Ephemeral Living

Last night I attended an outstanding premiere of a documentary that has been over 10-years in creation. Remember the wonderful music of cool, alternative hip-hop group from Atlanta called Arrested Development? (Yes, way before the show of the same name.) Speech (born Todd Thomas), the founder, lead vocalist and producer of the band’s tracks has been busy on a project to record four talented, incarcerated men at the Richmond City Justice Center in Virginia. The poignant documentary demonstrates the healing power of music alongside the terrifying reality of drug addiction and the difficulty of restraint once hooked. Their inner battles pour out of their souls in their lyrics. It’s certainly a program that every city in America should undertake in order to do our best to rehabilitate the incarcerated. I teared up throughout the entire film as it moved my heart to witness the power of human kindness. The plan is to release an album that Speech has just completed for the project.

People who grow up in a wealthy society with the constant push to achieve when one has nothing to begin with is a central tenet of the American Dream. Make something of yourself.

  • “It’s a she thing and it’s all in me I could be anything that I want to be.”                    ~Salt-N-Pepa, Ain’t Nuthin’ But A She Thing
  • “I know I can, be what I wanna be / If I work hard at it, I’ll be where I wanna be,”  ~Nas, I Can

An ephemeral moment in the 1990’s – songs about female empowerment and another for children of all colors to proudly sing about the American Dream (“work hard to be where I wanna be”) and that it’s there for the taking to conquer life and live free.  If only. Fast-forward to the past couple of years and it feels like we have been pushed back in time to the hate-filled history of retreading a birth of a nation. The intense backlash from 8-years of our first black President (and in my opinion, the best we have had in decades) reverberates around every city and county in America. The ephemeral joy of singing that we can be anything we want to be if only we try works for but a handful of Americans lucky enough to seize the moment in a synchronicity of the universe. Many African Americans live with the horrific notion that driving to the store might get them shot if they have a tail light out and our Latino/a populations dread they might get picked up in an I.C.E. raid on their way to or at work.  What kind of nation treats humans in this manner? The claim that this is a Christian nation is a sick joke. Real Christians don’t behave this way. People who believe in the values and work of Jesus Christ do not think this way. We have a minority of soulless individuals in power for a short time raping and pillaging the treasury and sinking this nation into a hellish abyss filled with fear and enmity.

The four men in the documentary titled 16 Bars (the film) each have a unique story of a life in a drug-addled repeat a la Groundhog Day–committing the same crimes after each release = recidivism. Their journey through music can help them change course. Be sure to watch this when you have the chance. Stay tuned.

About danaj33

writer * department chair of Broadcast Electronic Media Arts and audio faculty at City College of San Francisco * music composer and producer * always in discovery mode, learning, living, loving, and laughing.
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