Lorenzo Holder

Music

Exclusive: Artist and Activist Steff Reed Talks New Initiative And Single “Get Free” For World Mental Health Day

October 10, 2022

Steff Reed has long been a pivotal figure in the Brooklyn DIY scene. Existing at the intersection of art and activism, the singer/songwriter’s works seek to inject positivity and vulnerability into a scene that often fetishizes nihilism. His latest single, the soaring “Get Free” is the cornerstone of a new project he has embarked on to improve mental health care in the community. With his latest project, the ever-ambitious Reed has created something that is more than just one songwriter’s experience.┬áIn honor of World Mental Health Day, we checked in with Steff about his music and his message.

 

What was the inspiration behind “Get Free?”

The idea was to be a light in the darkness. Letting others know that they aren’t alone and that it’s okay not to be okay. I wanted to give hope to others by sharing my own struggle to get FREE.

How does it tie in to World Mental Health Day for you?

We live in capitalistic culture where our lives are curated for consumption. Which means that folks are incentivized and programmed to share the highlight reel version of their lives. This causes people to feel ashamed, jealous, left out, isolated, anxious, discouraged, and drained from trying to keep up appearances. Often bottling up how they actually feel and what they are really going through, further exacerbating the mental health crisis.

To me, World Mental Health day is a step towards normalizing this taboo topic that every single person deals with, suffers from, or is impacted by directly or indirectly.

On this day, let’s use this as an opportunity to be vulnerable, feel our feelings, process those feelings, heal together, and Get FREE.

How do you see the relationship between art and mental health?

Well, there is that old adage ‘There’s a thin line between genius and insanity’, right? I think there’s some truth to that…I believe that one of an artist’s super powers is actually the depth in which we feel our feelings, and take in the world around us. So when we talk about the relationship between art, the artist, and mental health; well you have to look at the artist’s creative process in its rawest form.

Connecting with spirit/the muse, tapping into our imaginations, to then process our traumas, and tragedies, and then alchemize them into art.

Often musicians and songwriters specifically, we can contextualize and name our emotions and the human experience through our art, in ways that are extremely difficult to do, through words or speaking. I believe that the artist helps humanity to feel seen and to feel understood.

Speaking for myself, the more work I’ve done on myself through therapy, personal development/life coaching, etc. has given me the tools to be a better human and intentionally create more impactful art.

What’s been the impact of your art on your mental health personally?

Through my art I have been able to synthesize complex concepts that I have learned in therapy and in life. The process of making art really challenges me to confront difficult emotions, thoughts, and insecurities. Making the type of art that I do, I have to investigate some of the darker, complicated, and scary places in my heart and mind. Specifically because I often feel compelled and called to use my pain and suffering as lessons for others. In being aligned with my purpose, and my calling, there is a divine responsibility to find meaning, to find deeper understanding, and to examine things, to help others to get free.

How does your art inform your activism and vice versa?

My approach as an Artivist is to make work that has the potential to inspire and help people heal, then I build movements from the work that embodies the messages and values of the art. The impetus for everything i do, comes from a place of deep curiosity and care; How can this help others? What is needed in the world at this moment? How can I be of service?

In 2014 i released “Frontline” and protest anthem in response to the murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin. From that i created the Frontline Exhibition, which was a traveling multimedia art exhibition and symposium that investigated the police brutality, racism in America, and Anti-Blackness (NYC, New Orleans, Chicago)

In 2017 I released “Power of Love” a song inspired by the travel ban, border wall and increased political division in the country. That became the title of my last album which was released in 2018…Flash forward to April 2020 during pandemic and the next wave of the Black Lives Matter movement, I launched a protest relief initiative called “The Power of Love Project” in collaboration with Judson Memorial Church. Our focus is arts/activism education for young people, protest relief, journaling workshops, micro-grants for BIPOC women, and mutual aid.

One of the flagship initiatives of The Power of Love Project, is Freedom Summer, an arts/activism summer school. Teaching young people to think critically, process their thoughts & feelings about the world around them, and learn to make art to speak truth to power. It is an incubator for freedom fighters.

Now in 2022/2023 we have the Get FREE initiative.

What organizations have you partnered with for this project?

To support “Get Free” the single, I started the “Get Free” initiative. Through my non-profit organization The Power of Love Project, I am hosting journaling workshops for folks in the community. In collaboration with the organization Repair The World, we have held them in NYC parks, and at festivals around NYC. I am partnering with KAVI to bring the journaling workshops to NYC high school students that have been victims of violence and are dealing with Trauma. With Chicago based organization Hope For The Day we will be hosting journaling workshops at their cafe Sip of Hope, and leading discussions around mental health on social media. There will be collaboration with Judson Memorial Church, which is the fiscal sponsor for my non-profit ‘The Power of Love Project. Also Yerba Mate is sponsoring the single release event in NYC.

The Get FREE initiative is still very new, but there is a lot of interest from folks in the community, including brands, organizations, institutions, and I am looking forward to helping to normalize mental health and help folks develop a solid personal mental health practice.

I believe that liberation of the people is possible through healing of the people.

What do you hope people takeaway from it?

I hope people takeaway that they are not alone. You don’t have to suffer in silence and feel isolated or ashamed that you’re struggling emotionally. It may be hard right now, but it gets better.

Also, specifically for Men, even more specifically Black Men. I want you to know that It’s okay, not to be okay. I hope to inspire them to embrace their emotions, insecurities, and know that vulnerability is actually a super power.

What’s next for you?

Right now, the focus is preparing to roll out the next album. To find the ways in which the project and its messages can manifest in the world.

I am in talks with several schools, organizations, brands, and institutions to collaborate and bring my non-profit organization and our programs to new communities.

Long term, I am planning to build my own school for liberation, create artist retreats, and a sociopolitical think tank. My vision is to cultivate and connect the next generation of genius change makers.

 

Keep up with Steff Reed on socials @iamsteffreed, and check out the kick-off event October 10th at RAKiT Club in Brooklyn from 6-8.

 

Get more info on The Get Free Initiative and it’s partners below:

Repair The World
https://werepair.org

KAVI
https://kavibrooklyn.org/

Hope For The Day
https://www.hftd.org

Judson Memorial church
https://www.judson.org/

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