-an experimental anthology, in the anthology, "In Celebration of Sisters," and in the Chicken Soup For The Soul Anthology, The Power Of Yes.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Jeanine--When Aretha Franklin died, we left a void that can't be filled.

Your post made me think of the singers and the groups that have run--like a thread--though my life. Thanks for making me reflect on the soundtrack of my life (so far).

Congratulations on all your publishing credits so far. (You've written for The Muffin before, haven't you? You've got a wonderful name for a writer--I seem to remember reading a post by you before.)

Good luck on your future writing.

Joanne said...

I loved hearing how Aretha's song was an anthem for you, and how it fed your creativity. Thanks for reminding me of the power of music to pull us on a life journey. And congratulations on all your publishing credits...what a great résumé.

Karen P. Rushing said...

I love your writing and have read numerous works you have written. Such a prolific writer and this piece was just as phenomenal as many of your other writings. Awesome job! Thank you for reminding me of R-E-S-P-E-C-T and good memories of the music and the artist Aretha Franklin.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Jeanine, It's so interesting that you bring this up because I'm taking a class right now where we write while listening to music, so I'm nodding my head when you say it can fuel your creativity! Yes!

I remember the first time I heard Aretha Franklin's Respect, and it was such a powerful song that resonated with me, I went out and bought a Best Of cassette tape and listened to it over and over. Thank you for this beautiful tribute to the Queen of Soul, and much respect to you! :)

Renee Roberson said...


Music has always been a very important part of my life so the topic of this piece really resonated with me. I love the imagery of your hard-working daddy scrubbing the floors while exposing you to likes of the glorious Aretha. What a wonderful memory for you to be able to share. Congrats on your impressive list of writing credits--I look forward to checking some of them out.

Jeanine DeHoney said...

So glad this essay resonated with you all. Thanks so much for each of your affirming comments and I hope you too find your favorite song or songs to help the rhythm of your words dance and flow.

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