The Importance of Personal Theme Songs - Dr. Marilyn Jones


[In this post, guest blogger Dr. Jones, tells us about her own personal theme songs that pushed her through tough times. Enjoy.

After coming home from prison for the fifth time, I decided to go back to school. I had been home 2 years, and somehow I managed to get a job paying a living wage (at least I thought it was). It was the year 2000, and I was making over $14 an hour, a long way from the 45 cents per hour I earned in prison.  Moving right along, I was landed a job as a data entry operator for the University of California, San Francisco alongside doctors and pharmacists. They bugged me often about going to college. I went ahead and tried going to college as an experiment. This was huge for me as an ex-convict/crack addict, living in the projects, raising four children. I took one English class, and my gift with the pen became exposed. I got all A’s on my papers. I became more and more confident in my mind and began to accept my identity as a student. One of the hardest things I had to do was become disciplined enough to leave the projects and go to school.

The Hayes Valley projects located in Fillmore AKA public housing has a reputation for being dangerous. However, let the records reflect that we had a lot of FUN.  It was LIT in Hayes Valley, the newly renovated projects I lived in. All of our children knew each other. The women had a close-knit sisterhood, and we spent time together daily.  I was well-loved, and people often came to me for help. Many of the community members knew me from when I was a dopefiend, so when I returned to school it had an impact on them. I liked the fact that I was relied upon as a source of strength.  Young dope dealers confided in me about their academic dreams, and I became a hope dealer. On some days, it was hella hard to leave my environment and go to class, particularly when we had water fights. 


The water fights in the Valley were monumental!  The rule was if you don’t want to get wet, don’t come outside!  An announcement was screamed on the block to let folks know to not come outside if you were not with the shit, “WAAATER FIGHT!!!”  In San Francisco, there were rarely days where the temperature rose above 90 degrees.  One summer, we water fought for days through the wee hours of the mornings! We used balloons, water guns, and pots and pans to wet each other up. The fight was real!  One of my young neighbors, TJ (may he rest in peace), took the water fights very seriously, and he was instrumental in keeping them going.  

One hot day after days of water fighting, it was time for me to go to class.  I got in my car and proceeded to try to leave. It was extremely hard for me because everybody was water fighting and having bookoo FUN: the children were running around dodging water, the adults were engaged in an oh so serious battle of water fighting, good music was blasting, everybody (the children and adults) was smiling, and there was a multitude of love in the air.  I sat in my car and contemplated getting out and joining the celebration of our lives, but I also had a new identity that all of these smiling folks counted on. I was now a former crackhead turned community college student.  

I racked my brain for ideas that could help my resist busting out of my car and having fun.  I love music, and I love to dance. Something told me to look for theme songs that will give me the courage to ride out. I put on my Nas CD, and listened to “I Know I Can”.  As the beginning of the song started playing (only instruments without the rap), I started bopping my head hella hard and listening to the words. When the children in the song started with the hook, I began to back out of my driveway and sped out to begin my destination to class.  I continued this ritual until I got my Associate degree. I added one more theme song to my endeavor, Jaheim’s Fabulous. In my Jaheim voice, never G-I-V-E-U-P! Keep you H-E-A-D-U-P!

I am grateful for Nas and Jaheim for creating Black conscience songs that would lead an ex dopefiend out the projects and onto a doctorate. The moral of this story is find a theme song that will help you rock into your purpose.