Rev. Osagyefo Sekou and Jay-Marie Hill are creating music that provides the therapy that so many of us need. Writer, producer and lead vocalist Rev. Sekou is anything, but your traditional fire and brimstone preacher. He and his musical partner Hill are providing ministry through their music. Hill is a Black y Boricua, gender queer artist, mentor, arts administrator and longtime organizer for Black Lives Matter and #SayHerName activism.
In a haze of pepper spray the two met, during a Black Lives Matter gathering a year ago in Cleveland, Ohio. Rev. Sekou helped to wash the pepper spray from Hill's face in the aftermath of activists demanding the Cleveland Police de-arrest a wrongly arrested 14-year-old boy. It was there that the Rev. Sekou and the Holy Ghost were formed.
By Priscilla Ward*, AFROPUNK contributor
Unexpectedly, they reunited just two weeks later in Oakland, California, where they penned their debut album “The Revolution Has Come” in less than a week. Two months later they recorded the album in Sekou’s hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, where he currently serves as the inaugural Bayard Rustin Fellow.
“Just Sekou, the bass and myself is what this album first came into this world through - In my living room, Sekou and I just tryna get free by singing and playing our way there,” Hill said.
The nine-track LP was finally released in January by St. Louis-based record label, FarFetched in collaboration with the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Eloveate. The album honors Martin Luther King’s legacy.
Photo: April Martin
“This is music from the soul, music that honors Dr. King and the men and women who risked - and, like Dr. King - lost their lives in the fight against oppression and white supremacy. It pays homage to our ancestors, to all the giants of the movement from the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, to the new movement that has taken to the streets in a bold and unrelenting way since the murder of Michael Brown, Jr in Ferguson, 2014,” Rev. Sekou said.
Their debut album is beautifully strung together collection of tracks that mix sanctified rhythm & blues, with gospel, funk and freedom songs.
There are three movements in the album -Resistance (tracks 1-3), Rememberance (4-6), and Revolution (7-9). All three of the movements in the album provide enough room for people to have the full human experience, whatever their race or role in the movement may be.
“Sekou has simply been a clear mirror of what drives us both - Black Liberation. He has helped me teach myself that I am powerful and worth listening to, especially being a queer, genderqueer Black person raised in the tradition of resilient womanhood,” Hill said.
Photo: April Martin
The release of the album comes off of the heels of Rev. Sekou’s ‘Not Guilty’ verdict. He was arrested for kneeling to pray during a Black Lives Matter protest in front of baton-wielding police advancing on peaceful protesters outside a Ferguson Police Station.
The Reverend faced jail time of three months and a possible fine of up to $1,000. The only witness appearing for the prosecution was former Ferguson Police Officer Justin Cosma, who was behind a number of highly questionable arrests during the Ferguson unrest, including that of reporters Ryan Reilly and Wesley Lowery, as well as the subject of a civil rights lawsuit for allegedly choking and hog-tying a 12-year-old boy. Judge Joseph Dueker refused to allow this information to be told to the jury.
“It was clear from the rhetoric in court this was not merely a misdemeanor charge against a preacher who knelt between armed agents of the state and those exercising their First Amendment right to call for justice for Michael Brown. The entire movement was put on trial yet again, but even in the face of a concerted effort and a mountain of money, a jury found it not guilty,” Rev. Sekou said.
While Rev. Sekou and Hill have had their hands many different efforts surrounding movement building they are determined to bring healing through their music. Rev. Sekou and Hill, said that they hope people walk away after listening to the album with a deep bone-marrow-level conviction that Black Life is worthy of fighting for and loving on.
The authenticity of this album speaks to where much of black America finds themselves amidst the movement for Black lives.
*Priscilla Ward is a contributing writer to Salon. Her work has appeared on Health.com, Youngist.org, For Harriet, in Essence and Ammo magazine. She's obsessed with natural hair, bell hooks, sandwiches and really cool art shows. You can find her tweeting about running one moment and being black the next.