photo creds: Alex Kennedy
(This is the third part of a multiple-piece series on the one-year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape (sponsored by Bike Rack Brewing). This post features my recent interview with Fayetteville-based musical artist Jeremiah Pickett, aka: BAANG – Believe Aspire Achieve Now Go)
Music during a pandemic…
It’s been a very very interesting challenge trying to navigate being an artist in general. Releasing and dropping stuff right now, because on one hand if you think about it – do I even want to promote or put anything out? On the other hand, you kind of realize that art is the thing that brings us together. It’s the medium that’s most successful when pushing for anything. So it’s been tough actually releasing stuff but I’m also encouraged because I’ve been inspired enough to create and inspired enough to work so when the time comes and I feel like that voice needs to be heard I’ve got some stuff I’m excited about sharing with people.
I’m naturally a glass half full type of guy, but I’m also a realist. So I try to be honest if nothing else with myself. I try to avoid pacifying myself in blind hopefulness. I wanted everything to be rooted in some level of truth. I am hopeful for the future when I see things like this – right now is the only time in history where all 50 states have protested one single event, and in this case it’s injustice. There are people in Norway chanting ‘Black Lives Matter!’ I don’t know if there’s even black people in Norway.
People keep saying COVID is a disease and it is, and it should be paid attention to and it’s claiming lives. Equally as important is the disease of racism that’s plagued this country since the beginning of its’ time. We’ve shut down school and restaurants for COVID. We’ve ain’t never shut nothing for racism, but I think we need to pay that same level of attention to it. I’m hopeful when I think about the fact that conversations are going forward. I’m hopeful that the people who are much smarter than me who know to say yes there are injustices in this country and yes there are issues, and this is how we can tackle it. This is how we can dismantle the systems that were created.
I’m seeing a lot of young people that are educated and intelligent and zealous and full of energy and fearlessness, but some of the young people I’m seeing are very strategic. They are not too quick to jump in front of a bullet, but they also have the knowledge to know that energy and passion are nothing without organization. It’s encouraging because there’s something you can grasp onto as we move forward.
I’m seeing a lot of people either speaking out or not speaking out because it’s uncomfortable or can challenge our norms or our paradigms that protect us, but it’s really really cool and encouraging for those who have the choice to seclude themselves, but instead they are using their voice and platform to advocate and push for change and to learn. People should be encouraged, because there is no point of arrival with this stuff. We’re always going working towards and pushing forward.
I’ve been in a very interesting space. People have been asking me how I feel and my response is the same way I’ve been feeling the past 26 years. This stuff is a trend right now and is popular. It (racial tension, social injustice) has gained international attention. It’s the topic of conversation now so a lot of people are just now being enlightened and awakened to this disease. I’m black, and I’m black in the south. None of this is news to me. I don’t say that in a prideful or rude way. I’m just saying I feel the way I’ve always felt. This is opening other people’s eyes. Definitely when we see an unarmed man killed, or excessive force used on women of color – yes it shocks and pains us and deeply grieves us. That’s the harsh reality that comes with being a person of color.
photo creds: Jake Ruth
It’s been challenging trying to be intentional with tapping in and consuming information, and also trying to protect my peace. There’s an agenda to discourage and to cripple using tactics of fear. If the media can push all of these negative narratives and all of these tragic, disgusting, hideous videos and continue to feed us this stuff then it can get to a point of now, there’s no hope. It’s like it doesn’t matter what I say or what I do, things won’t get better. But I think there’s a healthy amount of information that we do need to see and we do need to be plugged into. That’s been a personal challenge – trying to find the balance of being engaged and detaching for my own mental health.
Finding that voice…
Finding my voice in the midst of all of this has also been challenging and trying to use my voice most effectively. Personally, I’m a delayed internal processor, so when stuff is happening (COVID, protests, race riots, hangings) instead of engaging immediately it takes me a little while before I can internalize and start to break down things.
It’s a challenge for me. Typically, I shrink as more intention is paid to me. I’ve never once told myself I wanted to be an artist or wanted to be in any position of influence where people thought that I was this unobtainable larger-than-life figure. I think as a kid it was just rooted in me watching their (famous artists) lives change once they reached a certain level of influence. This was off-putting to me because I’m a private guy and I think when people meet me, and they see my personality, they automatically assume I would like to do this or that. And I’m also a very willing person because I’ll do whatever you ask me. I’d rather set up the tables and chairs and clean up after the event, but if you need someone to host it – ok, I’ll do that.
I gain energy from recharging alone and being by myself. I’m learning to embrace the influence that God has given me and trying to learn how to steward it. It’s not going to go anywhere no matter how much I engage it or keep it at bay.
All of this stuff that is happening in the world has forced me to come to terms with what I value. I compare that with what’s really important. I’m thankful for having to spend a lot of intentional time with family. I think that’s why I can honestly say with all that’s going on that yes, I’m feeling all the feels and all the emotions and yes I went for a jog after Ahmaud Arbery was killed, and broke down crying from just the weight of everything that’s happening. And still there’s this constant presence of joy and I know it’s God-given and joy’s not circumstantial, but you can be joyous in the midst of crisis. I think a lot of that joy is intentional from whom I’m getting to spend time with. Hanging out with my brothers has been so fulfilling but by no means does it make you forget what’s going on.
My buddy told me that healing takes place in the context of community, so we mourn together and grieve together, but we also celebrate and rejoice and eat breakfast together. Surrounding myself with people who can encourage and uplift, and also hear, and be a shoulder has been my saving grace in these times honestly.
It’s a broken world…
You know I have to take you to church one time. My hope doesn’t come from this world. I subscribe to the faith of Christ so I believe that this is a broken world full of broken people in need of a savior. I believe that. Not only was I taught that, because honestly I don’t believe everything I was taught. I believe that from experience. I’m broken. I have a wicked heart. I’m sinful by nature and still to this day there’s a million things I need to work on and fix, but I’ve seen God show up in my life countless times. And so that’s where my hope is. It’s in knowing that God is not mocked and that he’s not a liar and that he’ll be back. His plan is to restore us completely and fully and so right now while we walk around weary and we’re hard pressed on every side but not crushed (2 Cor. 4:8). It’s our job to push for change, to fight for truth, to advocate for people. That’s our job. Some people take the stance of ‘God’s going to fix it.’ Yeah, He is, through us from the people he put here to carry out what he called us to do. We can’t just be passive and take the back seat. So, yeah, God’s going to fix it and you need to stop being racist. God’s going to fix it and you need to stop perpetuating white supremacy. We can’t just be dismissive and passively bow out.
I’m hopeful from what I see and I’m encouraged by the people putting stuff in place. I’m mainly rooted in that this is a broken world full of broken people and one day a perfect God is going to see us through.
Check out BAANG’s 2019 Bike Rack Records release “Never Goin’ Back” on Spotify.
You can find more of his original music on Soundcloud