people keep asking me "how did i go from playing in a band to community singing?"
i moved to mexico in 2005 to learn how to drum and play the guitar. previously i had studied theatre in seattle and film editing in la la land.
i arrived to san cristobal de las casas with instruments hanging off me and the buskers took me for a musician and invited me to a jam where they quickly learned i did not know how to play instruments. they asked me to sing a song instead - so i did. they said, "hey you can sing, you know?" i didn't actually know. and that is where i started singing. in little jazz clubs in the mountains of chiapas. and it went from a hobby >> to my life over the years to come. i raised my kid on music. i played gigs 3-5 nights a weeks for over 6 years, toured as a back up singing for kalimba (a mexican pop star) and headed two bands that were inspired by pop, hip hop and neo soul. My biggest musical inspirations (in order) have been Sade, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott & Erykah Badu.
in 2012 I was invited to collaborate with a black and brown hip hop collective called Quilomboarte. this is where I became politicized, woke up to my whiteness and the advantages I was born with as a result. In 2016, Standing Rock was in full resistance and being a politicized white femme musician in Mexico, preaching to the choir no longer felt like where soul was guiding me. I knew it was time to go back to turtle island (after living a third of my life at the time in Mexico) and follow this calling to work with my fellow siblings of european decent to remember what we had forgotton: our roots, our songs, dances, prayers, ways of coming together in village, to remember our collective trauma stories so that we could be more present with the collective trauma stories of amerikkka that we participate in - knowingly or not.
upon arrival to seattle, wa - i immediately got involved with 350 seattle - where i joined the "defund DAPL" team and dove head first into frontline work for years. (this is also where i met my previous partner of the past 6 years and dear beloved: Alec - who was leading this work). I thought that I could offer my gift of music by playing benefit concerts, me and the guitar. And it was nice, I liked it... but when I would get home at night to sleep, my soul still knew that there was something else that I was supposed to be doing. It was nights like those that i would wake up in the early morning from dreams where i would be standing in a circle of over a hundred people - and when i awoke, i could still feel the rocking (swaying) of bodies together in toning and humming. "what is that?!!!!" I would lay there in bed thinking, trying to bask in that feeling for as long as i possibly could.
in 2019 we started watching, "eyes on the prize," a very detailed documentary series on pbs about the civil rights movement. after every episode i stayed most impacted by how song seemed to keep spirit alive in the movement. and so i called in a little experiment in seattle for an upcoming green new deal meeting we were having at city hall. i sent out a message to about 10 people to see if they wanted to collectively write a song we would sing together in the meeting. most of those 10 people showed up and we wrote a song and called ourselves, "the people's echo" - a group of climate and social justice activists bringing song to the streets for our movements of collective liberation. this was starting to make sense in my body.
less than 6 months later, the month before covid was declared a pandemic - in Feb 2020, we held a 2 day action that involved over 200 people on both days. day one was shutting down an ave in downtown seattle right out in front of Chase bank’s PNW corporate headquarters. (there is a video of this day if you search "stop the money pipeline - the people's echo" on youtube) and the 2nd day was entering a Chase branch in downtown Seattle where we held a grief ritual for all that we love, that we have lost, that we are losing and that we fear to lose. on that day, 28 of us decided to remain in the bank beyond the police’s request for everyone to leave. for the remaining time, the 28 of us stood in a circle around the grief altar and sang - as one by one, over the next 2 hours they arrested each of us. outside remained the other 150 plus people who sang to us as each of us were brought to the bus to head to the king county jail.
when we had our debrief meeting with about 50 folks, I was surprised to learn how much music from those actions were mentioned. in fact it seemed to be the main topic of our meeting. i was hearing people say things like, “I felt so good, I didn’t even need to go to church that sunday.” “It’s like we created a forcefield of something I don’t even know how to explain.“ One 40 year veteran, climate activist said, “That was the most heartfelt action I’ve ever been to.” And so on…
and I felt like we finally were onto something - and then singing quickly became one of the most dangerous acts to do during the pandemic - and things shut down for a very long time.
during the pandemic, song after song came to me (you can get them all - songs like "READY"). and when things started to open back up, i was very eager to get out there and sing with people. and the more i did it, the more the songs traveled and the more i sang, the more communities asked me to come sing with their villages...
this past summer, i was standing in a song circle... LISTEN. this blows my mind: i was standing in a song circle, with my mentor and chosen father - Laurence Cole. I had him on one side and a dear brother on the other side... and there was probably more than 100 of us. And there we were, in this circle, arms around one another, rocking, swaying, humming... and my whole body filled with chills as i realized this was the dream that i had had over 4 years earlier. this was it. this very moment. and tears streamed down my cheeks. and i was fully affirmed that i was doing what soul has been asking me to do, what spirit is using me as a vessel for. this. very. moment.