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Why Did Whitney Die? How Double Consciousness Robs Black America of Its Artists

The tragedy of Houston's passing signifies a battleground over values.

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But when she fell, she landed in black arms. Cradling her, we began the ritual of resurrection and applauded her as she reappeared onstage; thin as flagpole and her voice a tattered flag blowing in a song of loss. But Ghetto Whitney had grown powerful and no amount of forgiveness or salvation could stop her. She drank away Pop Whitney’s voice, spent her money, cancelled her shows and did not stop until she died.

Whitney died so young because like Michael and Biggie and Tupac and others to follow, she straddled Black America’s Double Consciousness. We see the image others have of us and the one we have of ourselves and when they move too far apart we fall and fall and fall. And no amount of singing can fill the void.

Nicholas Powers is an Assistant Professor of Literature at SUNY Old Westbury. His poetry book "Theater of War" was published by Upset Press in 2004.
He has written for The Village Voice and The Indypendent.