Panel Explores the Healing Power of Music in Communities of Color
A recent Berklee panel brought together prominent artists, community leaders, clinical experts, advocates, and students for a discussion on the healing power of music and the arts in BIPOC communities.
Hosted by the Africana Studies Division and Center for Music Therapy, the event also featured a performance preview for We Move in Color, a musical revue presenting the African American narrative through music, poetry, dance, and visual art. The performance—the full version of which played at Boston’s Strand Theatre earlier this month—tells a multigenerational story, from precolonial Africa through the epochs of the Middle Passage, the struggles and triumphs of modern America, and the aspirations of an emerging and increasingly digital future.
Songwriter and producer Gen Rubin, who won a Latin Grammy for his work on "Aqui Estoy Yo" by Luis Fonsi, produced the soundtrack for We Move in Color and was a featured panelist at the event.
“For me, healing has always been about the arts. It started more as a personal thing, but once my music started reaching a broader audience, hearing their stories and hearing other people’s music…it gives you that sense of community and healing,” said Rubin. “A step beyond that is then to take it and examine social causes. I actually have my young daughter to thank for that. She wrote a song about the #MeToo movement when that was going on, and it really struck a nerve for me.”
Other panelists included recording artist and actor Wyatt Jackson, who designed We Move in Color, and singer-songwriter and voice-over artist Anita Faye, who lent her voice to the revue.
In addition, the Reverend Liz Walker, a vocal champion and spiritual leader of Boston’s African American community, joined virtually to deliver an opening statement that kicked off the discussion.
“Black people carry generations of personal pain that predate slavery, that moves all the way down through history from the era of Jim Crow into the era of George Floyd,” said Walker in a prerecorded message. “But we use music and storytelling and all forms of music and the arts to heal our community. And it’s working.… Our creativity is healing because it helps us connect with all the parts of who we are, and that is how we restore wholeness in individuals and communities. Right now our world faces more chaos than ever before…. Somebody has to offer us a way back to wholeness. Artistic expression is what is being offered today.”
“If I don’t touch the instrument every day, I’m out of alignment.… The challenge is that we are often taught that we don’t have time to [pursue artistic endeavors] because that is a hobby and not a vocation,” said Dr. Emmett Price, dean of the Africana Studies Division. “My self-care is not a hobby; it’s mandatory. It’s a spiritual ritual for me.”
Berklee music therapy student Alecia Taylor rounded out the panel with powerful performance of “16 Shots” by Mykia Jovan.