Syleena Johnson (Photo by: chicagodefender.com)

By Tia Carol Jones

Singer/songwriter/talk show host Syleena Johnson may be living and working in Atlanta but she is Chicago through and through. Johnson sat down with the Chicago Defender during a recent trip where she headlined Bantu Fest. Johnson talked about “Sister Circle Live,” her new album “Woman,” and where she goes to eat when she comes back to Chicago to visit.

In the second of a three-part series, Johnson talks about her upcoming album, “Woman.”

CD: So, let’s talk about my favorite part. The music.

SJ: The new album is called “Woman.” It’s dedicated to women: based on what we have had to endure in this country and in general. How we’ve been disrespected. We’ve been disregarded, how we’ve been sexually preyed upon, how we’ve been shunned, not listened to, not taken seriously.

So, this is an album that kind of celebrates us and it is coming from our heart, you know our perspective. It’s trying to explain who we are, how we feel. There’s a song on there, called “I Deserve,” where we talk about what we deserve in a man. There’s a song on there, called “She-ro,” which talks about a woman who will be there for her man.

One of the misconceptions is that women do not celebrate our men, and that is not true — that is not true one single solitary bit. We absolutely do celebrate our men. we are not being celebrated enough by them.

So, it’s just basically an album that comes from a woman’s heart, you know, and I think there’s been a misconception and a misunderstanding of how we really are, especially with black women. I think we are viewed as angry and difficult and I think that that prevents us from being able to even communicate properly and bridge the gap between male and female.

CD: When is the album set to be released?

SJ: We do not have a set street date. But we’re looking at fall, late September, early October. There will be a pre-order link up in the following weeks. We’re still in the process of mixing and mastering the album. Once the pre-order goes up, you’re going to get two gratis singles — “Woman” and another one. And then, as time progresses, we’ll probably release five gratis singles before the album actually drops. So, if you get the pre-order, you’ll also get like a single here and there and then when the album comes out, you’ll get the rest of the album.

CD: And, speaking of “Woman.” I watched the video on YouTube and that opening visual of the women in black is very powerful and strong. Is that what  you were feeling you wanted to convey when you (created the video)?

SJ: Yes, I feel like there have been a lot of images showing us being abused, weakened and I felt like that’s not just who we are. You know, we’re strong and lit, as well. We’re very lit. Especially black women, you know!

And, I wanted to give an almost black panther tease to it. So that it’s like a revolt, revolutionary, standing up for your rights, loving on other women which was indicative of the women walking and giving me different things, even though it was like jewelry and necklaces and different things. It was like, “come on girl. Let’s get your stuff.” Kind of like we need each other to continue to progress. I just wanted to show us in a strong front. Our president saying disgusting, vile things and actually getting away with it, being disrespectful telling those women of color in Congress to go back where they came from. You know we’re in a time right now where it is okay to be disrespectful towards women, the mothers of the earth, the women who birth and go through nine months of anguish and anxiety carrying a child to then push it out of their body. We should be celebrated for that alone, you know, not to mention everything that we do as nurturers to help continue making the world go around, what we’ve invented, what we’ve created. So, I just wanted to show us in a strong visual: a strong positive visual. Not just a weakened, beaten, or ignorant, immature state.

CD: And so, I love the lyrics, “and if it’s a man’s world then the world is yours because woman gave birth to the man.”

SJ: I mean, I don’t know what else to say. If it’s a man’s world then how did you get here? That means that everything that you have is because of a woman. If my son, if it’s is his world then it’s very much mine because actually I had him. These things are not taken into consideration. And another thing that irritates me about this country is when it comes to women or just men in general, if we dig up or put out a highlight on what women have done. It doesn’t mean that it takes away from what you’ve done. Turns out we were right here with you.

CD: And, so for me, that song seems like it’s an anthem?

SJ: I’m hoping so, child. I’m hoping that it can be an anthem. I wrote it to be an anthem. I wrote it to be something that a woman can hold onto, especially because of the whole dumb slogan “Make America Great Again,” which is so dumb because America was never great if it was built on slavery. Please explain to me, for black people, where it was ever great. So that’s dumb to us. It wasn’t really great for women either, we couldn’t even vote. So, with that being said if you want to “Make America Great Again,” you need to start respecting your women but women have to stand up and rise up and not be afraid to speak their mind. And then, we can’t care about what people think and say about us. We have to work together because there’s strength in numbers. We can’t keep working against each other within the infrastructure of women when we have to stop competing with each other.

CD: What was your mindset when you were creating the tracks for the album?

SJ: I was upset. Frustrated. Working with “Sister Circle” you have to be like a low-key reporter and a journalist. So, when I come out there to do a top of a show, I’ve already gone through a myriad of different stories and topics. And it might have been the one when the police threw the woman down and had her breast come out or it could have been some sexual charges or our president could have said something stupid. You know, and then it might have just annoyed me. So, I went in the studio and all of this is happening all at the same time. I just wanted to say something to us to keep us strong. You know, it’s like anything — you can always use racism because at first, if you think of anything negative, racism it is, or slavery. It’s like with anything if you keep having to be in something all the time, you’re going to get frustrated and you’re going to feel oppressed all the time and it’s stressful.

This article originally appeared in the Chicago Defender.

On Sisterhood: Syleena Johnson Talks About Show, New Music

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