Fifteen-time Grammy Award-winner Alicia Keys learned something important about herself recently, she said at the 2020 Massachusetts Conference for Women.
“Here I was writing songs like ‘Girl on Fire,’ ‘Superwoman,’ and ‘Woman’s Word’–all these anthems—and I didn’t feel my worth and know how valuable I am. I didn’t even know that I didn’t know it, and that was the worst part of all. I was making choices that didn’t value my health and my wellbeing, the care of my vessel,” she said.
But once she recognized she was doing that because she was subscribing to stereotypes about women that are easy to absorb, she decided it was time for a change.
That’s one of the good things that happened in 2020, she said.
“It’s taught me about compassion and continuing the journey of listening to my voice and pursuing my dream, my way. It’s kind of amazing that I sing for a living so everyone can hear me, but I couldn’t always hear myself.
“I think that’s pretty common for all of us hard-working women,” she added. “It’s really hard to hear your voice when you’ve got bosses and kids and partners and banner ad algorithms telling you who you are, what you should do, and who you should be.”
But going forward:
“I’m done with all that—the not being able to hear myself stuff,” she said. “I’m done with being put in boxes that someone assigns you to. I’m done with guilt. I’m done with anything that is not what I deserve.”
She also invited everyone listening to join her in this, adding: “Let’s all be done with everything that we don’t deserve or don’t feel good about or don’t want or need anymore, you know?”
Embracing a Time of Awakening in Our Culture
Keys said that she also sees this as a time of great awakening.
“We are stepping into our collective power. We’re owning it. We’re experiencing civic joy while we do it. You know all of that, it won’t cure this virus and the economic problems that come with it. It won’t magically turn blue and red into purple. But it does tell us that we create the shift in consciousness, that awakening in culture right now.”
She added that people are showing up for each other in many ways, supporting Black Lives Matter, Time’s Up, the fight for climate action, and more.
“By showing up for each other we are winning. By collectively awakening, we are already winning. When we show up for each other, we get a say in who’s hired, who gets a seat at the table, who those leaders need to prioritize and protect, like children and immigrants and people of color, LGBTQ folks, disabled people, or people with pre-existing conditions. The empowered have to stand up for the vulnerable and share their blessings with them.”
Supporting Black-owned Businesses – and Racial Justice
Speaking about her recently philanthropic efforts in which she partnered with the NFL to launch a $1 billion fund to support Black-owned businesses and advance racial equity, Keys said:
“The idea is to support Black America and to pay attention and create an ecosystem that is sustainable for Black America.”
She added that she sees the new conversations about racial justice as one of the best things to have happened in this tough year.
“It’s been very powerful to be open to having these conversations now. I mean, with my family, with my sons, we speak so much more candidly than I think I would ever have thought to speak before. We didn’t have these conversations, you know? And we need them.”
Going forward, she said, engaging in the broader conversation about where we are going as a country is her priority—even as she is at work on releasing more music.