What Alicia Keys’ book ‘More Myself’ teaches us about inclusion

“Activism flows through my veins as strong as artistry does. (…) My involvement in social justice doesn’t downplay my musicianship” — Alicia Keys

American singer-songwriter Alicia Keys can add ‘best-selling author’ to her long list of talents. In her book ‘More Myself: A Journey’ she reveals about her life as an artist, actress, producer, entrepreneur and activist. She describes the book as a journey in how she became who she is today. And there is a lot to learn from that journey on the topic of inclusion. Books like this are interesting reads for journalists about how to approach the topic of media diversity in their work and newsrooms.

What I specifically like about ‘More Myself’ is how Keys intertwines her career building with her personal development, spirituality and activism. It shows a holistic approach to life: everything is connected. And that definitely holds for the topic of inclusion as well.

The publication is full of powerful sentences, I picked a few to explain the lessons journalism can learn from the popular singer.

“It’s hard to pinpoint the precise moment when we internalize others’ assessments; it’s usually not just a single experience but rather a series of moments that bruise the spirit and lead us to distrust ourselves and those around us.”

“Death is a gift meant to wake up the living, to nudge us toward a life of purpose and intention”.

“Better — that is what Prince and all others who achieve excellence are always pushing toward. They rise. They insist upon meticulousness and in so doing, they alter the very space they inhabit.”

Journalists tend to first focus on the world

Alicia Keys also shares her feelings of powerlessness towards the problems in the world. She discusses global headlines with friends and is concerned about her sense of resignation. From that discovery, she emphasizes the importance of ‘we’ as opposed to ‘me’:

“It starts with ourselves, and then our families, and then our communities, and then the world. I am here for you. Where are you here for? What is your gift to the world?”.

“Music is one of the most potent forms of protest, the gateway to connection. I may have become fluent in the language of social justice, but music will always be my mother tongue. My native language.”

“So much of history we’ve been taught is told through a single lens — usually not an African one”.

Journalists look at the world through a single lens

Creating inclusive journalism means to be able to shift your perspective. If you’re born and raised in Western society, it’s necessary to understand that you look at the world through a single lens that has become the dominant lens for media and journalism. But it’s not the only one. People outside of the Global North, outside of the Western societies look at current affairs in a different way. As long as journalists don’t study those different perspectives, by reading books about decolonization and by talking and — more importantly — listening to people from these areas, the currently dominant worldview won’t change.

“In a world overrun with images and stories that portray Black people as victims rather than victors (…) we stand taller when we hear our story in its glorious entirety. (…) And we understand the importance of defining ourselves, rather than allowing others to ever do that for us.”

The singer writes about Black history and mentions people like abolitionist Frederick Douglass, historian and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois, women’s right activist Sojourner Truth, political activist Harriet Tubman and kemetologist dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan. The latter has been criticized for allegedly distorting history but as author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates state in The New York Times:

“What people like Dr. Ben were saying was ‘history is not this objective thing that exists outside of politics. It exists well within politics and part of its job has been to position Black people in a place of use for white people’. And that notion of scepticism goes with me in all of my work. It runs through everything I do.”

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