By LaKeshia N. Myers
I did a Black History Month project on Tina Turner in sixth grade. I had stumbled upon her autobiography, I, Tina, the previous summer rummaging for books at my aunt’s home. Her story was captivating and I became fascinated with learning all about her. While I had grown up listening to her music, it was only after reading her book that I truly understood how iconic and important she was as a woman. As part of the school assignment we wrote a paper about our subject and presented a version of their work for the class. I had decided I was going to perform Tina’s rendition of “Proud Mary” for my presentation. For weeks, I practiced the song and watched concert footage of Tina. I wanted to walk and mimic her sound as close as possible.
This week, I was among the millions of loyal fans who mourned her passing. Her passing struck a chord with me also because I just celebrated my thirty-ninth birthday. Tina Turner was thirty-nine when she left Ike Turner in 1978. It was the year she says she began her rebirth. A rebirth that began with survival, transitioned into rebuilding her career and overall brand, and ended with her being crowned the “Queen of Rock n’ Roll.”
Tina Turner took adversity and turned it on its head. She survived poverty, racism, domestic abuse, and kidney disease. She used her platform and public persona to tackle these issues head on, confronting them in an unabashed way. As is the Buddhist tradition, she used the suffering in her life as fuel. Through meditation, spiritual and physical labor, and good behavior she achieved her enlightenment. She used her fortune to aid others around the world, found love in her husband Erwin Bach, shared her wisdom with others, all while gracing us with the perfect soundtrack. She was, simply the best.
I earned an “A” on my sixth grade project and Ms. Turner earned a lifelong, dedicated admirer. I had the pleasure of seeing her live in concert during her 50th anniversary tour in 2008. It was an epic performance. To see a then seventy year old Tina dance and sing as she did was mind blowing. It was inspirational to say the least (I surely aspire to age as gracefully as she did). I was blessed to experience the gift she shared with us all.
Like a salamander, Tina Turner went through fire and emerged unscathed. Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō (translation: devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra). Long live the queen.