I THOUGHT IT WOULD ONLY BE TWO MONTHS
REFLECTIONS ON #MUSICSERMON TURNING A YEAR OLD
This is the story of the first year of #MusicSermon.
One year ago today, I’d fallen down the deepest of rabbit holes, triggered by the 25th Anniversary of What’s the 411? and the “Real Love” video (specifically Big Lez’s choreography)…
After immersing myself in 90s videos for hours, I needed to share the feelings of nostalgia welling up inside, so I took to twitter mid-afternoon and posted a video thread about how We Danced Hard As F**k in the 90s.
I thought it was an entertaining and funny thread, and good for some “back in the day” reminiscing, but it took off!
People weren’t just RT’ing and liking the posts, they were talking to each other and sharing their own experiences and memories. It was communal.
Revisiting those early and mid-90s moments also prompted conversations about other acts and influential figures in early 90s music, so I was feeling ambitious and did another one the next day celebrating Queen Latifah, MC Lyte and Salt-N-Pepa.
(I was still new to the game and jacked that thread all the way up, though. It’s fixed in the moments link, but you can also read the longform version here.)
There were few more stories I thought worth getting out, but proclaimed I wasn’t going to become the “thread” person. The following week, I declared I was “preaching from the book of Uptown”, and a theme was born.
From that moment on we were poppin’ on Sunday’s, and I found a name for these threads: #MusicSermon. I figured I had a couple months worth of ideas to rock, plus a focus: the underappreciated, oft-overlooked, foundational artists, producers and elements of R&B.
Soon after, I realized it made sense expand the experience and keep the energy going with accompanying playlists.
When we started, I was posting around Game of Thrones. I’d start. Then pause. Then come back. Try to post through flights, on video sets, and there was the one week I literally took all night to complete an overly ambitious sermon (that’s when I realized it’s ok to split them up into a series).
Over those first several months, #MusicSermon’s community grew, we found our rhythm and style (and so many of you contributed to that in ways you may not even know), and we became a real damn twitter congregation. You appointed yourselves ushers, deacons, trustees and armor bearers (!), and started kicking off services with gifs that illustrated the buzz and activity around a busy church service. However, I was still telling people that #MusicSermon was temporary. That I was going to run out of things to talk about in a few months. That there was no way this could last but so long.
Meanwhile, it was garnering attention. Okayplayer reached out to do a story, Ava Duverney popped into service (and I almost passed out), then Lin Manuel Miranda joined the congregation after being converted through the New Jack Swing sermon, and I continued to be in awe of what we were collectively creating. There were also new, younger congregants coming who were learning from #MusicSermon, when I was initially focused on nostalgia. That’s when I realized what we really had here.
At the end of Feburary, I left my job. While I didn’t leave because of #MusicSermon, I decided to start consulting instead of going back to work full time in part so I could devote proper time and energy to MS, starting with making it accessible and easy to find off twitter. #MusicSermon now has a clear focus and Mission:
To tell the stories of and educate music fans on the underrepresented artists and eras of urban music in a light, spirited and easily accessible style.
To foster and maintain a spirit of community among #MusicSermon followers.
To be a trusted brand for education, entertainment and nostalgia.
There are so many dope plans and ideas that have been the works behind the scenes, but I had ambitious timelines for some (most) of them, working as one person. However, now there’s a team (yay!) and big ‘tings soon come! While weekly sermons will be the core of #MusicSermon for the foreseeable future, our focus in year two is translating energy that to activations and events.
But let’s recap a little of what we’ve done as a family…
You all made #MusicSermon part of your holiday vibes with our Soulful Ass Christmas playlist; we observed #MarchMadness with the 90s R&B Tournament; as a congregation, you created communal playlists — one gospel/motivational, one rallying/fist-raising — as soundtracks for living under this reckless administration; I went to spread the good word about #MusicSermon at Standord; you guys shared (and argued over) your music loves and loathings for #BlackMusicMonth; you’ve been repping #MusicSermon and your love of classic music eras through merch from our shop; we got love from The Root and ESSENCE (I’m still marveling over that); you brought #MusicSermon to your family cookouts, and we’re headed on our first congregational outing this week in DC!
Over the last year, there have been over 60 #MusicSermons and Devotionals. We’ve had artists chime in (or just peek in via like and/or RT), notable figures in music and culture join the congregation, and we still continue to grow. I could never have imagined a year ago that thread was the beginning of something, but I’m thankful. I created this platform, but you, the Sermonites, turned it into a community.
You encourage me and inspire me daily, you’ve offered resources, you’ve made suggestions and introductions, you’ve shared and proselytized. Because I feel a real responsibility to you, I’ve stretched and learned (not-so-secret secret: I don’t know all of this stuff off the top of my head! Ok, some of it, but still…). So thank you for a great year of this amazing community. I’m excited about what’s next!
THE SHOUT OUTS
I know this ain’t an album, but #MusicSermon has absolutely not grown by my strength alone. Feel free to scroll past this part… unless you want to look for your name!
SPECIAL THANKS (in no certain order) TO: Christine Fox, Salaam Remi, Leslie Mac, Cori Murray, Kevin Clark, Danielle Clark, April Reign, J Period, Timothy Anne Burnside, Trier Bryant, Dr. Adam Banks, Monique Judge, Stereo Williams, Huny Young, the Friend Zone pod, Pod Save the People, the FSG Pod, L. Ariel, Mary Lou Burkhart, Jon Caramonica, Whitney Gayle-Benta, George 2.0, TSAS and my entire crew, Jozen Cummings, the Circus Gang, and anyone who sent me a DM, expressed your love and appreciation for #MusicSermon, put a little something (or a not-so-little something) in the offering, or encouraged someone else to follow. And I’m sure I’m forgetting people, but I hope I’ve thanked you at some point directly. Thank you Nyesha and Jamsin for your passion and enthusiasm and belief in the brand and in me.
Also, a very special thanks to Amalia Viti, Angie H, Corey W., Bernadette Robinson, Blair Kelly, Shannon Jones, Brian Sargent, Caroline Moore-Kochlacs, CJ Benton, Courtney Holcomb, David L Oliver, Gustav Minta, Janice Suals, Jill Holloway, Katura Hudson, Kimberly Pleasants, Kisha Ward, L Joy Williams, Lydia Lowe, Max Ornstein, Michael Alston, Oluseyi Sonaiya, Patrick Pascual, Rahona Sullivan, Raven Dailey, Jozen Cummings, Sarah Williams, Sharene Shealey, Timur Kolchinskiy and Vikram x3 for being regular supporters of #MusicSermon through Patreon (ya’ll are awesome).
Last but not least: to my sister, my babes and Mom — I don’t have all the words. Thank you.
THE GOOD STUFF
If you’re relatively new to #MusicSermon and need to go back through the sermons, the index contains all the sermons and devotionals in chronological order.
Looking for a specific #MusicSermon? Want to experience them in their original format instead of as a longform blog…medium.com
If you don’t already subscribe to the #MusicSermon playlists, what are you waiting for?!
I’ll see ya’ll in service!