Cliché: Your father is celebrated Texas Civil Rights activist Gene Locke. In what ways did your father’s invaluable work and life experiences mold your relationship to activism and your desire to enact change?
My father showed me the power that we each have as individuals to enact change. There is so much power that lies in each and every one of our voices. I know that at times it can feel like the system is so fucked that it is a lost cause. Don’t give into that, it strips you of your power. At this point for me activism has been so woven into my core that it is no longer a choice, rather an extension of my beliefs and sense of purpose.
What makes music such a powerful and effective conduit for issues that matter?
Music has the power to live in the listener’s consciousness. A lyric and melody can crawl into one’s mind and allow the listener to ruminate on a theme, an issue, or a feeling. You can feel someone’s soul in a song and that is infinitely powerful. I also think the shareable nature of music is a great tool for reaching different types of people.
Talk about your new EP, Why? (Lunar II).
The “Why?” EP is the second part in a 3 part series known as the Lunar Series. I’ve been very inspired by the lunar cycles of the moon and felt it would be a great visual metaphor for the project. With each EP I wanted to explore different sounds, themes, and parts of my personality. “Why?” is my heart. In many ways I wish I never had to write this song. I wish we lived in a world where this song was not necessary. Writing it was cathartic and the only way I could manage to ‘deal’ with what I’ve been feeling ever since the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012. Sonically we were inspired by what’s happening in modern hip hop and r&b, but also wanted some organic elements like the guitar part that has become the spine of the song. The addition of the gospel singers singing the word “love” throughout the chorus took it to the next level. I wanted to embed a message of hope in the narrative of the song. We’ve just filmed the music video and I can’t wait to share it with you all!
How can we better acknowledge and address the epidemic of anti-Blackness in this country?
In many ways, Racism is the original pandemic. Anti-Blackness is a global issue. It is a byproduct of the myth of White supremacy and the legacy of Colonization. In order to dismantle systemic racism and bias, we have to name it and call it out for what it is. Racism has thrived due to many people’s denial and refusal to listen to the points of view of those most affected by it. I, for one, am raising my voice even louder than before. I refuse to be intimidated into silence by the fear of making someone else uncomfortable. Guess what is really uncomfortable? Racism. It’s time for us all to do the work. Crack a book. Queue up a documentary. We have to learn our history as a Nation if we plan to change the future.
Your heart has been shattered in recent years by acts of terrible violence against the LGBT community and Black community – in particular the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016 and the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in the past few months alone. How do you cope with the ongoing trauma of both of your communities being under constant assault?
I’ll be honest, it has been a rough journey being constantly reminded of how much hate and ignorance there is in the world. Nature has become my sanctuary. I make sure to make time to be outside; be it hiking, a trip to the beach or even sitting outside of my apartment. Self care and open discussion with trusted friends and family who are willing to hold space for me has also been essential. I’ve also learned to establish boundaries and manage how and when I receive media. Starting my day with yoga and mediation to center myself before going online has helped me tremendously.
#SayTheirNames is a powerful track in which you recite the names of Black people killed by law enforcement. Why is it so important that we take time to value each individual life and story and not allow ourselves to get lost in statistics or the news cycle?
I think it is important to remember that each name, each “hashtag,” was a person. Each one of them, just like you or I, had families and friends and were full of dreams and aspirations. Who knows who they could have become. I wanted to make the song #SayTheirNames to honor them.
Why do you think it’s so difficult to compel people to personalize tragedy and see an attack on one group as an attack on all?
I think people have trouble seeing and attack on one group as an attack on us all because that’s the way our society has been designed. I believe that one of the most effective tools of oppression has been the implementation of a divide and conquer strategy. We have been divided into a “us” versus “them” mentality that ultimately leaves us all disempowered. We have been conditioned to look at tragedies outside of our own communities as being “outside” of us. Many will empathize, but truly we must all personalize. It is only when it becomes personal that we become creative about finding solutions.
Your EP asks “Why?” In this moment, we are facing a real cultural reckoning and struggling to reconcile how far we think we’ve come with the evil that still persists in the world. Allyship is more important than ever. What questions should non-Black and cis/straight folks be asking themselves to ensure that they amplify and protect Black and LGBT voices?
My advice is to be willing to decenter yourself from the conversation. Ask yourself before you post, is this activism performative or authentic? I point out this distinction because I feel like these are the questions that prepare one to be a truly effective ally. Now is the time for people to look inward and ask themselves how are they showing up, and how have they failed to show up in the past. This is not meant as an exercise to shame, rather an opportunity to learn and grow. By taking an honest look at the past, one can shape the future. I encourage Allies to continue to use your platform, use your voice. Let’s not let our activism be a trend, I want to see this same passion a year from now. And I don’t just mean sharing posts, I’m talking about having those uncomfortable conversations with a racist grandmother, a homophobic uncle, etc. I know that it can be difficult to speak up due to fear of rocking the boat, but it is that silence that has enabled oppression to thrive for so long. Lead with the heart and have an open, honest dialogue. Personalize it and tell them why you will not tolerate bigotry. I highly recommend doing some reading to prepare yourself for the conversation.
How do you intend to continue to dovetail your art with your activism moving forward?
Ultimately I consider myself a storyteller, be it through my lyrics, music videos, my acting or candid discussions. I want to continue to use my art to shine a light on different aspects of the human experience and give voice to the sometimes voiceless. I’m going back into the studio and I’m excited to see what comes out. I look forward to continuing to use my music videos as a tool for visual storytelling.