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The tragic death of Whitney Houston has officially made this one of the most depressing Black History months in recent memory.  The deaths of Don Cornelius, Whitney Houston and Etta James last month have simply been too much for us to bear.  But life must go on and when we see others face the grips of tragedy, there is always a lesson that God wants us to learn.


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Here are five things that all of us can learn from the amazing life and tragic death of the great Whitney Houston:

1)      Never assume you’re always going to be on top: Even when you’re out kicking butt, taking names and making money hand-over-fist, things can always start heading south.  When we get on top of the world, we sometimes think that the good times will never stop and that the future is going to be just as shiny as the present.  I am willing to guess that in the 1980s, when Houston was the most popular singer in the United States, she never would have guessed that she’d go out in this way.   Success can make us complacent.

2)      Who you choose to spend your life with is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make: I’m not sure if the chicken or the egg came first when it comes to how Whitney and Bobby ruined each other’s lives.  Some say Bobby turned her into the person she became, but others are saying that Whitney was already that woman when Bobby met her.  What we do know, however, is that they were not good for each other and likely enabled the poor choices of their partner.  The lesson?  Think carefully about who you choose to date or marry, for this can literally determine how you go to your grave.

3)      Say no, no, no to drugs and perhaps even alcohol: As a college professor, I’ve seen drugs and alcohol ruin countless lives over the years.  It’s painful to watch incoming freshmen become influenced by the excitement of campus parties that may put them into an early grave or rehab center later on down the road.   There is nothing good about illegal (or many legal) drugs, and I argue that even the liquor bottle can be left to the side.  Anything that alters your brain chemistry, makes you feel like you’ve been poisoned the next day and causes you to do things that you aren’t going to remember is not good for your body, mind, soul or your life.  Find your happiness elsewhere.

4)      Think about how our actions impact our children: I don’t know much about little Bobbi Christina, the daughter of Bobby and Whitney.  But when I read stories about Bobbi getting into trouble at an early age, my heart weeps for this poor child.  It could not have been easy for her to grow up watching her parents do things that made people shake their heads and I hope that we are not witnessing an intergenerational pattern of poor choices.  We should all realize that we are passing a lot of ideas, choices and habits onto our children, and they may not always be good.

5)      It’s never too late for a comeback: When Whitney died, she was on her way back.  Like a phoenix rising slowly (and a bit clumsily) from the ashes, Whitney had committed herself to becoming the woman that she could have been.   As the female musical Mike Tyson, Houston saw the greatness that she took for granted and was working to make things right again.  Unfortunately, time ran out and I speculate that Whitney’s poor choices of the past played a role in her death.  Either way, she went out of the world loved and missed by millions, in large part because we saw her confronting her struggle head-on.  We were saving all our love for Whitney’s comeback and she almost got there at the end.

God bless you Whitney Houston.  May the Pearly Gates light up on your arrival.  With yourself, Etta James, Don Cornelius and Michael Jackson all making sweet music in the afterlife, I have no doubt that heaven is going to have one heck of a party.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.


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