*“No one is born a racist. People must learn to hate. But if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom.
Systematic racism is engrained in world societal culture. The debilitating effects of racism against people of color, specifically against Black people continue to the present day, with startling frequency and fervor. The pain of racism has always been expressed through music, poetry and art to make a poignant statement against systemic racism. Artists such as Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone and Curtis Mayfield have always expressed protest against racism in their sensibilities and compositions. The historic project “Black Lives – from Generation to Generation,” a conglomerate of 25 musicians from the United States, Caribbean and Africa seeks to pick up in 2022 where their predecessors left off.
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Stephanie McKay is one of the dynamic artists of color on the project, which consists of a multitude of artists, including Cheick Tidiane Seck, Immanuel Wilkins, David Gilmore, Marque Gilmore, Sharrif Simmons, Andy Milne, Kokayi, Sonny Troupé, Reggie Washington, Alicia Hall Moran, DJ Grazzhoppa, Adam Falcon, Jeremy Pelt, Grégory Privat, Marcus Strickland, E.J. Strickland, Oliver Lake, Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Gene Lake, Tutu Puoane, Yul, Marvin Sewell, Jean-Paul Bourelly, and Terence “Sub Z“ Nicholson. Stephanie McKay is one of many visionaries that hope to affect change on the global stage.
“Pure joy,” said Stephanie McKay, when asked what she hopes that listeners take from the project. “I hope they can enjoy the music and that there’s something that they can connect to as far as their experience as living as a person of color in America. Hoping it brings them joy.” Her single, “Phenomenon,” on the CD is a torrid, progressive jazz song that expresses her passion towards racism. “It was a collaboration with my husband (Jacques Schwarz-Bart) and my son (Ezra Schwarz-Bart) and a writer named Corey Dupina,” said Stephanie. “My motivation for writing the song, was my personal experience of witnessing how the emotional world of my son was reflected through his eyes. When it (racism) hits you on a personal level and you see how it’s affecting another generation, I really wanted to give him meditation and some kind of affirmation to remind him of his personal power to turn pain around into something beautiful, which is what Black people have always done in America and what they continue to do every day.”
Stefany Calembert, the executive producer of ‘Black Lives-from Generation to Generation” and husband Reggie Washington, who also has a single on the double CD, felt strongly about racism and its effects on society. “I have witnessed racism all my life and have often been deeply disturbed by the air of superiority and the hypocrisy of white people,” said Stenafy, who along with husband Reggie Washington run a company, Jammin’ colorS, a company she created in 2004 which does bookings, concerts, management, production and promotion for artists. “Even those who are not racist usually feel uncomfortable discussing the issue of racism, which remains a very taboo subject and a social ill we largely deny. As a white person, I wanted to do this project to open a dialogue about this worldwide mess. All too often the black community is left to battle on its own, but all of us must become aware of the daily reality of racism and the injustice and pain it inflicts.”
Stephanie McKay as a musical talent has worked collaboratively with many of the luminaries of music, including Anthony Hamilton, Katalyst, Mos Def and Roy Hargrove, among many others. ”Working with Roy Hargrove was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Stephanie McKay. “It was a career highlight for me.” She met Stefany’s husband, Reggie while playing in New York, which led to her work on the CD. Stephanie, however, is much more than her music. The artist, who is also an educator, is helping to shape the future, a future that has been somewhat clouded by racism. “Education is so important,” said Stephanie. “Education is everything. It gives you a key, a doorway, to understand perceptions outside of your own, and gives you the knowledge to make a change. It’s the key to liberation. I look at education as liberation.”
She grew up in New York, in the Bronx, and holds a BFA in modern dance that she earned from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. However, growing up there had an effect on her sensibilities toward music. “I grew up listening to the early pioneers of hip hop, like Grandmaster Flash, Kool Mo Dee and KRS One,” she said. “Everybody told a story of what they were living, talking about what they are seeing around them and those are the people I grew up listening to in hip hop.” Her music, however, is a lot more than hip hop. It has various influences, jazz and more, perhaps inspired by her family roots. “My dad played jazz, when I was growing up in the house,” said Stephanie. “He played Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane and my mom played soul music, all of Motown, all of the great artists, like Gladys Knight and Marvin Gaye.”
Indeed, racism is on the rise against people of color and other minorities. According to a Pew Research study, the rise of racism is startling. Most Americans (65%) – including majorities across racial and ethnic groups – say it has become more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views since Trump was elected president in 2016. A smaller but substantial share (45%) say this has become more acceptable. And people of color, specifically Black people, have been affected.
One can only look to the worldwide outrage of the senseless murder of George Floyd to recognize that racism, not only in the United States, but worldwide has not only not been fully addressed, but seems, in many ways to be rearing its head in new and frightening ways with incidents that are seemingly from the 1950s not in 2022.” I think it definitely was a watershed moment in history,” said Stephanie McKay when asked about George Floyd and the worldwide outrage. “All those kinds of things were happening all along, but it came to a place, a conversation that we hadn’t seen before. Where institutions and companies and athletes and entertainers – everyone was joining the voice of this movement globally unlike anything we’ve seen before. I feel it’s a continuing conversation that must be exercised on a daily basis.”
Artists all over the world are featured on this incredible, world-changing project, a statement of concern and protest through music, but executed from a prism of change and tolerance. Yul, one of the artists on “Black Lives: From Generation to Generation” expressed the sentiment of the project. ”Sincerity and love are in this album,” said Yul.
“Black Lives – From Generation to Generation” will be released today, March 25, 2022. For more information on how to purchase this historic project, visit: https://linktr.ee/blacklivesfromgeneration and https://www.jammincolors.com/projects/black-lives