On Friday January 20, 2023, Arts & Faith St. Louis presented an evening of performances centered on the issue of mental health in the Black community.
The event was created by poet Rachel Aaliyah Jackson and featured dance, music and poetry by Jackson, Bobby Jay, Llord Tha Creator, Emeara Shanise and Slaazo Kidd.
Watch the full concert here or follow us on social media for excerpts of the event.
In 2022. Arts & Faith St. Louis commissioned a poem by Rachel Aaliyah Jackson, which was choreographed to an original dance by Arica Brown and the dancers of Consuming Kinetics Dance Company. The work was performed in November 2021 at The Marcelle in Grand Center.
Jackson’s poem “÷” (“Division”) examines the literal and figurative divides of race and class as symbolized by the Delmar divide. As a native of St. Louis, she states that she has grown up witnessing segregation and the poem is a call to embrace differences. Jackson is a student at Webster University majoring in Music and Audio Engineering. The recent graduate of Metro High School was a finalist in the Teen Talent Competition, held each year at the Fox Theatre.
“I want people to hear my voice not just as a black woman, but as a daughter, a mental health advocate, a leader, and poet,” says Jackson. The commission was made possible by an anonymous donor.
Choreography by Arica Brown in collaboration with dancers Cyrus Coble, Nadani Dixon, Coralie-Michele Francois, Kevin Lee, Carly Lucas, Ana Nishioka, Izzy Perry, Josephine Starr, Jazzmon Thomas and Kaitlyn Whiteman. Poem by Rachel Aaliyah Jackson.
By Rachel Aaliyah Jackson
Makes me think about separate but equal.
Look it up.
Even its sign resembles some type of hierarchy.
Draw it up.
It’s repeatedly subtracting black bodies from my city.
‘Cause ever since Micheal Brown STL ain’t been too pretty.
It why you won’t listen to this young black woman’s voice
These words fall from my lips I call it music you call it noise.
But don’t pity me
‘Cause I am the epitome
Of a life doing a 360
But life taught me about hope
Life taught me that St. Louis ain’t gotta struggle no moe
Once I gave my heart to Yahweh
He gave me new opportunities
I’m no longer following Yall’s Way
Is what separated a sinner (center) from a point guard you see
The ball is in His hand
I’m posted up
So He can dish it to me.
Listen to me
Helping my city is a mission to me
In addition to thee
Transition to be
The better me
Focusing on expanding unity
In my community you see
To be honest, we’re more divided than ever
Different religions and race
Hating is what’s bringing us together
But I got faith in us
The first step to building a new foundation is trust
Hand in Hand one step at a time we must
Learn how to love ourselves and forgive the past
Let’s recycle positive energy and throw negativity in the trash
At last, I must ask
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Will you still be the same or have you overcome your fears?
I know you hear the repetition in my poem
But sometimes it’s hard not to get violent like Malcolm
X-MAn here comes the Storm
Ing the capital
After that, I had to take a sabbatical
Tryna register all this collateral
Damage to my country
While I was trying to focus on school
Some of my peers thought it was funny
But I’m not here to talk about politics
I’m here to talk about harmony
Like the time I fell in love with music at the Powell symphony
I watched as the conductor lifted his hands
before the music began
I felt at peace
His right hand danced leading the beat of the orchestra
But it was something about the left hand that made me feel free.
Like Leonard Bernstein
The music moved me
It was magical like Carlos Kleiber
I listened to the harmonies, the unison, the love,
Even though each instrument was different it sounded beautiful
With my poetry, I want to be the conductor
I understand that each one of you is different
But all you have to do is take a second and listen
Listen to the words that fall from my lips
Listen to my words that I call music
Listen to the voices that were once quiet
Listen to the people and listen to the riots
And try to understand each other.
Unity is about accepting our differences
That’s what make orchestras and symphonies so beautiful
Despite the division, they manage to come together
When we come together we can create harmony
Poet Rachel Aaliyah Jackson was a finalist in the St. Louis
Teen Talent competition
Stories of Hope
On May 2, 2021, Arts & Faith St. Louis presented "Stories of Hope" to a virtual audience in the St. Louis Storytelling Festival. The four stories were inspiring accounts of moments in history when the arts united people of differing faiths and cultures.
Timothy O’Leary, former General Director of Opera Theatre St. Louis, now head of the Washington National Opera, describes the dialogue between the Jewish and Muslim communities that preceded a controversial Opera Theatre production of "The Death of Klinghoffer."
Duane Foster, professional singer and teacher at Normandy High school, tells the story of how music brought the St. Louis community together in the immediate aftermath of Ferguson.
Carole Shelton, retired educator and author, tells a Missouri slave narrative based on an
actual interview from the W.P.A. Federal Writers Project.
Chris Sutton, storyteller and actor, portrays in costume a St. Louis-born Union soldier who witnesses the creation of a new bugle call that became the anthem "Taps."