On The Rise

I started my time at On The Rise in November of last year, and over the period of 10 months I’ve learned a lot! I gained a greater understanding of how a music program might operate at a drop in center for woman who are homeless; I learned to be a lot more flexible in my “12-week programming”; I experienced the tensions of numbers and results and being accountable to funders with this population; and, I was honored to get a glimpse into the women’s lives by showing up, offering presence, and being a witness, weekly — with and without music.

My time at On The Rise typically starts with hanging out in the Safe Haven (kitchen area) for an hour, with the women and advocates who are around. This time can be quiet, with people reading magazines and keeping to themselves, or a bit more lively, with multiple conversations going on at once — some serious, some comic, and others relating to the day-to-day lives of the women. After I’ve spent some time chillin’ I figure out if any one is around to work on songwriting or guitar. I have some people that come pretty consistently for a season, and others that just drop in once.

Typically a songwriter will work on a tune over and over to get it to a point where she can set it down with some sort of satisfaction, and guitarists need time to practice their craft to put sounds together in a way that reflects what they’re trying to make the instrument say — not to mention developing calluses on their fingertips so it doesn’t hurt to play! At On The Rise, I get to practice my belief that there is value in sitting with a woman for an hour, teaching guitar or working on lyrics for a song, even if I will only ever see her once (as consistency isn’t something I can count on because the women have many other things going on in their lives that need to be done just to survive. I’ve had to remind myself that when I’m in a hard space and stressing about something that seems unmanageable, it can be extremely hard to sit down and write a song or practice guitar, even if I know it would be cathartic in the moment.)

I believe that one moment can make a difference in a day, even if we can’t look back and remember that moment because so much else has happened and is going on that clouds the light. Hopefully, eventually, enough of these moments pile up that we begin to feel a little lighter load and we breath a little more easily knowing we all belong and deserve to feel alive and well. So I imagine if I have one moment with a woman at On The Rise where she can focus on guitar, she maybe can put aside the many other stresses going on in life, and if she works on a song she can start to articulate a piece of where she’s at in her journey and have that be heard.

“Let me tell you something about being homeless, Being homeless really sucks,” said one women. Those were her lyrics and it worked well for a blues melody and rhythm that I accompanied her on. I never saw her again after our time together, but in that moment we had a good time. For me this is enough, and this is worth it.

 

Total Guitar Lessons Given: 22
Total Songwriting Sessions: 33
Total Women Worked with: 19

My time at On The Rise was funded largely by individual donations and The Iguana Music fund grant from Club Passim. A big shout out to Noel Bray whose generous individual grant went a long way in sustaining my time here in the beginning!

I leave you with some words from the women themselves, through their lyrics:

Grew up in a Beantown project, I ain’t got no food, hungry starvin’
I’m sitting writing letters to heaven, you left so soon and mom did too
Now it’s just me, only me, now what do I do, humble myself and always stay true
I’ma kill it dressed in all black, ready for a funeral so fall back
If I’m hungry yeah I ain’t gonna starve, someone landed on the moon, on my way to mars

This is my life
My story, struggles and strife
I will proceed, I must proceed
Get everything I need

Now the present is a present so forget the past
For on this day in this second I’m having a blast
I have blueprints to live successful
My homies showed me love, now that was helpful
Unlike my cowgirl yeah the beef is on, I’m speeding past you like an Olympus marathon
I blinded the world with my raps so tight, ya just starting off like god-made light

—–

The gift of being a mom
Caring for my children in spite of the pain
Suddenly they’re taken away
I’m not the same
I’m not the same

I will not sink
I’m not going away
You can’t make me leave
Cause I’m here to stay

—–

Mood swings, one minute I’m up the next second I’m down
Mood swings, changing chicks every season, they always come around
Mood swings, Yeah mood swings

When I was younger they thought I had a problem
Smoked my way through high school, naw no problems
I didn’t go to high school I went to school high
One minute I’m depressed the next minute I smile
Pillow talking baby this is how I cope with sh*t
Crush the bud then light it up and smoke that sh*t
Mood swings, yeah mood swings

Mood swings, one minute I’m up the next second I’m down
Mood swings, changing chicks every season, they always come around
Mood swings, Yeah mood swings

Now I’m older and I have PTSD
Sometimes I can’t focus, might be ADD
Overcoming something like mood swings is so easy
Here’s a smoke, a toast, for forgetting therapy
Yeah, cause this song help my mood swings
So what yeah I have mood swings
Mood swings

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