“The thing about healing is when you take that journey yourself, you are able to transfer that experience to others.”
Boston rap artist Jazzmyn RED’s new project is a platform—to call for change across the spectrum, and to remind listeners that self-love and forgiveness are revolutionary acts. Though the times are troubled, the timing of REDvolution is ideal for Black men and women facing complex obstacles, from emotional trauma to a physical lack of stability.
“The thing about artists is that we have the ability to create and reach people on a large scale,” RED said in an interview. “Music is emotion in so many ways. … We have the power to move our listeners. So when we put messages in our music that are made to uplift, make you think, console you, motivate you, people are going to hear it and feel those things.”
I asked RED about how she’s “influencing the youth on a major and minor scale with art.”
What are the ways we as the next wave of Black leaders can protect, serve, direct, and lead our youth?
Get involved. That is the biggest way folks can protect, serve, and direct the youth. A lot of people talk and have opinions on our youth but they’re not in the field. They’re not doing the work with these kids so their opinions are empty words. It’s as simple as identifying a young person in your neighborhood who needs guidance and showing up for them, working with them, checking up on them. Volunteer with a mentor program. I run a mentor program in BPS. If you’re in Boston and you want to get involved with high school kids and be a mentor contact me. But we have to start showing up for our youth. Your kids, my kids, his kids, her kids, they’re our kids and we need to get involved.
As a Black woman and creator, what’s one message you have for our youth and women of color?
My main message to the youth and women of color is, Don’t you dare give up. If you want something, if you want to do something, if you want to become something, pursue that with everything in your being. It’ll be hard, but I promise you if you keep going you’ll see why pressure makes diamonds.
What was your experience like working with the organization Black Ballot Power? How can individuals get more involved and help spread their message?
Working with Black Ballot Power has been a great experience. I was really honored that Horace Small, the president of BBP asked me to be a part of it. I thoroughly believe in their mission to get people of color to take back their rights and exercise their political power. I think all things are important—protests, civil unrest, good trouble—but voting is also a component we need to continue to add in to our fight towards equality.
How can you see yourself playing a major role in finding solutions?
I think that because of the high level of trauma in the Black community, people have a hard time escaping and beginning the healing process. Healing can also be dirty and difficult work and it is hard to begin that process. It can be scary to think of what your life may be like after healing, what you will have to go through to get there, and ultimately the changes that you will undergo.
One of the things I really needed to learn in my life was that I didn’t own the things that happened to me or what people did to me. However, the healing was mine, I owned that as a personal responsibility to myself. The thing about healing is when you take that journey yourself, you are able to transfer that experience to others. I hope to do that through sharing my healing process through my music. This is a continual process, a work in progress if you will. But my solution and positive action is sharing my story so that I can help others on their path to healing, both men and women, and as a community.
Who are some activists or public figures that come to mind when you listen to your own project REDvolution?
Definitely Tupac, Gil Scott Heron, Billie Holiday, and Queen Latifah—all of which used their art for activism. They used their art to discomfort the comfortable and speak on what was really happening in their communities and I hope to always do the same. I’d also say the Black Panther Party. I’ve always been really intrigued by the party and have always continued to learn about them.
My friends Pete and Charlotte O’Neal in Tanzania have really become like family to me and have continuously influenced and taught me so much. I’ve also read a lot of work and have been inspired by Assata and Afeni Shakur—both brilliant and powerful women. So much of what you hear in this project comes from these people from demanding adequate education, to loving ourselves and each other, to knowing when to be diplomatic and when to get busy.
What is the picture you are trying to paint with REDvolution? What is it that you want your audience to understand?
A picture of change. I wanted it to be a call for revolution in so many spaces. The criminal justice system, political corruption, sexism, racism, education, and to remind the listener that self-love and forgiveness of your past self is a revolutionary act alone. The most silent and sometimes even the strongest revolutionary act you can participate in. Simply saying I forgive myself and I love myself can change you inside and out and that level of acceptance radiates outwards. We need more of that because that’s what leads to the real work. I love myself enough to fight for myself and I love my people enough to fight for them.