On Watching Aretha’s ‘Amazing Grace’ During A Time of Crisis

When you live in a privileged white world of security, comfort and safety sometimes the instinct in the face of crisis is to turn away. Not because you can’t help but because it’s easier to turn off your TV than it is to actually look, listen and hear the pain of others less fortunate than yourself.

In fact I started this music blog as a way to distance myself from the world of divisive politics, toxic hatred, violence, ignorance and murderous masculinity I saw around me. I wanted to create a safe space for myself online away from reality. For a while it worked. I muted everyone that mentioned politics and hid triggering events from my timeline.

Eventually you realise that burying your head in the sand only leads to suffocation from ignorance. Over the past few months I found myself slowly waking back up. I began to watch the news again for the first time in years. I tried to listen.

And yet this last week or so I felt myself struggling again. I turned on the news and saw privileged people bending the rules to suit themselves. I looked out of the window and saw people more interested in socialising than saving lives. Then I watched another black man being murdered by white police. I felt anger, despair, and helplessness overwhelming me again.

So I didn’t tweet or even write a word in response, instead I decided to do what I normally do – turn to music. My choice was to watch the Aretha Franklin documentary Amazing Grace. Somehow it felt like by listening to the greatest singer of all time sing some spiritual songs I would find the comfort I was looking for.

As I watched the performance Aretha gave I felt the pain and power in her every note. Her voice could make the most ardent atheist believe in the divine. I saw her sweat out every pore of her being into the performance, saw men weep and women collapse through the power of what her voice can do. She sang the emotional truth of human history in those hymns. Watching her performance made me believe in the power of unity, equality, compassion, feminine power, forgiveness, grace. It made me believe in a better world. A change is gonna come. It has to start with every one of us.

So I know I’m just a blogger with no real impact but I vow to do better within my own small sphere. We must fight against racism. We all need to acknowledge the lack of diverse voices covered by most blogs and the lack of accountability for why we prefer genres where these voices have been historically excluded. Black lives matter. Black voices must be heard.

I will observe tomorrow’s music industry blackout and share as many black women’s voices as I can.

Be an ally. Listen and do better. Donate if you can. Solidarity matters. Together we are stronger than hate. Open your eyes.

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