playlist: try a little bit of music therapy

May 14, 2019

“You have to act as if it were radically possible to change the world. And you have to do it all the time.” — Angela Davis

Innocence gets in the way. When we’re too concerned with being — or more accurately, with appearing innocent — we lose focus on the more magical things in life, like transformation, healing, and being able to witness justice.

Feminists like bell hooks and Angela Davis have created scholarship critiquing the very concept of innocence, and how healing is prevented by the innocent-guilty binary that encourages people to be motivated by shame of actions and thoughts, instead of the opportunity — the hope — that those toxic thoughts and actions can be transformed.

During a deep dive into R&B history on a sleepless rainy Friday night (cause: poorly planned nap, not feelings of guilt),  I began reading about The Edge of Daybreak, a soul band formed in the 1970s and comprised of incarcerated Black men.

The music is beautiful, but it was the sweetness in the men’s voices and production that brought me to tears. Often, talks about healing, justice, true beauty, and transformation happen in the abstract: seldom materializing as praxis, and hardly ever materializing as art. The Edge of Daybreak’s sweet soul music that soaked in my ears was a better argument for prison abolition than anything I had conjured during debates on the topic, because there was something in the music that is hard to articulate in theory: possibility.

This feeling of possibility rinsed over me as I listened to the sweetness these men provided and I began to consider the sugar I’ve denied myself to taste because I was told I was too wounded, too unforgivable, too distant from the location of innocence for people to imagine healing for me. And we all have these thoughts and feelings about people, situations, and ideas. And this denial and distancing from our own toxicity stops forgiveness from happening: both the forgiving from the community and the forgiveness of self.

One of the most powerful artistic presence in my life has been music. Music has helped me transform and the music has been the soundtrack to other transformative moments in my life, and I don’t see why this dismantling of the guilty-innocent binary should be any different. This is a playlist I curated of 10 songs that can be the soundtrack to forgiveness and the centering of actual radical healing and justice for the self and for others.