Surprise — 2021 won't be better than 2020 unless we make it that way, and we can!
If the name didn’t give it away — or, if you didn’t already know — I’m Black. Raised in rural Illinois, I spent a considerable chunk of childhood in Mississippi. More about that later. For now, what you need to know is that I grew up attending Black Southern Baptist churches. (I’m no longer Baptist. I also don’t live in Mississippi anymore.) Besides the tiny, little, old, dark-skinned ladies dressed as nurses who waved paper MLK fans as people “got the holy spirit”, gospel choirs are one of my favorite things about growing up in the Black church.
There’s a Balm in Gilead.
It’s the title of a song based on Old Testament scriptures. If you didn’t grow up Evangelical, or attending pretty hardcore Judeo-Christian churches, you might not know this: Bible chapters (called books) are usually just chopped up letters written by different people. As the story goes — in Jeremiah 8:22 — when his people were hurting, he asked:
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no recovery,
For the health of the daughter of my people?
You know it from The Handmaid’s Tale. Gilead is also the name of a beleaguered American biopharmaceutical company that makes antiviral & antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Biblical, it’s also the name of a Middle Eastern mountainous region located in what is now Jordan. Back then, the place produced an herb that healed the sick. Much like the Bible verse, the gospel song There's a Balm in Gilead is about helping wounded people who are hurting. Here are a few lyrics.
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul
Here’s audio of Mahalia Jackson singing the tune.
You probably know the word “balm” most commonly from “lip balm.” Balms soothe. Balms restore. At this time in our country, a balm is exactly what we need.
Based on organ and crowd sounds I know so well, I can only assume Mahalia’s singing at a Black Southern Baptist church — though, I could be wrong. Because gospel is the basis of most American music, pop culture hits often mix it in. It goes the other way, too. In fact, at my Mississippi church, we often meshed refrains from Bob Dylan’s hit Shelter from the Storm.
“There’s a balm in Gilead … shelter from the storm.” 🎼 🎵 🎶
Ah, yes, The Storm. Surely you’re keeping up with what’s going on in DC right now. To do that, you’re probably reading online newspaper articles or watching TV. Those people learned to write, and speak, as their profession. The craft of writing is literally an art.
The arts are a balm, and we should support them.
Americans for the Arts reminds us the arts are essential — to our health of ourselves and our communities. The arts:
improve the quality of life in our cities and towns;
enhance community development;
spur urban renewal;
draw tourism dollars; and
attract new businesses.
As you may know, I run a Black and woman-owned small business called FUNKY BROWN CHICK. We have two lines of business. On the arts & entertainment side, I write, teach, perform one-woman shows, etc. about sexual and reproductive education, rights, and justice. On the other side of the business, my team and I help social justice oriented small businesses and nonprofits really kill it when in comes to digital marketing. In other words, to help make the world a better place, FUNKY BROWN CHICK uses every stage, page & screen available at our disposal.
As an artist and entrepreneur, I've long known creativity, innovation, imagination, and commerce are vital to both small business and creative endeavors. That’s why I couldn't be more thrilled my firm is partnering with the National Endowment for the Arts, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The Actors Fund, Americans for the Arts, Recording Industry Association of America, and talent including Golden Globe winner & Oscar nominee Annette Bening, musician / founding member of Earth, Wind & Fire Verdine White ... and more!!
We're presenting #StarringRole: Arts & Entertainment in the Pandemic Era. Just when we need them the most, the arts are suffering. So far, during COVID-19, the creative sector has lost approximately 2.7 million jobs. Pssst! If you’ve seen TV and TikTok clips of everyone fangirling and fanboying over Mayor Bowser’s sign language interpreter, that’s Billy Sanders. Folks who’ve attended my theater shows might recognize him because he’s our interpreter, too. During a typical show, we hire assistants, lighting folks, sound designers, sign language interpreters, etc. The arts are a jobs creating engine.
The arts could help make everyone’s life a bit better right now. Here are 5 recommendations. Thoughts, of course, are my own.
1. Enjoy the arts
Read a book, listen to your favorite music, draw, paint, or write. Whatever artistic endeavor brings you pleasure, do that. Right now. Enjoy it. If you’re into Netflix, I recommend Bridgerton, My Hotter Half, The World's Most Extraordinary Homes, and other fun shows to calm your brain.
2. Support the arts
You know that thing you did in #1 above? Someone created it. Thank them. Buy their book. Give them a shout out on social media! Purchase shit from their Shopify store. Upgrade your subscription to this newsletter to the paid version. Artists, like you, have rents, mortgages, and other bills to pay. If you’re enjoy creative products, why not chip in to help support artists who create them.
3. Register for #StarringRole
Monday’s event is an amazing collaboration of fantastic individuals and organizations. I couldn’t be more pleased to be part of the group. Join us. (It’s a free event.)
4. Spread the word
About number three above, I hope you can come — even better if you invite a friend or two to join you. I’ve already posted about it on my Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Feel free to retweet and share those posts, or create your own.
5. Protect the U.S. from bad leaders
Ah, yes. If a leader incites violence in a way that makes them too dangerous to be on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Shopify, etc., that leader is too dangerous to occupy the White House.
So many people saw this coming; I encourage those who didn’t to take a moment to learn and reflect.
Creative artist and filmmaker John Waters once said, “If you go home with somebody, and they don't have books, don't fuck 'em!” I’d take that a step further and say: “Don’t elect political leaders who neither read books nor respect the arts.”
We deserve a better, safer, more creative world. With liberty and justice. For all.