Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Single Babies Makin' Babies- Fantasia Barrino's message

God help me, if I had to chose between the mindless, hateful bantering on Fox News or the diva-wanna-be's on Fox's American Idol, I'd probably go with O'Reily and friends- at least there's some real entertainment value there. The bits of Clay and Reuben that I've caught on the radio were pretty painful and didn't make me want to join the millions who do love Idol though I admit it was hilarious when Simon Cowell actually chided his audience for voting for the 'wrong' contestant last season. Nevertheless, it does continue to be a cultural phenom so that even if you hate it (like me), it still can't be totally ignored unless you want to turn a tin ear to all pop culture.

Still, I was amazed that someone like Fantasia Barrino made it through the process. I don't know if I'd call myself a fan but her album from last November, Free Yourself, has some pretty enjoyable R&B on it. But now some two months later, one particular track has gotten good and bad attention. Reports are that "Baby Mama" has gotten some criticism because it's seen by some to promote single motherhood and teen pregnancy. In the stories that I researched on this, I couldn't find one source that actually named anyone in particular who was complaining, which usually leads me to believe that the artists and their record company are playing something up for publicity. But in a world where SpongeBob and TV rabbits on PBS are seen by conservative watchdog groups to promote (gasp!) tolerance toward homosexuality, I can't entirely doubt that there are indeed detractors out there.

To Barrino's credit, she's unrepentant about the song. She had a child at age 17 and now takes her daughter along as she tours, which is really admirable. She does admit that she wished that she would have waited to have a kid, explaining "I didn't say it was acceptable - it just is." That quote comes from the same (highly recommended) Myrtle Beach Online article which notes that the problem Barrino faces obviously isn't unique among other black women. Want to guess what percentage of black children are born without two parents? Seventy percent. Unbelievable. Truly a mind-boggling crisis, well-documented by Luther Keith in the Detroit News two years ago.

But it gets worse when you look at a larger picture. According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services: "Nearly 500,000 teen births occurred in 2000. About 80% of these teen births are non-marital; thus, about 400,000 non-marital births are to teens."

The usual conservative prescription to this problem is abstinence but that's ignorant and unrealistic today. Being open and honest with teens (and let's face it, grade schoolers too) is the only way to really address a horrible problem like this. I don't have the space or authority to fully address prescriptions about this but hopefully that's a start.

And who else confronts these issues in pop? Not many. It's a little too controversial, too personal to cover. Another recent song that came out about this was country singer Kelly Lang's "Single Mother" (Destiny Row records), which became a theme for The National Organization of Single Mothers. Hopefully, Lang's and Barrino's tunes will reach enough people to get them thinking about this.


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