Six-time Grammy award winner Mary J. Blige talks about courage, forgiveness and the touching new movie “The Help.”

Kam Williams | 8/16/2011, 12:20 p.m.

Six-time Grammy award winner Mary J. Blige talks about courage, forgiveness and the touching new movie “The Help.”

Mary J. Blige wrote and recorded an original song for the soundtrack of “The Help,” a film which takes place in Mississippi in the early ’60s. Based on the best seller of the same name by Kathryn Stockett, the movie chronicles the emotional journey of three very different women who embark on a secret writing project, breaking societal rules and thereby putting themselves at risk.

Hi Mary, thanks for the time.

Thank you.  

You’re not old enough to remember the era in which “The Help” takes place. Did the events in the movie resonate with you anyway?

Well, it resonated with me because I do know what was happening. She [Viola Davis’ character, Aibileen] is a survivor. She ended up surviving to be able to tell her story through her book. The only way she was gonna survive was through walking in love and forgiveness and that’s the only way I [have] survived  — by walking in love and forgiving people. And that’s what inspired the whole song.

My Aunt Larruper was a maid when I was a child, and both my parents are from Savannah, Georgia. And they would ship us down South every summer, so we got a chance to see a little bit of the help. My aunt was one of those women and she worked for a wealthy white family that loved her to death, like really loved her, and she raised their children just like Aibileen.

I wonder whether young people today will fully understand that segregation was the norm back then and not just being made up for a movie.

I think everyone should understand the history the same way we had to go to school and read about George Washington. I believe this generation should know their history and they should know that the struggle’s not over yet. For instance, you can’t get the cover of a magazine if your skin is too dark.  

I would suspect that there are still two sides of the track in Mississippi today. What would you say to young people about where we are right now?

I guess I would point out how in the movie Aibileen forgave them for treating her badly. Instead of getting angry and emotional, she walked off and she forgave them. So, I would say see the film based on learning how to live, how to walk in love and forgiveness.

Is there also a sense of understanding whose shoulders they’re standing on?

Yeah, definitely. It’s important for them to see how far we’ve come and it’s also important for you to see the courage we had to have. Someone had to have the courage to say, ‘I’m gonna talk to save us all,’ and, of course, I would suggest they see it for that reason, too. Someone had to stand up and break the curse and the cycle so we could all have equal access to what we’re supposed to enjoy in life.