My sister Bethany, a music major at Winston-Salem State University, has taught me how powerful music can be in terms of teaching lessons. As she explains, many people learn better through music because it connects them to a larger understanding. While I’m not a music buff by any means I’ve watched her for years teaching children and adults many lessons through a song. Matter of fact, I’ve watched her create songs to assist her own learning process while in college.
So when it was time to reinforce what we learned over the last three weeks in Beloved Community Center‘s (BCC) Pathways to a Green Career job training program, I borrowed this mechanism from Bethany to reinforce what the group of trainees learned in hopes of having a powerful experience.
We began week four with an exercise that would eventually lead them to writing songs about Pathways to Green Careers. Terence (a.k.a. TC), a local activist and long-time friend of BCC, and I began the morning with asking them to unscramble the following words that we have used the first three weeks: garden, community building, team, conflict, speak, cooperate, paradigm, prefix, job readiness, and solve problems. Next, we asked them to take one word and explain what each word meant to them. Finally, TC and I asked them to take any song that resonated with them and remix the song using the above words.
Once everyone completed that task, we asked each group about their experiences with the process. Their response included the following: Group 1: “We had no problems, matter of fact we ‘jelled’.” Group 2: “We had difficulty finding rhythm.” Group 3: “Once we recognized the different styles and skills of everyone we were able to complete the song.” Group 4: “Found the concept difficult but once we understood the assignment the process got easier.”
TC was brilliant. While listening to their responses he quickly integrated his experiences with music executives over the years and related them to the connection between this exercise and the beginning of becoming job ready. Before we called lunch break, we let them know that show-time at BCC would happen after lunch. We asked BCC staff person Tim Gwyn to video tape our participants. Within one hour we would witness exactly what Bethany had demonstrated to me for years: music is powerful in terms of teaching lessons.
Group 1 consisted of Donna, Ramon, Tim and Ladd. They remixed Beyonce’s Ego and they ripped it! It was evident that they understood Pathways to a Green Career.
Group 2 consisted of Damon, Alex, Nick and Darien. They remixed Akon’s Smack That, featuring Alex rapping and Nick serving as the Hype-Man. Alex took the words listed above and created a song that propelled Alex, one of the most reserved participants in the program, out of his shell.
Group 3 consisted of Mike, Terrence, Travon, and Steven. They remixed Till it’s Over and I’m Single by Lil Wayne and Drake.
Group 4 consisted of Mike, Quinn, Antwon, and X-man. They remixed 50 Cent and G-unit’s My Buddy and called their song My Garden, My Garden mixing in the thirteen words finding room to the to include the word ‘pesticide’ in My Garden, My Garden.
At the end of our taping TC talked about the connection between this unexpected exercise and working at a job, where you often get new tasks without any notice or explanation. The participants clearly understand from this process that at a whim’s notice you may be expected to produce a finished product.
Today was so powerful because not only did they include many of the words on the list, but they were all so intentional and graceful at including the word ‘paradigm’. We discussed this word when we came across it during week one of the program, while reading activist Grace Boggs’ description of politics and power. At that time, most participants did not know the word ‘paradigm’, and now they were using it to explain something important. It was clear to me that music had created a paradigm shift.
Post by Demetria Ledbetter.