Dear Lorine Chia:

You saved my life.

Let’s be clear, though. I don’t mean this in the way that new bandwagon Beyoncé fans say Lemonade saved their life, then can’t recite any of the Warsan Shire poems included within. Lorine Chia, you saved my life like Rose should have saved Jack from an icy death after the Titanic sank.

I am quick to admit that I love Chance the Rapper — that is a general declaration I make periodically so that my son and his daughter can have a play date in real life one day. The biggest blessing about being introduced to the Chance’s lyrical prowess was coming across your work. The song “Living in Vain” perfectly captured the despair I felt in my monotonous job and abusive relationship. Listening to your music changed my self-perception.

Being a thick, dark-skinned, outspoken woman can be exhausting. On top of mainstream media’s eternal downplay of Black women’s significance, microaggressions made me feel like I needed to shrink myself down and take up as little room as possible. My ex was embarrassed to be around me in public because I was “too loud and ghetto.” He often commented positively on smaller framed women, noting that I was disgusting by comparison. Looking back, I wonder why I stayed with him for so long. The answer to that question called out to me when I heard your ballad for the first time. I remember being seven months pregnant, sitting at a dead-end job, and listening to “Living in Vain” for the first time. If you’ve ever been to a Southern Baptist tent revival, you’ll understand how I felt reborn in your words.

“Shedding all these tears instead of taking what is mine. I been asking God why am I here…what am I to do while I’m only filled with fear.”

I was crying instead of taking back my joy. I allowed the fear of loneliness to outweigh my worth. Your existence and persistently authentic soul spoke truth to my pain. Much like writer Lorraine Hansberry, you normalized Black life in a way that has empowered me beyond compare. Your work exudes self-determination and your lyrics reveal that there is still more beneath the surface.

The balance of tribulations and triumph in your songs set me on fire in a powerful way, and I want to thank you for putting out music that helped me survive some traumatic times. I was with someone who demonized me for all my loud, thick, Black ways, and it tore me up. I will probably never meet you, but your music was the antidote to my ailment and I am forever grateful for the courage and confidence you have to put something meaningful out into the world.

One of the most epiphany-inducing experiences with your music was listening to the song “Love Is Blind,” where you eloquently reflected the anxiety and helplessness I lived through.

Haunts me in my dreams

When I go to sleep

Covers everything, so it’s all i see

In the night

Deep inside my mind

Words cannot define

It takes all my time

My limited understanding of love was shielding me from happiness and I was perpetually without foresight or vision. For a long time, all I knew was the consistent misery. Being pregnant certainly changed that and your words were the catalyst for something I needed to do years ago. It was as if your music was the rescue ladder and I was trapped in a cave wedged between self-doubt and external deprecation. You helped me pull myself up.

I’m not a smoker anymore, but your track, “Burn One,” reflected how I aspire to live. In your inescapably unique tone, you proudly (yet matter-of-factly) proclaim, “There’s a blunt; I keep one rolled. Shades on with my eyes low. Pour my drink, I sip it slow. Yes, please play that song one more.” Though I don’t know what you intended with these lines, my interpretation posits the blunt as a metaphor for peace. In a perfect world, I would be unapologetically at peace with who I am.

The combination of your perfectly odd, soulful voice and timely lyrics have been everything in the moments when I needed them most. I am grateful for your artistry and hopeful that the world will soon appreciate all you have to offer.

Love + Sisterhood,

Africa Jackson

(Photo via @LorineChia)