Two musicians find friendship during quarantine.
Understanding why the chasm is growing wider between today’s youth and the previous generation—I guess now I’m part of the latter—is perplexing, especially when we, the previous generation, laid the groundwork for the culture that young people have so dearly embraced. You’d think a little dialogue be broached to discuss the conditions that spawned the movement and what detrimental factors stunted the growth of the creators of the art.
The wealth of experience and knowledge is at the disposal of interested youth, but unfortunately the practice of holding elders in reverence for their perseverance is lost in our community. Instead of being sought as council, elders are viewed with ridicule and distain for the most part. Thus, the one tie that should have bound us like solid steel is about to splinter into hundreds of pieces. Well, only if we collectively let it.
It’s hard to imagine forefathers of an art form that provided a creative voice for groups that no one was checking for, sitting by idly and be silenced. Sheri Abernathy is one who won’t have that. She never has and never will. Her love for the culture is a little more personal. Says Abernathy, “I was in a single-parent home. It was 10 kids, plus she adopted a child later, and we lived from pillar to post. We had no steady place. Violence and drugs stayed in our neighborhoods. So to stand on the corner and hear a jam—that took you to another place and eased the stress of the realness that was going on around you.”
Those stresses came from hard living in the Bronx. It was in the mid-’70s, the embryonic stages of hip-hop were relegated to parks, community centers and the occasional night clubs. Abernathy envisioned a female presence on par with the male dominate performers. The concept was precisely executed, and as a result, the Mercedes Ladies, the first all-female hip-hop group, came to fruition, and Sheri Sher was born.
While a career in music hasn’t been a monumental success for Mercedes Ladies, at least by industry standards, another avenue has unfolded. In addition to writing bars, Abernathy also managed to compose sentences, begetting paragraphs, chapters and eventually a book. “Mercedes Ladies worked hard, and even if we didn’t reap monetary gain, we built a story,” she says. “I always kept a diary to document my journey. I wrote everything down. So when people started to tell the story of early hip-hop, it was always told through the eyes of males. Nobody thought about the Black female. She was in that same era, in that same hood. She was doing the same things, going through the same struggles, but nobody was interested in what she had to say.”
Out of that void, Abernathy was able to add author to her resume, as she penned a semi-autobiographical, fact-laced, fictionalized novel, “Mercedes Ladies.” To illustrate how much things have changed, the book details how the female crews were ready and willing to knuckle up with a male gang over rumors that they were performing favors to males as a means to advance their careers. Now, in 2014, that has become one of the primary tools employed to get anywhere. Self-respect and pride are the first things sacrificed, cuz the belief is there ain’t no self-love in hip-hop.
“When I was coming up, and going through what I was going through, there were no mentors,” says Abernathy. “So now I see why I went through the storm. So I can be of some help. I hear from kids after they read my book and say y’all was official. I see they have hope, and that’s what’s missing.”
Over and out. I’ll holla next week. Till then, enjoy the night life.