Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls…(music) has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.
– Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Berlin Jazz Festival 1964
Black History Month is a time to honor and celebrate the many things that distinguish the Black experience in America. Exploring blackness is a multifaceted journey through history’s channels and rivers which flow into our present-day reality.
Black history transcends borders, nationalities, and even language.
Black history transcends borders, nationalities, and even language. Despite this, the faces that are connected to the expression of this prolific experience is largely erased, and thus, invalidated. In addition to Community Solution’s work writing about Racism as a Public Health Crisis, there are also black faces at the organization who experience the day-to-day struggles of race in America.
This becomes especially visceral when the everyday inequities that Black people face are made present through multiple components of our work. This can be a draining experience, to see people that look like you suffer from the same experiences that many of us carry in our own personal lives as well.
To combat this, music becomes a refuge—a retreat into the sonic world that elevates the spirit beyond present day concerns. To honor this depth of the Black experience at Community Solutions, we are going to spotlight our Black colleagues, who share a few of their favorite songs that keep us moving, grooving, and advocating for change.
My song: Lean on Me by Bill Withers
Why I love it: It helps me empathize with others, think less about my own needs, and instead be compassionate.
When I listen to it: Anytime
My Song: Real Black (feat Voices for Change)
Why I love it: I came across this song in 2021 in the midst of the pandemic and increasing media on violence against Black communities. It was at a time where I felt on edge very frequently, simply because I felt that my skin color made me a target (even more than usual). This song reminded me that my culture, and who I am is meant to be celebrated, and was an encouragement not to internalize the messages that I and other Black folks are inundated with every day.
When I listen to it: When I want a helpful reminder of the beauty of who I and my people are in our Blackness. And when I want to feel like I am at a family cookout without a care in the world, even if only for a moment.
My Song: I Can See Clearly Now by Jimmy Cliff
Why I love it: Universally uplifting and inspiring, full of hope, one of the lines goes like this:
“Oh, yes I can make it now the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for”
When I listen to it: It reminds me not to let negative feelings rule, pain has an ending. It also reminds me of the strength of my grandparents. They lived in rough times but they never let the rough times rule them. They always tried to give me hope and assure me that each day is a new gift. It’s one of my favorite songs when I’m facing challenges. It spurs me on to know I have nothing to fear and keep pressing forward. If my ancestors had given up, I wouldn’t be here. I see that clearly.
My Song: I Ain’t Stressin’ Today by Dear Silas (From the album It’s Giving SELF-LOVE!;
Why I love it: It’s a feel good song when I have a stressful day. The lyrics are positive and the music gives it an old school feel. I sometimes listen to artists who are up and coming, and Dear Silas is gaining more attention in the public, especially on social media.
When I Listen to it: No particular time of the day, but lately while driving.
William Tarter Jr.
My Song: Everything is Everything from the Album Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Why I love it: When this song came out, this was in the late 90s, and the lyrics really spoke to me. But it was the entire album that was so powerful and soul-stirring. From the rhythm, to the lyrics, it created an incredible mix of different genres of music: hip-hip, jazz, among others. It was and is timeless and remains one of my go-to albums today. It is really difficult to narrow it down to one song, but for where I was in life when it was released, to the various points in my life journey, it remains one of my favorites.
When I listen to it: I can listen to it anytime, honestly.
My Song: Shai – If I Ever Fall In Love (Acapella Version)
Why I love it: It reminds me of riding around the city with my mom, listening to the radio, and having full car concerts, loud and sometimes off-key. It was a great way to relax, enjoy the city and create lasting memories.
When I listen to it: I listen to it on my way home, or when I’m cooking, but it’s a great palette cleanser for work when I need a little break. The nostalgia of summer block parties and freeze pops that the song evokes is a great motivation to make that happen for others, if possible.
My song: Wede Harer Guzo, by Hailu Mergia & Dahlak Band
Why I love it: When a relative of mine passed away recently, this song played all throughout the house, and the despair of family and friends in the room turned to a sort of uplifting melancholy as the sun shone through the front windows of the house. I had another similar experience with this song when driving down the highway after a somewhat stressful day. At that moment, I knew that, even between the barrier of another language, music speaks volumes that no words ever can, capturing pain, harmony, and beauty all at once.
When I listen to it: To me, it’s the perfect song on a nice drive, cooking dinner, or to escape into after a long day.