It was hard to see Chaka’s struggle, but uplifting to see Stephanie’s love

In a world where convicted criminals sit on city council, and murderers claim self-defense, where we spend trillions for wars, but won’t spend the same for healthcare, it was nice to be able to stop thinking about that, and wait to see the queens take the stage.


Chaka Khan and Stephanie Mills are queens, after all. Two Black women who have survived against the odds in a world where the music is less important than the look, where the artistry takes a backseat to the drama, where the women are disposable when they age. And yet, there they were, on stage together, celebrating all that they had achieved in their long and fruitful careers.


Chaka acknowledging that Stephanie was now the better singer, saying she beat her butt, and Stephanie paying homage to Chaka, admitting that she couldn’t compete with 10 Grammys.


Still, it was sad to see that Chaka seemed off, somehow. Wobbling onstage and mumbling her lyrics, stumbling to her seat and moving unsteadily. But even after seeing DJ’s we never heard of playing songs we didn’t want to hear, there was something royal about watching those queens take the stage.


Stephanie Mills brought out her son, who has special needs. She held his hand and crooned, I Never Knew Love Like This Before. And when Chaka stumbled, Stephanie held her hand, too. Then, when Chaka seemed unable to sing the words to her own song, she handed Stephanie the mic, and Stephanie sang the words for her.


This is not a competition, they said. And I believed them. Because when Chaka said she sings for love, and not for Grammys, I was transported back to the years when she won those awards. To the years when she and Stephanie Mills … became queens.
Photo: Chaka Khan and Stephanie Mills By. Roots
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