My Luck Dragon

 

One winter evening long ago, I was out with Dave and our friend/band member Ben Jaffe when we stopped by “The Thing,” an awesome secondhand shop in Greenpoint filled with extremely strange and wonderful objects. Ben picked up an old dusty piece of art in one of those gaudy brass frames and said, “This one’s from the Willy Wonka art dealer!” We giggled then took turns offering up commentary on other random items.

But the Willy Wonka art dealer stuck with me. I wondered what else he would buy and sell, how he would describe each piece, what his voice would sound like. He was probably creepy. I would probably want to hide from him.

The lyrics to this song started from there then grew into an outlet for my angst and anger over being young in America – how we were left with a recession, a broken society, a dying planet, yet were still expected to work 9-5 and pay the rent. I wanted a luck dragon to fly in and rescue me, leaving nothing but flames behind. 

This anger rings truer today than ever before, but instead of hiding or running, I’ve become more empowered to get organized. Capitalism in America has run amuck. We don’t need a luck dragon to save us; if we come together and fight as a collective, we can save ourselves.

Not sure how to do this? Consider getting involved with the Working Families Party, a movement focused on creating a system that supports all Americans, not just the 1%.

And if you’re into rock-n-roll, check out Ben Jaffe’s latest musical project, Pill.

You, Ruminating

 

Renee Ashley (pictured) is a phenomenal poet, one who breaks rules, challenges conventions, and leaves her readers changed. I discovered the poem “[you]” shortly after my mom left her body; its words rang in my head during those sleepless nights, both comforting and haunting me.

Rumi’s poem, the spoken-word intro to this song, also resonated with me during this time. I found the concept of a thousand barrels of wine to be wonderfully absurd, and I loved the idea of being so genuinely apathetic that nothing mattered beyond those barrels. The whole thing had a playful feel to it, yet I sensed something sinister there. I ended up putting the two poems together, turning “You, Ruminating” into a place to explore and transform my grief, and into one of my favorite songs from my band’s recent album, One Day,

Want to hear more of our songs? Check out The Brooklyn Players Reading Society at:

Website: thebprs.com
BandcampThe BPRS
YouTube: The Brooklyn Players Reading Society

Organize, Act Up, Disrupt!

The Way is Already” – a protest song from One Day, an EP by my band, The Brooklyn Players Reading Society


I am absolutely thrilled over the facts that we have a new president and a more progressive Senate. I loved watching Kamala Harris’s historical inauguration and Amanda Gorman’s powerful performance. I celebrated the win in Georgia and gleefully toasted a glass to Stacey Abrams. And damn, it felt good.

But y’all, as much as we want him to be, Joe Biden is not our savior. He’s obviously an improvement, but if his track record as an Establishment Democrat means anything, he’s not going to end inhumane deportations, secure reproductive rights, protect transpeople, overhaul our justice system, nor begin the long overdue process of dismantling white supremacy – unless we make him.

It’s on us to hold our new president and Congresspeople accountable. Remember, they work for us. It’s also on us, especially those of us who are white, to work on ourselves, on recognizing and undoing our biases and on committing to a life of actively being antiracist.

But guess what? We don’t have to do this work alone. In fact, we can’t do it alone. It’s time to start collaborating, to come together and organize, act up, disrupt. And what a nice thing it is to be able to use our joy as motivation to keep up the work!

Not sure how to get started? Here’s a list of suggestions for you:


Social justice organizations I like (there are so many more):

Photo: Martin Luther King Jr. quote on a Pride Flag, available for sale by hburrell

Coming Home



One Day,” the song that lent its name to The Brooklyn Players Reading Society’s new EP, was the very first song I ever wrote. I was 23, working in coffee shops, unsure about what I wanted in life and anxious as hell about it. The words to this song had been floating around my brain for weeks, but I hadn’t yet recognized them as lyrics. I was confident in my identity as a writer, but my anxiety disorder had buried the musician in me long ago. The idea of singing my words had never occurred to me.

And then one evening, after a profound conversation with Dave in which he’d convinced me to try making music again, I found myself on the G train, lugging an enormous 88-key Yamaha home from Guitar Center, listening to those words bounce around my head.

At first I only played through scales and a few songs I remembered from talent shows, but over time, I started improvising a little – something I’d never done before. My past life as a musician had been focused on playing sheet music perfectly, and this focus only fed my anxiety. The act of sitting down and playing whatever I wanted felt freeing, empowering even.

I kept returning to a simple bass groove with a syncopated melody over it, but I was never quite satisfied. The words in my head continually protruded themselves into my mouth, daring me to let them out. One day, when I was certain that Dave and our across-the-hall neighbor were both at work and therefore unable to hear me, I finally decided to give it a try. Heart pounding, I opened my lips and sang. It was scary, but it was also amazing, and the more I sang, the better it felt.

It took a couple of weeks to work up enough courage to play my song for Dave – so long as he sat in a separate room of the apartment in silence with the lights out – but that was enough to urge me on. “One Day” grew from there until a few years later, I got up on a stage, sat behind my keyboard and started singing into a mic, Dave on the drums beside me. My fingers shook, my breath came in spurts, and I wanted to puke, but I didn’t. Somehow, I made it through the song, and when the crowd clapped and “woo”-ed for us at the end, a rush of pure glee came over me. I understood for the very first time that performing could actually be fun.

“One Day” has morphed and grown over the years, but still, whenever I play it, I feel a special kind of contentment settle in me, like all the different versions of myself are coming home together, warm and safe inside this song.

It’s Black History Month!

 

Looking for a way to commemorate Black History Month? Here’s what I’ll be diving into:

  • 400 Souls by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain: “A chorus of extraordinary voices comes together to tell one of history’s great epics: the four-hundred-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present–edited by Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, and Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire.” Click here to sign up for a virtual reading and discussion with the editors and some contributors.
  • 13 Tiny Desk Concerts by Black Artists: Throughout the month, NPR’s “Tiny Desk” series is hosting an amazing lineup of virtual concerts by black artists of various genres, featuring old standbys like Wynton Marsalis as well as some up-and-coming, soon-to-be stars you definitely want to know about.
  • Stop Being Afraid! 5 Steps to Transform Your Conversations About Racism by Dr. Amanda Kemp: “Grounded in mindful self-compassion,” this workbook provides thoughtful essays, analyzations, and activities to help white allies “move beyond white guilt and shame… to have a voice for racial justice.”

I hope you’re able to find time to celebrate this month, as well as to reflect on why we still need a Black History Month and what steps we can take to end racism in this country. I know it’s daunting, but as my favorite singer, Bille Holiday, said, “The difficult I will do right now. The impossible will take a little while.”

                            Lady Day (Bille Holiday) with her dog

Listen to One Day the EP Right Now!

I am beyond thrilled to share The Brooklyn Players Reading Society’s new EP One Day with you! Click here to stream and download on Bandcamp.

Follow along all week as we share a little story behind each song and celebrate how much we love music.

One Day was recorded, mixed, and produced by Salmak Khaledi at Magnetic Pink Studio.

Special thanks to:
Renee Ashley for lending us her poem “[you]” from her poetry collection Because I Am the Shore I Want to Be the Sea.
Pheral Lamb for the gorgeous cover art. Check out more of their work on Instagram and Flickr!

Thanks so much for listening! And stay strong – 2020 is almost over!

One Day Drops Tomorrow, 12/15!

I am so excited to share The Brooklyn Players Reading Society’s new music with you! Come back tomorrow to hear One Day, our new EP, and follow along all week as we share a little story about each song every day.  

BandcampThe BPRS
Facebook@TheBPRS
Instagram@beckyfinefiresheets and @mimewars
YouTube: The Brooklyn Players Reading Society

One Day Video Teaser

One Day, an EP by The Brooklyn Players Reading Society, is coming December 15, 2020! Stay tuned to thebprs.com.

Follow and like us?
BandcampThe BPRS
Facebook@TheBPRS
Instagram@beckyfinefiresheets and @mimewars
YouTube: The Brooklyn Players Reading Society