When The Black Students’ Alliance (BSA) began thinking about a theme for this year’s BSA conference, music immediately came to mind.
“Music has brought black people together for the longest time,” says BSA conference co-chair Leigh Miller ’18. “Happy, sad, any emotion: music is in it somewhere.”
And so the BSA has organized a February 3-5 weekend of performances, workshops, panels and more built around the theme of “Can You Hear Us Now? Music and Media in the Black Culture.”
A conversation with India.Arie will highlight the conference. The Grammy Award-winning R&B singer will talk about the influence music has had on her life and about how music has affected the black culture, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4, in John M. Greene Hall. The event is open to the public, but tickets are required. For details on ticket availability and pricing, see India.Arie Ticket Information below.
In addition to the India.Arie keynote, the symposium features a Friday, Feb. 3, spoken-word performance event, as well as Saturday workshops on topics including hair exploration, hip-hop dance in black culture, freelancing in the entertainment industry and more. Symposium registration is required.
BSA organizers believe the biennial event will enlighten and impart a stronger appreciation of how music came to be and also spark conversations throughout the year.
“Music has always been a go-to for black people in times of difficulty and hardship,” says Amina Khan ’19, co-chair of the BSA conference. “We hope this event will inspire people and bring them together in a meaningful way.”
India.Arie Ticket Information:
This event is organized by the Black Students’ Alliance at Smith. Tickets are required, and will become available Thursday, Jan. 26. Tickets may be purchased in advance between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays in Room 106 of the Smith College Campus Center and will also be available at the door.
Ticket prices are as follows:
Smith Students: One free ticket with an ID
Five College students: $5
Smith and Five College faculty/staff: $7
General admission: $10
About India.Arie — Official Bio
Born in Denver and later relocating to Atlanta as a teen, India.Arie went from “singing under a tree in the park” to the Grammy Awards stage in five years, earning seven nominations for her 2001 double-platinum debut, Acoustic Soul, featuring her first hit single “Video.” That was followed in 2002 by the platinum-selling “Voyage to India,” 2006’s gold-certified “Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship” and its 2009 sequel, “Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics.” But despite 21 Grammy nominations, four Grammys and 10 million albums sold worldwide, something was wrong.
“In 2009 I let go,” recalls India.Arie. “I realized I had to seize the chance to make the career and life I wanted, not accepting what others wanted me to do. So I decided to retire, asking God to show me where I am supposed to be.”
Music did eventually come back into her life through a series of vulnerable songs she began writing for a self-funded new project called “Open Door.” But three years into the project, she shelved it. “I was confronted by the same questions,” says India.Arie. “Who are you? How are you shaping the big picture of your life?”
Exhausted from writing and recording “Open Door,” the singer didn’t feel like doing another album. But instead of waiting another three years, she took a day to pray. Six months later she finished “SongVersation.”
“That was my first glimpse of a new resilience, of stepping into my power,” she recalls. “It’s about not having anything to prove except to simply express myself because it’s who I am—not as a means to an end. Chasing that and topping that is not me. It’s about being more me in both my life and career.”
She recently embraced the former by expanding “Soulbird,” her label imprint, into a multi- faceted company housing her other entrepreneurial endeavors: jewelry, apparel, merchandise, film and TV, music and book publishing. She’s also ready again for fans to hear India.Arie, the singer/songwriter.
“I wasn’t ready until now,” she says. “I love where things are on and offstage. I trusted my intuition through every line and note of every song on this album, following the flow. And the ease of the flow is always a sign that I am in the right place, doing the right thing. And that is all I’ve ever wanted. I created ‘SongVersation’ from that place.”