The Music of a Faith Journey
As I finished reading through Exponent II’s latest issue, I was moved by many of the articles, particularly those that took me out of my own cultural context and gave me a glimpse of the struggles and triumphs of people I don’t encounter in everyday life.
For example, Laura Strickling’s interview with Camille Hughes, who has struggled with and overcome substance addiction, ended with Camille asserting that the LDS life “is a happy life. It’s real. Because I don’t have to fake the funk anymore, you know.” (Best. Phrase. Ever.)
But Crystel Bever’s article called, “Telling the Truth: Culture Shock, Hip Hop, and the Power of Authentic Self-Expression” particularly stayed with me. In this article the author speaks of her strict Mormon upbringing and family rules that were enforced with violence. In the face of this painful abusive upbringing, Bever escaped into hip hop music, the music of her poor bordertown, which inspired her with its originality and authenticity. She writes:
“But in the afternoons and late at night, after the intruding fingers had left me in confused and shamed isolation, I would sit with my ear next to my radio, the sound barely audible, listening and memorizing the music of originality, of power, , of aggression and resistance. Run-D.M.C., Salt-n-Pepa, the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy made me feel alive inside my husk of skin. My siblings and I lived in a culture of silence and isolation. We didn’t discuss with each other what happened in our house. So when Public Enemy rhymed in the summer of 1989…”Our freedom of speech is freedom or death/ We got to fight the powers that be,” I felt a craving grow inside me for that freedom, the freedom to tell the truth, to live authentically, to resist what was twisted and evil.”
She ends the article reflecting on the importance of Hip Hop music in her development as a person, saying, “As a child standing on the edge of the break dancing cipher, what moved me was not simply an art form. What changed my life was bearing witness to the human spirit’s struggle to find meaning and expression in the face of abuse and ritual silencing. I often return to that image as I continue to search for my own voice and my own truths… My challenge is to instill in [my biracial son] that same spirit of individuality and strength, forged not just by white intellectuals… but by philospher-warriors of the hood… who forge strenth from weakness, creativity from desperate need, beauty from ashes, and who always, always, question those voices that seek to demean and disempower.”
What gorgeous writing. And it has left me wondering if music has had anwhere near the same impact on my life as it has on Bever’s. Has any of it been truly formative in some way?
A few episodes come to mind.
- being really into Christian rock as a pre-teen. Kind of embarrassing, I know, but there was something there that inspired me.
- finding Tracy Chapman and being moved by the social conciousness in her songs
- being exposed to inclusive hymns at Sunstone and our local UCC. I was nearly in tears the first time I heard and sang “I Will Never Turn Away” which ends with “To the fragile, fateful beauty of this fractious human race, comes a church whose joyful duty is to wield this word of grace: male and female, poor and wealthy, every color, straight and gay, all who seek to find the kingdom, I will never turn away.”
Please share songs/artists which have moved you, which have shaped you, which have been deeply meaningful in your own personal journey. I think a lot of us reading this blog would just love some great suggestions for new music to explore.