Words by Okara Imani
Just five minutes on Reverend Dr. Alisha L. Jones’ website and suddenly I’m in an assembly hall, the rich air wafting the warm, effervescent cocoa butter and essential oils through a room of creators and makers, eyes and ears trained on the woman at the podium looking and laughing and shining like us. I imagine myself consulting her musicology expertise for research passion projects and grant applications, becoming faint with excitement because I can see her doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing someday when the stage stops calling and it’s time to compile and share the worlds of music I’ve lived and learned. It’s also possible she can be the skilled and loving doula to help me bring forth life!
I find it fitting that Dr. Alisha blessed us with a Melanated Moment in #BlackGirlMusic for Season Three, which is graced by the presence of the majority of Black female composers! I can’t lie, this season invokes a whole lotta “same sis” from your girl; major key identifying with the nuances and joys of the Black woman’s experience in music. The stage onto which I emerged — when I finally began my true journey in my craft is — one set on a foundation of loyalty, safe place-making, nourishment, and growth amongst pros, veterans, and young bloods alike. And I can say that it has led me to cultivate a home in my city and within myself, encircled by a myriad of stunning and powerful and soft and bold women in music. I delight to hear that Dr. Jones is a fellow Blerd, self-identifying; that she’s a living, thriving representation for Black girls with broad, international tastes in music and food. I about hollered when she shouted out the Listen to Black Women movement that trends always in our hearts if no longer on Twitter!
Listening to her speak, the validation was surreal and effortlessly gifted — maybe even especially while repeating in perpetuity — as I edited transcripts of her interview? I’d like to imagine it’s akin to her looking to her partner in multi-media mastery and seeing a sister in purpose and profession and blood. I see it in the way she began her deep dive into archives and anthologies of Black women’s music, following the illustrious incantations sung by Professor Patricia Miller within the hallowed walls of Oberlin Conservatory, another sister. And this mirrors, again the spirit of sisterhood that nourished the meeting of minds between Marian Anderson, receiving, performing, composing Black women’s music, and Florence Price, bravely proving just how much ‘natural Black material’ our people have to bring to the classical art form. Price unshakably represented a radical acceptance of her Blackness and her femininity in a time where the Euro-centric music institution and the white men would have her think neither belonged in classical music at all. I even got to hear of friendship between Reverend Jones and prolific concert pianist Dr. Samantha Ege, whose passion and vibrancy is captured in her performances of Florence Price’s Sonata in E minor — in itself, a statement illustrating how Price’s bold way of taking up space in the classical realm translates into the experiences of her musical descendants.
We need the sisterhood retold and re-lived by Reverend Dr. Alisha Lola Jones — an ethnomusicologist and consultant, lecturer and doctor, co-owner of the Paradise Media Group, one of two ordained sisters, lover food and music styles the world over, and self-proclaimed Blerd — we need her to reflect us, from every corner of the world where Black women rise above the shadows cast by a capitalist, systemically racist patriarchy. So Marian reflects, Florence reflects Prof. Miller, reflects Dr. Alisha L Jones, reflects Dr. Samantha, reflects me. And me? To any Black woman, girl, reading this: I reflect your light. I reverberate your wavelength. You are my sisters, and the music we make, in any form, is #BlackGirlMusic.
Listen to this episode of the Melanated Moments in Classical Music podcast.
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